Construction blasting exposes weak columns in Sparks Street building

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Construction blasting exposes weak columns in Sparks Street building

A federal office building on Sparks Street in downtown Ottawa was evacuated after structural damage was discovered following blasting from a nearby construction site in January, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

On Saturday, trucks lined up at 107 Sparks St., known as the Birks Building, as movers brought out several floors worth of furniture, the final stage in the building's evacuation. 

"Following blasting work on a construction site across the street on Jan. 16, 2017, damage was observed in PSPC's building at 107 Sparks St. In the interest of putting health and safety first, occupants were immediately evacuated," said PSPC spokesperson Jean-François Létourneau in a statement Saturday.

"Structural engineers were brought in to inspect the building the same day and determine its condition. They identified structural issues."

He said the blasting "exacerbated and revealed what structural engineers have determined to be a pre-existing weakening of the concrete columns, which date back to 1910."

The statement goes on to say structural engineers decided the building was "not suitable for occupancy," and PSPC has been moving staff to new office space downtown.

"Immediate measures were taken to install temporary shoring, and work is proceeding to reinforce the building's structure on a longer-term basis...Further study will be undertaken for medium- to long-term planning for 107 Sparks," concluded Létourneau.

Stephane Groleau, vice-president of construction for Ashcroft Homes, which is building a residential complex across the street, said their blasting shouldn't have affected the building so severely. 

"We work closely with the contractor and Public Works to ensure that the blasting has no influence," he said in French.

"Our blasting has nothing to do with their project."

Correction : A previous version of this story said the deputy minister's office was located at 107 Sparks St., which the building's directory reflects. In fact, the deputy minister's office is headquartered at Place du Portage in Gatineau.(Mar 12, 2017 4:02 PM)