February 23, 2022

Big Towers, Big Problems at Vancouver’s Shangri-La & NYC’s 432 Park Avenue

At Viewpoint Vancouver  we previously wrote  about some of the ongoing issues that happen in tall tower strata buildings which can be very expensive and frustrating for strata owners.  In Vancouver the tallest building at 62 storeys and 201 meters in vertical height is the Shangri-La , 1100 block of Georgia Street completed in 2009. The tower’s strata minutes document challenges in this Westbank development built by Ledcor which includes heat stress fractures in the windows potentially causing the windows to instantaneously  shatter, which could be a problem to passing pedestrians or users of the tower’s pool area.


In 2021  the cost of replacing those exterior  windows was north of 60 million dollars. A lengthy court trial reviewed the liability, in a case that was reserved 130 days of court time.

That decision which you can read here has been released by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Vancouver Sun journalist Joanne Lee-Young has been reporting on the Shangri-La window debacle, including the fact that one set of strata minutes of the tower (there are two residential stratas in the building) were allegedly rewritten omitting some of the shattering window detail. You can imagine the challenge for the strata owners where they want to go forward to have the window issue addressed, but still not frighten off potential strata unit buyers interested in the building.

This latest court decision allows a class action certification meaning that all condo unit owners in the Shangri-La’s two stratas can take part in the claim, seeking  to have costs paid for replacement of the curtain-wall four-sided glass units “which are said to be integral to the proper functioning of the building and separate the exterior and interior environments.”

New York City’s 432 Park Avenue  building is a supertall, classified as over 300 meters tall and  100 meters taller than Vancouver’s Shangri-La.  That tower has had “millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship — all of which may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height.”

But in New York City where much of this building was sold as a real estate holding commodity instead of as a living space, the strata owners who spent 3.1 billion American dollars just want to get stuff fixed.  The supertall strata increased strata fees by 40 percent and have had their building insurance triple. In a study commissioned by 40 percent of the owners, it was found that 73 percent of mechanical, electrical and plumbing components observed failed to conform with the developers’ drawings, and that almost a quarter “presented actual life safety issues.”

Last Fall the  BBC reported that the strata owners of 432 Park Avenue are now suing the developers over 1, 500 defects and deficiencies in the building.  The BBC describes the 250 million dollar lawsuit being filed for problems that “included an electrical explosion in June that left residents without power and “horrible” inexplicable noises and vibrations.”

The taller and higher a building, the more chances for complex problems when things fail, as when water flooded  through several floors of  150 meter high curvy Vancouver House on Howe Street.

The surprise about tall  towers is that developers still prefer to build them, despite increased strata costs and insurance liability that happens when systems fail. Internationally owned vacant units are a way to store wealth as a real estate commodity, and there’s no word yet when size of tower is going to be perceived as a potential liability instead of as an amenity.

You can read a more annotated version of the problems with 432 Park Avenue in this article from Surface magazine. As Ryan Waddoups coyly observes “If you missed the damning New York Times exposé of what it’s like to live in Manhattan’s 432 Park Avenue, you’re in for gleeful schadenfreude






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