Danbrook One structural engineer 'not qualified' for such a building: investigative committee
‘McClure made a critical error in judgment in believing that he had the requisite skill and knowledge to design Danbrook One,’ the people investigating the failed building said in an interim report
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The structural engineer on Danbrook One was unqualified to work on a building of that size, an investigative committee for Engineers and Geoscientists of BC has said. The investigation into Brian McClure’s work is ongoing, but in the meantime the accrediting organization has taken the unusual step of issuing an interim order.
The 11-storey concrete apartment building in Langford’s downtown core was occupied for 10 months in 2019 before the occupancy permit was revoked on Dec. 20, 2019, and tenants from all of the 86 occupied suites were forced to find other homes.
Since then Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (EGBC) have been investigating the deficiencies found in McClure’s work. The building’s owner, Centurion Apartment Properties, has sued McClure’s firm, Sorensen Trilogy Engineering. (DB Services, which built and sold Danbook One, and the City of Langford are also named in the suit.)
On November 3, EGBC made public an interim order that went into effect Oct. 1, 2021 requiring all of McClure’s work to be reviewed by an independent third party from an outside firm.
All structural engineers already have to get independent reviews, but not necessarily from an outside firm. What is significant in the EGBC order is that EGBC bothered to make an interim order at all, said a source familiar with the situation.
The order itself has harsh words for McClure.
“McClure did not make even the minimum effort to rectify his shortcomings before beginning or during his work on Danbrook One,” the investigation committee wrote.
The interim order included excerpts and findings from three reports EGBC commissioned as part of the investigation. These reports conclude that McClure was unqualified to be the structural engineer of record on a building as tall as Danbrook One, and that his work was below the standards expected of a professional engineer.
McClure has been a structural engineer for over 30 years, but his experience is in wood frame residential buildings of up to five storeys, and two-storey concrete residential buildings. While he routinely reviewed structural drawings for high-rise reinforced concrete buildings, he hadn’t been the main designer.
“McClure erroneously believed that his prior experience qualified him to design Danbrook One,” the committee wrote. Perry Adebar, a structural engineering professor at UBC who was tasked by EGBC to review the structural design, concluded it did not meet BC Building Code.
The other two reports evaluated the non-seismic elements of design and field reports where engineer Greg Smith said that for a building like Danbrook One with 11 storeys of concrete, there should have been between 45 and 55 field reports as per industry standard.
McClure did 17, and none of them looked at the lateral resisting system—that is, how a building is designed to hold up in an earthquake. (As for non-seismic elements, Smith found “many potential deficiencies,” several differences between structural and architectural drawings, and some “structural elements that appear to be significantly overstressed.”)
A separate report commissioned by the City of Langford in December 2019 (when it was advised by EGBC of the defects) and obtained by Capital Daily through a Freedom of Information request, identified life-threatening deficiencies in the design that could result in “catastrophic failure.” That report, completed by engineering firm WSP, was based only on documented plans, not a site visit.
WSP reported “numerous deficiencies, errors, shortcomings and issues” specifically referencing the lateral system. Their analysis concluded the core walls in the drawings did not have the lateral durability required to withstand an earthquake. Stiff load-bearing walls were not designed to also handle seismic force, and are prone to “deformations” in an earthquake. If walls that carry transfer beams are deformed, it “could result in catastrophic failure.”
As Capital Daily reported in July, there are checks and balances designed to catch and prevent design failures like this through mandatory independent reviews. But those “just never happened” for Danbrook One, McClure told EGBC in an interview as part of the investigation.
“No design reviews or independent reviews of any part of the design of Danbrook One were conducted prior to the construction of Danbrook One. Mr. McClure said that he knew these reviews needed to be done but that at the time he was preparing the design Mr. McClure’s firm was comprised only of himself and Mr. Sorensen, and that the necessary reviews ‘just never happened.’”
Sorenson Trilogy were the structural engineers on several other buildings in the same neighbourhood of Danbrook One, but none higher than six storeys.
The civil case between Centurion, Sorensen Trilogy, DB Services, and Langford is scheduled for a 40-day trial beginning Oct. 23, 2023.
McLure declined a request for an interview.
Correction: An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to Perry Adebar, but the quote was actually from the EGBC investigation committee.