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Union concerned about Olympic village repairs

Richard Gilbert

Repairs currently underway in washrooms and change rooms at Vancouver’s Olympic village are the result of shoddy construction practices, says a representative of the local heat and frost insulators union.

Repairs currently underway in washrooms and change rooms at Vancouver's Olympic village are the result of shoddy construction practices, says a representative of the local heat and frost insulators union.

“I am not surprised, because this area of the Olympic village was built to the cheapest standards,” said Lee Loftus, the business manager of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers.

“Unfortunately, this is typical of some of the construction practices at the Olympic Village.”

The development was touted by the City of Vancouver as a model for environmental sustainability.

However, only two years after the Creekside Community Recreation Centre at the Olympic village opened, deficient water membranes in the washrooms and change rooms have been discovered.

As a result, construction crews are ripping out all six washroom interiors to repair them.

According to reports by the Vancouver Sun and the CBC, a spokesperson for the City of Vancouver said deficiencies like this are to be expected in a $36 million project.

“I am very disappointed that the city is coming back now and saying this is what you can expect,” said Loftus.

“There was a combination of low value and high value construction practices on this project. There should have been a standard of care and construction practices across the whole project, if they wanted to make the claim that it is sustainable.”

The repair work, which is not under warranty and is being done by municipal crews, will cost about $135,000 to complete. It involves tearing up the tiles and fixtures, and replacing the membranes.

Loftus hasn’t seen the water leaks first-hand, but he said he believes the leak was caused by shoddy installation of heating pads for radiant heat.

“I haven’t been there, so I can only talk about our union’s experience with the project,” said Loftus, who has identified other problems with the overall construction of the project.

“The project was impacted by budget constraints, timelines and pressure due to the Olympic games,” he said.

“They buttoned up the project too early and areas were closed up, prior to being ready and before proper inspections were undertaken.”

Loftus launched a campaign in July 2009 to raise public awareness about the installation of pipe work in the Olympic village in an attempt to ensure the design specifications and standards in the contract agreement were met.

At the time, one of the main issues raised by Loftus in meetings with the city, the developer and contractors was the practice of installing drywall over uninsulated pipes.

Loftus claimed to have evidence that showed contractors were putting up drywall to receive payment and then taking down the drywall to get an extra payment.

He believes the campaign and photo evidence stopped the unfair practice.

The photos revealed that hot and cold water pipes were installed in walls without insulation and then boarded up with drywall.

Insulating hot water pipes prevents energy loss, while covering cold water pipes prevents condensation and mould build-up.

The meetings Loftus had with the developer helped bring the installation of pipes by subcontractors up to the requirements of the B.C. building code. However, a representative for the developer denied this was a widespread problem.

As a result of the campaign, Loftus was banned from the Olympic village site.

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