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Construction of UBC Okanagan Kelowna refocuses amid concerns about shifting ground

Ongoing issues with the construction of the UBC Okanagan’s downtown Kelowna tower have prompted changes to “construction methodology, site planning and resequencing of work,” according to a statement issued Monday afternoon.

The problems caused by tower construction have been well documented since last fall, when cracks in the foundations of buildings around the university development were first discovered. Since then businesses and buildings have closed to accommodate the shifts, though no changes to construction had previously been offered. That changed Monday.

“Although some settlement can be expected around large excavations and building construction projects, the movement seen in this case is more than expected,” said Lance Kayfish, Risk Manager for the City of Kelowna.

City staff today said they are prioritizing preventing further offsite property and infrastructure damage, including changes to construction methodology, site planning and resequencing of work while engineers review challenges that have arisen.

“That is why the construction team is taking time to evaluate the east elevation, below the Pathways building, and refocus its construction efforts elsewhere on the site,” Kayfish said.

“This is allowing the engineering teams to closely survey and study the site and adapt to alternative ways of completing the work.”

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Multiple city departments and private consultants continue to monitor buildings and city infrastructure, safety and stability around the future UBC Okanagan downtown building construction site, according to the statement.

The city is also monitoring underground utilities. An independent geotechnical peer review confirmed last week that no new settlement has occurred in the past two weeks and also that the Pathways Housing residence adjacent to the construction site is safe to be occupied.

The city statement indicated that the university remains committed to documenting its learnings from this excavation process and sharing the results with other developers and builders in our community – particularly in the downtown area.

A five-storey deep pit has been dug for the 43-storey tower’s underground parkade at 550 Doyle Ave.

The property at 1405 St. Paul Street is a decades-old office building but the site has been approved for the construction of a 35-storey residential tower.

Last December, Kelowna Fire Department ordered the existing building not to be occupied based on the extent of damage firefighters observed. Shortly thereafter, the city’s building department inspected the property and confirmed it should not be occupied its structural assessment is fully assessed.

No delay or work stoppage, however, was ordered at that time.

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