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Burnaby school board sues architect over $108M high school project

The school board alleges KMBR Architects Planners Inc. and Fast + Epp Structural Engineers Inc. are responsible for delays and extra costs at the Burnaby North Secondary School replacement project
BBY North construction01WEB
Construction is underway at the future site of the new Burnaby North Secondary School.

The Burnaby school board is suing its lead consultant and structural engineer for extra costs and construction delays in the $108-million Burnaby North Secondary School replacement project.

In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, the school board claims it has suffered damages at the hands of KMBR Architects Planners Inc. and Fast + Epp Structural Engineers Inc. because of negligence and breach of contract.

Since construction began on the new 1,800-student school, the school board says it has gotten notice of claims from its prime builder, Yellowridge Construction Ltd., for delays and extra costs.

The school board claims KMBR and Fast + Epp are responsible and should have to pay.

KMBR signed an agreement with the school board in October 2018 to become the prime consultant on the project, according to the notice of civil claim.

Under that contract, the company agreed to design the building, coordinate the project and hire the necessary subconsultants, including a structural engineer, the claim says.

Delays and extra costs

The school board claims KMBR and the structural engineer it hired, Fast + Epp, broke that agreement in various ways, including failing to coordinate the design of the project, providing incorrect design details, failing to adequately mitigate design flaws when they came up, failing to ensure the constructability of various components, including the building’s tilt-up concrete panels, and providing slow, incorrect or incomplete responses to requests for information, shop drawing approvals, design alterations, contemplated change orders, change directives and other contract administration.

The project is still under construction, and Phase 1 will likely not be completed by the July 1 date set out in the construction contract, according to the notice of civil claim.

“As a result of the delays caused and being caused by the failure of KMBR and Fast to perform their services in accordance with the skills, care and diligence of architects and structural engineers, as the case may be, designing and overseeing the construction of a secondary school in Burnaby in the applicable timeframe, the plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer damages.”

The school board is suing for money it says it has had to pay to Yellowridge for delays and extra costs and for any future money it ends up having to pay for those reasons.

The board is also suing for the cost of experts and any mediation it has to pay for in relation to the construction contract as well as additional operational costs, inflationary costs and such other damages as lawyers advise it to pursue in the future.

KMBR and Fast + Epp have not yet filed responses to the school board’s suit.

None of the board’s allegations have been proven in court.

Seismic upgrade

Burnaby North Secondary’s replacement has been a long time coming.

In 2004, all local schools built before 1992 were assessed to see how well they would stand up to “the big one” – a catastrophic quake predicted by geologists when pressure built up between the Juan de Fuca and North American tectonic plates for the last 300 years suddenly releases.

Burnaby North’s entire campus was rated High 1, a designation assigned to the “most vulnerable” structures at “highest risk of widespread damage or structural failure; not reparable after event.”

In 2013, a month before a provincial election, then-BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark announced $584 million in funding for seismic upgrades for 45 schools, including Burnaby North Secondary.

North was listed for upgrades in 2014/15 in a press release that quoted Clark saying, “Absolutely nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe.”

But it turned out the 2013 promise was an empty one.

The district didn’t even get permission to develop a detailed business case for the Burnaby North project until March 2017, shortly before the BC Liberals lost power.

When real funding for the project was announced in October 2018, education officials said the school would be ready for students in September 2021.

That date has now been pushed back to January 2023, according to the school district.


Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor