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Elliott Lake panels asked about tightening rules of professional engineering

Should the term "prime consultant" be defined? Should mandatory education for engineers in Ontario be mandatory? Experts discuss these and a host of other critical questions.


Should the term “prime consultant” be defined? Should mandatory education for engineers in Ontario be mandatory? Experts discuss these and a host of other critical questions.

In Ottawa this week a series of expert roundtables are being held as a follow up to the evidence given at the Elliot Lake Commission of Inquiry.

Justice Paul Belanger called for the roundtables at the beginning of the Inquiry that began in March. He is using them as means to seek expert advice on subjects related to public safety that have arisen during the inquiry and before he issues his report, due in September 2014.

The roundtable participants, which included representatives from Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), the Ontario Architects Association (OAA), the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT), the Ontario Buildings Officials Association and a host of other organizations, such as insurers and building owners, have been given a set of questions to consider, many of which have deep significance for the practice of building engineering in the province. The sessions are being videotaped and transcribed for public consumption.

Wednesday’s panel has the longest list of questions to consider and many of these deal with the role of the engineer: They included questions such as (paraphrased):

— Should the term “prime consultant” be defined and the roles and responsibilities clearly enunciated?

— Should consultants be required to clarify the scope of their expertise to their clients and to clearly establish which elements of the building they are qualified to provide an opinion on and which elements they will not be addressing.

— Should PEO, OAA and OACETT provide guidelines with clearer standards for the inspection of an existing building? Should these best practices include a request to produce previous structural engineering reports;

— Should there be a requirement on engineers and architects to advise clients (past and present) of the suspension or revocation of their license?

— Although architects and engineers currently have a duty to report a building which poses a threat, should the professional (architect, engineer, technologist) reporting the unsafe building should be afforded immunity from liability where the building has been reported in good faith.

— “The Algo Centre Mall included an open air parking lot over occupied space. Are you aware of other commercial buildings in Canada of similar design and construction? Are there problems with this kind of structure which need to be addressed by consultants?”

— Should Professional Engineers Ontario adopt a system of mandatory continuing education as do other professional engineering licensing bodies in several other provinces?

— Should PEO adopt guidelines for structural engineering practice and independent documented structural engineering review similar to those now published by APEGBC and which resulted from the inquiry into the Station Square collapse in Burnaby, B.C. in 1988?

The panels on Monday and Tuesday dealt more with questions about tightening the regime around buildings inspections. For example:

— Should the owner of a building be required to register the information relating to the condition of a building on the title to the property?

— If so, should the availability of this information apply to all buildings or just commercial buildings?

— Should any and all engineers and architects who have provided services to an owner of a building make available all information in their possession to successor engineers or architects requesting such information?

On the panel for Wednesday, November 20, Chris Roney, P.Eng. will represent Professional Engineers Ontario. Other panelists that day are Paul Acchione, president of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, J. William Birdsell, president of the Ontario Association of Architects, and Gregory Miller, vice-president of the technologists’ association OACETT, as well as Dale Craig, chairman of J.L. Richards and Associates of Ottawa, and Professor Jag Humar of Carleton University. On previous days the panelists included representatives from building owner organizations such as BOMA and Cadillac-Fairview, governmental organizations such as the Ontario Building Officials Association, and other such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

To read the full list of questions and participants at the roundtables, click here.