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Union to continue campaign against shoddy work at Vancouver 2010 Olympic Village

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by Richard Gilbert

A heat and frost insulators union is continuing a campaign to ensure the pipes at the Vancouver Olympic Village are installed and insulated properly.

Olympic Village Construction

A heat and frost insulators union is continuing a campaign to ensure the pipes at the Vancouver Olympic Village are installed and insulated properly.

“This is about building green and getting a LEED designation,” said Lee Loftus, the business manager of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 118.

“We will continue this type of campaign and picture taking process. We will work with the developer and the contractors and show the owner the difference in what they have paid for and what they get.”

Loftus went to the media late last month, with photos purportedly showing improperly insulated pipes, after an earlier meeting with the developer proved fruitless.

However, that has since changed and Loftus recently met with a consulting engineer hired by the City of Vancouver and Roger Bayley, senior principal with Merrick Architecture and a representative of the developer, to discuss the issue.

For Loftus, one of the main issues at the meetings was the practice of drywall being installed over uninsulated pipes.

“Those that put up drywall are putting themselves in a position for a draw to be released. They can get money,” he said.

“Every time they take down drywall, that is an extra payment. This is not good value for money. This is not fair. The people paying this money are getting ripped off.”

Loftus is certain the photo campaign is responsible for putting an end to this practice.

“I have no doubt that this practice changed on June 30 after the first story hit the news,” he said.

“The mechanical and insulation contractors were locked down and read the riot act. I think this is a successful process and this is over. In future, contractors will pay more attention to this practice.”

The architect and developer’s representative said proper procedures are in place.

Bayley said a key drywall foreman has been given a checklist of what has to happen before he boards up.

Every item on this list must be checked off before work proceeds.

“The insulation installers are working their way up the building and when this work is complete, the drywall will be installed,” he said.

“This work couldn’t go ahead unless the go ahead was given by inspectors. There is a complete inspection and then the next stage goes ahead.”

The meeting between Loftus and the developer, which started in early May, likely helped bring the installation of pipes by subcontractors up to the requirements of the B.C. Building Code.

“We have received from the union representative on the site a series of photos showing deficiencies in work,” Bayley said. “Many were similar to the deficiencies that were identified by our investigators in their weekly reports. Everyone is appreciative of the unions input and flagging concerns about quality and everybody is taking steps to make sure this is addressed.”

According to Loftus, the photos reveal that hot and cold water pipes were installed in walls without insulation and then boarded up with drywall.

Insulating hot water pipes prevents energy loss, while covering cold water pipes prevents condensation and mould build-up.

“The union has spent time with us looking at pictures and identifying problems,” he said.

“The union wants work to be done to a certain standard and specification, as we do. Our engineers are holding the trades to a certain standard. When work does not meet the standard, we are making sure deficiencies are resolved.”

Loftus isn’t allowed on the construction site, but he has received calls from contractors who said the problem is being fixed.

“Workers have called from the job site and said whole sections of drywall are being removed and mechanical insulators are standing by with boxes of insulation that are being installed after the removal of panels,” he said.

These workers have asked to remain anonymous because they are worried they would be fired for speaking about the project.

Bayley admitted there were problems with water pipe installation, but he continued to deny that long sections of uninsulated water pipes were installed behind drywall.

“I have walked the whole site and observed the items the union identified,” he said. “We have not been able to find any examples where there are long runs of piping existing behind drywall that was installed. This is not a widespread or systematic problem.”

Bayley said Loftus has no evidence to back up his claim that contractors are repairing large sections of shoddy work at the Olympic Village.

“The union claims are based on conjecture,” he said. “If you go to the site and walk through the part of the project that he is talking about, the piping is going through the ceiling of the corridors. They are just starting to board the walls.”

Loftus disagreed.

“The original pictures are of long chases,” he explained. “There was no board on the wall, but subsequent pictures showed where this work was done. He (Bayley) said this in the beginning and we provided him with photos. He can try to spin this any way he wants. Pictures don’t lie.”

Editor’s note: To view photos of the uninsulated pipes click here

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