Alberta Court of King's Bench upholds tribunal decision on Calgary warehouse racking system

The dispute focused on whether these systems must be anchored to withstand seismic events

Alberta Court of King's Bench upholds tribunal decision on Calgary warehouse racking system

The Alberta Court of King's Bench dismissed an appeal by the City of Calgary regarding the use of mobile racking systems at a warehouse owned by Grand Touchette Real Estate Inc. (GTREI).

The dispute in Calgary (City) v Group Touchette Real Estate Inc, 2024 ABKB 65 centred on the compliance of these racking systems with the National Building Code – 2019 Alberta Edition (Code), specifically whether these systems needed to be anchored to withstand potential seismic events.

The dispute began when a safety codes officer inspected the GTREI warehouse on August 26, 2021, and questioned the stability of the free-standing mobile racks used for tire storage. An engineer's report later concluded that, when stacked, these racks were not portable and thus should comply with the code's requirements for fixed storage racking, including being anchored to the building's floor.

GTREI appealed the safety codes officer's order to dismantle the unanchored racks to the Safety Codes Council of Alberta Appeals Panel (Building Sub-Council). On April 5, 2023, the tribunal found the racks portable when not stacked and, therefore, exempt from the code's requirements for fixed storage racking. The tribunal directed GTREI to obtain a building permit that excludes portable storage racks but ensures the building configuration accommodates the racks safely.

The City of Calgary's appeal to the Court of King's Bench argued that the tribunal erred in law by exempting the racking system from the code and not directing GTREI to address the unsafe condition for public safety. The court, however, found that the tribunal had correctly interpreted the legislation, affirming that portable, free-standing storage racks do not fall under the act or code's jurisdiction when they are not fixed to the building structure.

The court emphasized the importance of statutory interpretation, stating that the tribunal's decision aligns with the legislative intent and purpose of the code. The judgment clarified that while the code mandates minimum safety standards for building structures and components connected to them, it does not apply to all elements within a building, including portable racks. The decision underscored the code's role as a guideline for safe building practices rather than an exhaustive rulebook for all building-related scenarios.

The court also addressed the City's concerns about public safety, noting that other legislative frameworks, such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, could address potential risks associated with using portable racks. Furthermore, the decision highlighted the collaborative nature of the code's development, suggesting that stakeholders, including the City of Calgary, could contribute to future revisions to ensure comprehensive safety standards.

Ultimately, the Court of King's Bench dismissed the appeal, reaffirming the tribunal's decision, allowing GTREI to continue using its portable racking system under the current legislative framework, provided they obtained the necessary building permit for the warehouse's configuration.

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