$15,000 sought to study City Hall’s peeling stucco problem

 By David F. Rooney

The Engineering and Public Works Department is seeking early budget approval for a $15,000 study needed to determine what options are available to deal with City Hall’s crumbling stucco exterior.

In a report to City Council on Tuesday, Engineering and Public Works Department Director Brian Mallett said members of the public are at risk of being hit by “a significant portion of the stucco… peeling off the building.”

Although steps have been taken to secure the stucco at the top of the walls and a monitor­ing plan is in place, the City needs to know what options are available to it.

Mallett said he would like a consultant with a background in architecture to look at the problem and provide realistic recommendations for steps the City can take to address the problem.

The deteriorating stucco at City Hall, which is listed on both the local Heritage Register and the Canadian Register of Historic Places, is not a new issue.

The City was prepared to replace the stucco in 2010 with what is called an EFIS cladding system. That involves the installation of a series of rigid insulation panels over the original surface of the building. The panels would then be covered with a skin that looks like plaster. The City was prepared to borrow $250,000 to fix the problem back in 2010.

However, the EFIS solution was shelved when the Canadian Art Deco Society pointed out that the EFIS system would inflate the apparent size of the building and destroy its crisp appearance.

The building is, Society President Donald Luxton said in an August 2010 letter, “one of the earliest and best-known modernist buildings in British Columbia. This proposed work would irretrievably alter its authentic heritage character.”

The work was postponed until an inspection undertaken for a recent roof replacement project revealed the scope of the deterioration.

“A study to evaluate the options available to replace the existing stucco and still maintain the heritage nature of the building is required,” Mallett said.

“Additionally, the City will need time to allow for consultation with outside stakeholders with an interest in the building on how best to proceed with replacing the stucco. In view of this early budget approval for the study is required in order to proceed.”

The City could put this all off but “the degree of risk of failure increases over time,” he warned in the report.