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Hearing: Mall Owners Wanted Out

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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The original owners of the Elliot Lake Mall wanted to sell the troubled property 20 years ago, because they were unable to repair the chronically leaking roof, a representative of the company testified at the hearing into the mall’s collapse.

And yet, owner Algoma Central Properties adamantly rejected Trow Engineering’s recommendation to waterproof the roof, which served as a parking deck, testified Robert Leistner, a general manager and vice president with the company.

"We believed degradation was occurring and that, over time, it would affect” the structure, Leistner said. He said that waterproofing would have cost about $1.5 million.

Robert Leistner
Images: Elliot Lake Commission

"There was no physical way we could put a membrane on that roof,” Robert Leistner testified on behalf of the original owners.

"There was no physical way we could put a membrane on that roof,” Leistner testified during the fourth week of hearings into the cave-in, which killed two people and injured several dozen others.

The inquiry also learned that local officials had had the authority to order repairs or demolition of the mall, and the engineering firm that studied the collapse released a video showing how it happened.

Guarantee Sought

Leistner said Algoma had wanted Trow to guarantee that such a repair project would stop the leaking, CBC News Canada reported.

To which commission lawyer Peter Doody responded: "Did you really expect that a professional engineer would give you a contractual guarantee that the repair method they recommended would work?"

With the leaks continuing unabated, Algoma Central Properties eventually sold the mall to Retirement Living in 1999.

Enforcement Authority

Earlier last week, the commission learned that Elliot Lake’s Building Services Office had the authority to order emergency action on the mall—and even to demolish it.

Rusty weld - Algo  Centre Mall

The failure originated with a weld that had lost more than 85 percent of its weld capacity to corrosion. Chronic leaking at the structure caused severe corrosion.

Without addressing the particulars of the Elliot Lake mall's condition, Warwick Perrin of the Ontario Association of Property Standards Officers testified about local enforcement authority in Elliot Lake.

He said the City Council had set the city’s enforcement policy, which gave the Building Services Office the authority to order repairs, emergency action or even demolition, CBC News Canada reported.

Roger Pigeau, the town’s chief building official from 1980 to 1999, testified earlier that he had taken no action on the mall, even though he knew that Algoma Central was hiding an engineering report about conditions there.

Video: Anatomy of a Collapse

The new video comes from NORR Engineering and is an appendix to the firm’s 700-page forensic analysis of the collapse.

Using actual footage and animation, the engineering firm's video details the parking deck's collapse. The video is an appendix to a 700-page analysis of the incident.

“The mall was beset with a chronic leakage problem from the day it opened,” reports the video, which details the collapse with graphics and actual footage in less than three minutes. “This went unabated, due to the lack of a proper continuous waterproofing membrane at the parking level.”

The video notes that the leaking parking deck, infused with deicing salt, caused a degree of corrosion unlike that normally seen outside marine environments.

The source of the break was laid to a corroded weld that was connecting two steel beams under the parking deck, the video says. By the time of the collapse, more than 85 percent of the weld capacity had been lost due to corrosion.

The initial break and collapse of the deck’s hollow-core concrete panels then caused a secondary collapse of another section of the parking deck.

The mall, built in 1980, has been demolished.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Building envelope; Building owners; Concrete; Corrosion; Enforcement; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Moisture management; Retail; Structural steel

Comment from M. Halliwell, (4/3/2013, 10:35 AM)

NORR is certainly getting its point across in an easy to understand way. Impact loads can be a real top floor drops to second (which isn't designed to take everything above dropping 10 ft on to it), causes another failure and the works collapses to the ground cascade failure (much smaller scale version of what happened at the WTC) due to corrosion. So sad it was totally preventable.

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