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Old 2008-07-23, 10:13 AM
ElectricMayhem ElectricMayhem is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Kingston, ON
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I'm so glad we walked away from Braebury.

Posted for posterity:

Engineers guilty of professional misconduct
Deficiencies in house plans described as 'shocking'
Posted By IAN ELLIOT WHIG-STANDARD STAFF WRITER
Posted 4 days ago


The city refused to issue permits for new Braebury Homes models after identifying deficiencies they feared made the homes structurally unsound three times in six months in 2005.

Three professional engineers hired by Braebury to do the structural review of the houses have been found guilty of professional misconduct by the provincial body that regulates professional engineers.

Professional Engineers Ontario found Remisz Consulting Engineers and engineers Wojciech Remisz, Cristian Constantinescu and Mohan Sharma, all guilty in hearings earlier this year, the outcome of which was just released by the association.

City officials laid the complaints that led to the professional investigation of the engineers.

"Remisz Consulting Engineers Ltd. ... provided structural designs and drawings that include the overstressing of structural elements beyond acceptable limits," the tribunal found in all three cases.

The findings come in relation to production models the engineers vetted for Braebury, which had deficiencies city staff describe as "shocking" and which were found to be not up to the building code by engineers who later reviewed the work.

Two of the engineers involved are vehemently defending their work, saying what the city and the engineering board describe as deficiencies were not. They insist concerns about the plans were never raised with them until they had become a matter for a disciplinary hearing.

Wojciech Remisz, who owns the firm that also does structural engineering on bridges and other large structures, said the houses were all done by Braebury's inhouse design team and his firm had been hired only to do a check of the structural work.

He blamed poor communication by the city and Braebury for the problems and said his firm was caught in the middle.

"The city never talked to me," he said in an interview from his Ottawa office.

"The city was talking to Braebury. They weren't talking to me because they were the developer, they were the ones applying for the permit and paying the fees.

"This is an insane situation. ... I was not aware they were questioning the work."

He said the firm chose not to contest the charges because of the time and expense that would have been involved and because the tribunal only reviewed documents submitted by the city.

Remisz's firm had reviewed more than 160 Braebury designs over the years, he said, and the designs in 2005 were structurally sound.

"There is no issue to the strength of those houses," said Remisz. "No issue."

Constantinescu, who has more than 30 years of experience, said the entire experience had been a frustrating one.

"What they are calling the deficiencies on the drawings, it is our opinion [they] are not deficiencies," he said, calling the entire process dysfunctional and saying there was little or no communication among the three parties involved.

"This was a deficiency of the whole system."

The third engineer involved now works in Arizona and did not attend the disciplinary hearing.

Braebury President Peter Splinter did not return repeated calls this week.

City building inspector Jeff Gurnsey identified problems with stamped engineering drawings for Braebury production homes submitted for approval between February and August of 2005. Two of the models were identified in tribunal documents as the Da Vinci and the Copenhagen models.

Most critical among the problems the city found in the engineering drawings were that they did not show supporting steel girders at points where they should have been, some posts in the basement holding up the main floors were overloaded, and an exterior masonry veneer on one of the houses was supported on a wood beam, not steel.

One had an "unusual" arrangement where a steel supporting beam in the garage was held in place by nothing more than two telescoping supports and no supporting documentation of this arrangement was provided.

Other matters included the location of trusses not being indicated -which made it impossible to calculate loading -and no indication that special brick lintels were included around windows that required them.

An engineering expert witness said in sworn testimony at one of the tribunal sessions, "there were a number of matters that did not meet the acceptable standard of engineering practice for residential buildings.

"The details were left up in the air - literally," said Terry Willing, the city's manager of building and licensing, who is Gurnsey's boss.

He said adding to the fact that the drawings were incomplete, when city staff asked for clarification or further drawings of things such as truss layouts, Remisz engineers either wouldn't speak to them or submitted further work that was illegible.

Remisz said that's because drawings that were faxed to Braebury were then faxed to the city and by then had become illegible.

"We felt we shouldn't have to ask for that level of detail in the first place," said Willing.

"We do expect, and I expect, when my staff points out to someone that there is a deficiency, I expect them to have an answer," said Willing.

"In this case, the engineer of record was reluctant to speak to us."

Some of the deficiencies seemed to be fundamental errors, not technicalities of the building code, such as sitting exterior masonry walls on wooden posts, which could have led to it collapsing.

"That's pretty basic, and that's not done,"Willing said.

"You don't have to be an engineer to know that wood shrinks and steel doesn't."

Remisz argued many of what were labelled deficiencies were architectural and not structural.

"The masonry wall -it is not a structural thing, it's an architectural thing," he said, calling it a "grey area" of responsibility between the structural engineers and the design team.

Agreed Constantinescu, "We were not supposed to assume liability for specifications that were not structural specifications."

Remisz said different plans were going back and forth between them, Braebury and the city at the time that illustrated the wall's supports and complained the entire issue related to one drawing and not the full package of drawings created by the firm.

Constantinescu said it is standard practice to design houses with the significant structural elements planned out, but many of the routine parts of the house -known in the trade as "typical details" -are left to builders, who know how to build houses to meet code.

"For small houses, it is customary not to show all the details because there are hundreds of them, and the contractor knows how to put them in according to code," he said.

Remisz and Constantinescu both argued that the structural loads had been misinterpreted based on a single drawing and that they had been given no chance to explain their work at the hearing.

"We had proof, but we weren't allowed to present it,"Remisz said.
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