Skip to content

Burnaby school district sues over multi-million-dollar child-care portable project

Burnaby school officials allege three companies involved in building and installing portables for child-care centres at local schools were negligent and breached contracts with the district; the companies have denied the claims.
child care portables
An artist's rendering shows the vision for design-built portables for child-care centres at Burnaby schools.

The Burnaby school district is suing the architect, engineer and modular building manufacturer over a multi-million-dollar project aimed at setting up child-care centres in portables at local schools.  

Ambitious child-care plan

In June 2019, the district hired Dimas Craveiro Architect AIBC to design and coordinate the delivery and installation of 21 modular buildings at local elementary schools, according to a notice of civil claim filed in Vancouver Supreme Court.

The buildings were part of an ambitious, multi-phased plan for creating 773 new child-care spaces at Burnaby schools with funding from the city and province.

Phase 2 of the plan called for modular buildings for child-care centres at Stride, Marlborough, Cascade Heights, Rosser, Westridge and Suncrest elementary schools and was to be complete by the end of summer 2020, according to the notice of civil claim.

The province and City of Burnaby agreed to pitch in $13.7 million and $6.2 million respectively for that phase.

But the district alleges the project ran into problems, and it is now suing Craveiro as well as engineering firm Lawson Consultants Ltd. and manufacturer Horizon North Modular Solutions Inc. for negligence and breach of contract.

‘Numerous deficiencies’

The district alleges that, when the modular buildings arrived by summer 2020, some didn’t fit onto concrete footings that had been prepared based on plans provided by Craveiro and Lawson.

The district says plans for some of the sites had given “insufficient or no consideration” to potential groundwater issues, and some buildings had been sited on or next to municipal services, which the district then had to move or modify at its own expense, according to the notice of civil claim.

The district further alleges the buildings were “defective,” had “numerous deficiencies,” weren’t compliant with numerous codes, didn’t have roof vents or roof curbs, and didn’t come with “balanced and commissioned heating and air conditioning systems,” as per the manufacturing agreements.

The district says part of the agreements also called for the modular buildings to be constructed and delivered so they could be connected in pairs, threes or fours with ramps and stairs, but the portables delivered to the sites couldn’t be used that way without “substantial modifications.”

‘Designated Structural Engineer’

The district also alleges Lawson held itself out as having the capacity to provide structural engineering certification in Burnaby, but the City of Burnaby requires structural work to be certified by a Designated Structural Engineer, and Lawson didn’t have that qualification, according to the claim.

As a result, the district says it had to hire a Designated Structural Engineer to review the design and construction of the project—and the district had to make modifications to get the certifications required by the city.

The district says Craveiro and Lawson knew or should have known the City of Burnaby requires structural work to be certified by a Designated Structural Engineer and that Lawson didn’t have the qualification, according to the claim.


Under the June 2019 consultant agreement, the district says Craveiro was to hire and coordinate  the necessary sub-consultants, including structural and civil engineers, to design, inspect, certify and oversee the completion of the project.

The district claims Craveiro broke that agreement in multiple ways, including providing designs and specifications that were “not adequate, complete or sufficiently detailed,” preparing designs and specifications that were “insufficiently coordinated” between Craveiro and its subconsultants, delaying the project by not performing its services with “reasonable dispatch,” not providing adequate oversight as the buildings were being manufactured, not siting the buildings properly, and not making sure Lawson had the qualifications needed to provide certifications acceptable to the city.  

The district says it suffered damages as a result negligence and breach of contract on the part of the three firms.

It is suing them for damages, special damages, court costs, interest and “such further and other relief” the court decides is just.


Horizon has denied all of the district’s claims and is counter-suing for $430,414.43—money it says the district still owes under their manufacturing agreements.

Horizon is also going after Craveiro and Lawson, petitioning the court for a declaration that the district’s damages—if they exist, which Horizon denies—were caused by those companies.

Lawson, too, has denied all of the district’s claims and opposed Horizon’s petition, but Craveiro has not yet filed a response to the district’s lawsuit.

None of the district's claims has been proven in court.  

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor