Construction noise in Kelowna is spurring local politicians into action and industry players into reaction.
A woman living in a Kelowna apartment, who was sandwiched between two large building projects, fired off the initial complaint about constant noise to Kelowna City Councillor Rick Webber.
“It drove her nuts,” he says.
Following Webber’s calls for a re-examination of the City of Kelowna’s noise bylaw in late January, at least 15 other complaints crossed the councillor’s desk.
Kelowna is one of Canada’s fastest growing communities, so unabated construction has been the norm for several years. The city, with approximately 160,000 people, allows construction every day of the year from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“The noise has been going on for three years, day in and day out,” Webber says.
On Feb. 12, Webber will bring forward a notice of motion to the Kelowna council meeting, asking that staff examine noise bylaws in other communities.
What are noise rules across B.C.?
Gripes about construction noise usually come from city-dwellers across Canada and the bylaws governing noise vary.
In Vancouver, construction on private property can happen from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on any weekday that is not a holiday, and between 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on non-holiday Saturdays. Construction is not permitted on Sundays.
In Victoria, work can occur from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on non-holiday weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on non-holiday Saturdays.
In Surrey, jackhammers can operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday, including statutory holidays. Sunday commercial work is not allowed.
In the North Okanagan, which borders the Kelowna area, construction can happen between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on non-holidays, Monday to Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays or holidays.
Calgary allows work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday and holidays.
In Toronto, construction noise is legal between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Pushing the matter down the road
The executive director of the Central Okanagan Canadian Home Builders’ Association says the scorching summer weather plays a role in Kelowna construction hours.
“Our biggest issue is worker safety, particularly on the hot Okanagan days,” says Daniel Winer.
In 2023, Kelowna experienced one of its driest summers on record with 33 days of temperatures over 30 C. In 2022, there were 58 days over 30 C and in 2021, 39 such days.
Starting later than 7 a.m., even on Sundays, is concerning to Winer.
In addition to the heat concerns, Winer maintains if the number of working hours are cut, projects will take longer and thus, cost more.
“If we push back the start time of construction, we push the matter down the road,” he says.
Kelowna’s exceptional growth, coupled with the long-term need for more housing, means high-density, infill and missing middle housing are all being used to create more units, Winer says.
It’s not uncommon for one old home to be torn down, to be replaced by a duplex, triplex or more.
It’s inevitable there will be noise, but pulling the bandage off quickly rather than a slow peel is preferable, Winer says.
A further factor contributing to closed-quarters construction is that about half of the Kelowna municipality is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, which limits development.
“We have to build cheek to jowl,” Webber says.
He understands construction has to continue at a fast pace, particularly since several thousand new homes need to be built in Kelowna to keep up with the growth. But he also acknowledges Kelowna isn’t the only spot with a housing shortfall.
Webber points out Vancouver, where the needs are huge and unrelenting, prohibit Sunday construction. Victoria and Toronto also outlaw Sunday building.
“Theoretically, Kelowna can do it,” Webber says.
Having one day per week, without booming, hammering and rumbling, would be welcome to many Kelowna residents, says Webber.