In this installment of Lessons from the Trenches, I will share an experience where the tower was built, people and businesses were ready to move in, but the client, a developer, faced a last minute hold up: No Occupancy Permit. I know, this would never happen, right? How could a tower in a big city get all the way to move-in day without an OP? Well, the tower stood on formerly contaminated land, that’s how.
There are many checks and balances in any large project, but nobody caught the fact that the remediation of the land was never fully closed off with the Ministry of Environment. Because some earlier permits had not been held up, everyone thought the OP would be no problem. We got a last-minute call: ‘We need a Certificate of Compliance before the City will give us our OP’.
There were two options, really. One was more certain than the other. We could negotiate with the City, Ministry or both, or we could retain the right consultant and get the data needed to obtain a CoC once and for all. We quickly got instructions to take the quickest, most certain route – a CoC. We also recommended this because it was a permanent solution. It was determined by the environmental engineers that a hole needed to be drilled into the rock – through the floor of the nice, new parkade; the groundwater was sampled; the data gaps were filled. Then the CoC application was filed with the Ministry. In short order, a CoC was delivered and the building received its OP. That’s a true story.
The lesson is that spotty involvement by an environmental consultant can cause a project to proceed without the required Ministry sign-offs and/or municipal permits. On our projects, we avoid surprises, and like to keep the consultant involved from the beginning of clean-up until the CoC is in the drawer. Getting the right consultant on the project and setting the right goals (CoC and OP) allows the developer to ask the right questions and get the right advice, so environmental surprises on move-in day don’t happen.
We like challenges like the one that came with this telephone call, but when we are on a project, we know what our clients like and what they don’t like – and they don’t like surprises.
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