Saturday, July 20, 2019

An alarming number of helical screw piles installations potentially at risk in Canada – Canadian consumers deserve better protection

The story in short:

For more than three years, GoliathTech has noted significant issues with helical screw piles installed on construction sites across Canada. Reported through formal complaints to the Canadian Construction Materials Center (“CCMC”), they were left unanswered by the authorities. Today, in the light of a report broadcasted on CBC The National, this problem is proving still highly concerning. In the short term, real estate sales involving helical piles that can’t provide a certificate of compliance from an engineer should be blocked in the interest of consumers and the general public. A few weeks away from the largest real estate transactions period of the year, this situation could make consumers cringe across the country. However, it is possible to resolve the situation by applying the National Building Code and CCMC standards immediately across the country for the protection of the public with the help of all government levels, on which we call upon today through letters to relevant ministers across the country. As a leader in setting standards, the CCMC should be leading the implementation as well.

An alarming number of helical screw piles installations are potentially non-compliant in all parts of Canada. These installations support houses, cottages, farm buildings, bridges, walkways, and private or public terraces in all parts of Canada. While some manufacturers in the Canadian market meet the standard requirements, a non-negligible segment of our competitors keeps jeopardizing public safety. Therefore, GoliathTech implores government bodies – municipal, provincial, and federal – to act swiftly so that our industry complies with the National Building Code of Canada. Will drama be needed to generate those more than required changes?

 

A problem known for a long time

In the Canadian market, CCMC rules specifically require an engineer report for every helical or screw piles installation with each project’s address on it. General specification sheets are not acceptable; engineers must stamp the project with the actual address on the document.  In a technical bulletin issued in November 2018, the CCMC stated that it was aware of the situation:

“It has come to CCMC’s attention that there may be concerns with the manufacturing and installation of auger-installed steel screw foundation piles used on Canadian job sites. CCMC has been informed that these conditions and limitations may not be applied in all cases and consequently, this can compromise the load carrying capacity and serviceability of the corresponding load bearing foundations.”

Source: https://nrc.canada.ca/sites/default/files/2019-03/CCMC_Technical_Bulletin-Piles%20_MT2-2.pdf

CCMC’s position in this regard is that it is not within its jurisdiction to conduct inspections, but rather up to municipalities to ensure compliance with applicable standards. There have been talks about factory inspections that could cut the problem at the source to ensure that the CCMC’s regulations are respected but there has been no follow-up. For Julian Reusing, CEO of GoliathTech, this is concerning:

“The CCMC is excellent at documenting and putting forward requirements on how to properly manufacture and install helical piles. That being said, the industry needs to be policed and we believe that the CCMC should play a part in doing so at the manufacturers’ factories. At the municipal level, the situation is chaotic and city inspectors are just not doing their job. In our minds, unannounced inspections are required to ensure full compliance at every step. We are more than happy to lead the way and have our facilities and installations inspected by all relevant government authorities.”

Today, we are alerting all relevant ministers in every province so that they can to press them to resolve these safety issues immediately. They need to step up to the plate and ensure their municipalities prevent tragedies. That means enforcing all the criteria in CCMC’s bulletin, reports, and Building codes to make their inspections worth their while. 

Implications from Coast to Coast to Coast

Although the majority of helical screw piles are purchased by or for consumers and used in residential projects, they are also widely used in light and medium commercial and institutional construction, including for government projects such as schools, bridges, platforms and boardwalks in parks, etc. The stakes are high when it comes to public safety.

While the challenge of climate change adds risk factors (tornadoes, floods, etc.), we feel it is imperative to act as quickly as possible to secure housing and public infrastructures. Today, we hope to get the conversation started on these issues.

Only selected manufacturers active in the Canadian market, including GoliathTech, offer a comprehensive range of helical piles compliant with the CCMC and different building codes in Canada. The lack of real control, however, penalizes all Canadians to the sole benefit of a handful of offenders that still boast today a certification issued by CCMC.

Real estate transactions blocked? Here’s what you should know

Real estate transactions involving a structure with helical piles that do not bear an engineer’s compliance certification should be blocked. While we are nearing peak season in real estate transactions, it seems appropriate to alert consumers and their teams (notary, agents, real estate lawyers, home inspectors, insurers, etc.) of the potential consequences of a non-compliant installation in the event of a disaster. Non-compliant installations could be considered unsafe or even illegal by your local municipality and result in their demolition. When selling a non-conforming property, this could be regarded as a defect. Buying a house is hard enough as it is, knowing that you can buy in confidence is crucial for your long-term peace of mind.

 

About GoliathTech

Founded in 2004, GoliathTech manufactures and installs helical screw piles in more than 11 Canadian provinces and territories and 33 American states. Its employees and 204 franchise units provide helical screw pile solutions designed to support residential and commercial construction projects for a diverse clientele. Their certified installer/advisors are fully trained and use state-of-the-art equipment to deliver rigorous work, certified by ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 standards, in addition to being recognized by the National Building Code of Canada.

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