What happened to the “standard of care” – the degree of care that a reasonable person should exercise?

I was quite taken by the news report that appeared in the Ottawa Citizen Saturday, the 12th – see Appendix below. This was news about construction of the 15-story high-rise on Cleary Avenue at Richmond Road. It was sent to me by a friend in Ottawa, and commented on by another friend there, an engineer.


If you don’t mind me saying, I believe both the City and the Developer should have carried out engineering assessments of the impact of the high-rise on the area. Assessments by conscientious, well qualified engineers, not by a town planner for the City and whoever for the Developer.

Engineers who are experienced in foundation and geotechnical engineering, considering the 15-story height of the building and the underground parking garage. Tall buildings are a big weight on the ground and the construction of deep basements can undermine the ground nearby and anything buried in it.

This is what reasonable people would expect to see done – the average man in the street.

I looked at this area on high resolution Google Earth photographs. I can’t believe the City didn’t know the location of the four foot diameter, high pressure water main in such a well planned, well developed, up-market area. That pipe is bigger than the average buried infrastructure.

There’s a wealth of published information on built-up areas like this, as noted by my well experienced, construction engineering friend in Ottawa.

I was surprised that the judicial process didn’t think the City was under any obligation to provide accurate information to the Developer. Nor that it was necessary for the Developer to hire his own engineer.

I can’t believe the Developer didn’t understand the effect of a deep excavation on the ground beyond the parking garage – a distance in the order of the depth of the basement in some poor soils.

Or, for example, understand the effect of driving sheet piling to form the basement walls – there’s always some vibration to the ground during installation and some movement of the sheet piling later. There are other methods of constructing basement walls like this, and they all adversely affect the ground a little outside of the wall.

I think the Developer did understand so why didn’t he hire an engineer to check what the City was giving them? Just do it considering the importance.

Don’t mind me saying, but if experienced engineers were making the decisions here this issue would not have developed and I wouldn’t be asking these questions. But it reads like a Town Planner was making the decisions for the City and the Developer was doing it for the Developer – and not an engineer or a reasonable person in sight.


(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada June 22, 2021 ejorden@eastlink.ca)   

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