Downtown highrise undergoing review following shattered glass incident

‘A failure when you have a pre-occupied downtown, that risk is just unacceptable’

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A downtown Calgary highrise is undergoing a comprehensive engineering review to find the cause of the recent shattering of a glass pane that caused a closure of part of the sidewalk below.

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In mid-December, a window pane broke on the 27th floor of Brookfield Place, a highrise located at the 200 block of 6th Avenue S.W., and glass fell to the sidewalk. It’s the latest incident of shattering glass the 2017 building has experienced, prompting City of Calgary administration to ask for an engineering review.

“A failure when you have a pre-occupied downtown, that risk is just unacceptable,” Cliff de Jong, manager of the city’s building safety services, said over the phone Monday.

“It isn’t clear at all as to what happened exactly, so you can’t solve the problem unless you know that answer. That’s essentially what we’re requiring Brookfield to do.”

He said the city has been working with the owner of the building, Brookfield Properties, since the December incident, “given what could be the severity of the impact” of that falling glass. Brookfield Properties has been responsive to the city and has hired an engineering firm and contractor to start work on the review.

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Workers talk at the Brookfield Place building in Calgary on Friday, March 11, 2022. The office tower will be undergoing an engineering review after multiple instances of glass breaking and falling on the street below.
Workers talk at the Brookfield Place building in Calgary on Friday, March 11, 2022. The office tower will be undergoing an engineering review after multiple instances of glass breaking and falling on the street below. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

“We’re feeling confident that they are taking this with the right level of concern and taking the right steps. But because of that, it will take some time,” said de Jong. “This is very complex work. And we want it to be done right.”

Andrew​ Brent, spokesperson for Brookfield Properties, said in a statement Monday that safety is the company’s number one priority in and around their properties.

“We worked with the City of Calgary and engaged in an exterior envelope review following the single pane breaking in December, and we are now implementing a number of remediation members to avoid it from occurring in the future,” said Brent.

He said the weather has slowed the review, but it is progressing.

Parts of the sidewalk and street that were closed below the window have been opened with the city’s approval.

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The 600 block of 1st Street S.W. in downtown Calgary beneath Brookfield Place had one lane of traffic open in both directions on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
The 600 block of 1st Street S.W. in downtown Calgary beneath Brookfield Place had one lane of traffic open in both directions on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Photo by Gavin Young/Postmedia

Since the construction of Brookfield Place was completed in 2017, two other instances of broken windows occurred within two weeks of each other in 2017 — one resulting from a window washing basket being smashed in the window and the other related to strong winds.

The city has a building maintenance bylaw that’s unique in Canada, but similar to rules in several American cities, de Jong explained. The bylaw requires building owners of tall structures to assess the exterior of their buildings as it ages, though the rule is for buildings older than 10 years.

Brookfield Place is not yet 10 years old, but the shattered glass was reason to request a review now, he said.

“We do have pieces in play that help protect the public from issues like this happening. Buildings are complex and it does require ongoing monitoring in between those times, but it’s a pretty comprehensive review that building owners have to do,” said de Jong.

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Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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