Unclear Thinking

August 2021

Managing a high-rise building or condominium community differs from owning a home.  Size alone has broader implications when it comes to cost and impact.

This was made clear when an Abbotsford, B.C. townhouse community decided to clean their roofs using laundry detergent which filled a creek with foam pillows up to 2.5 metres (eight feet) high.  Resulting problems are a lesson on the dangers of self-management and failing to consult with experts who can prevent dramatic mistakes.

An estimated 100 kilograms of Tide laundry detergent was spread onto about 120 rooftops by a contractor which washed off when it rained.  Online searches show this to be a way to deter moss growth.  It also damages roofs and the environment.  The resulting cleanup included a 30-person crew and specialized equipment to contain the runoff before it drained into a nearby forest.  Detergent was seen blowing off the roofs and landing in residents’ yards and gardens.  Foam mountains were seen as far as four kilometres away.  People and pets suffered irritation from the detergent.  Clean up costs are estimated at hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The corporation and contractor have thus far been fined for contravening sewage and waterways bylaws.

A project of this scope likely required multiple bids.  One wonders how the board selected a contractor inexperienced in roof cleaning thus creating an environmental problem.  There may have been a focus on low cost without considering expertise.  If the problem was lack of experience on the condo board, they would have been better served by employing a condo consultant to manage the process.

The board of this community failed to use sound judgement.  They may have utilized unreliable information on the internet, or accepted the advice of a contractor lacking in experience but offering a low price.  While consultants and qualified contractors may offer what some feel to be unnecessarily expensive advice, many more find value in solutions that work for an entire community and avoiding the cost of correcting easily avoidable mistakes.

Damage caused by this poor decision far exceeds cost of the work.  Credibility of the board, and perception of the community, has been badly damaged.  Clean up and damage costs likely exceed the cost of this “clean up” project.

This experience is a lesson about the consequences of making unqualified decisions, and suffering the consequences, when advice is so readily accessible.  A condo consultant understands proper management practices and how to make decisions with limited information.  Such an approach would have avoided this fiasco.


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