Concerns remain about city’s tilting, sinking buildings

The high number of sinking and tilting buildings around Georgetown continues to attract the attention of City Hall and officials say that the buildings could pose a threat to life and limb and should have been constructed properly from the inception.

Recently, several buildings have been identified as having poor foundations subsequently causing them to lean or sink. One such building located at Hill Street, Lodge has been extensively discussed at several statutory meetings at City Hall.

Several concerns were raised after it was discovered that no piles had been driven for the building’s foundation and as such it was leaning.

In several sections of the media, owner of the building Terrence Campbell was quoted as saying that $30 million would be spent on underpinning building but according to a construction expert, “that is not going to help.” When Stabroek News contacted Campbell last week on the matter, he declined to comment.

The old New Thriving building at Camp Street and Brickdam that some councillors at City Hall say is sinking and leaning.
The old New Thriving building at Camp Street and Brickdam that some councillors at City Hall say is sinking and leaning.
Remedial work underway at the Hill Street, Lodge building.
Remedial work underway at the Hill Street, Lodge building.

Meanwhile, the expert stated that underpinning generally involves the phased removal of the soil beneath the existing foundation which is replaced with foundation material, normally concrete, but “if this is not done properly, this can pose serious risks and could see extensive damage being done or the entire structure collapsing.” The expert stressed that even though the underpinning would have been done, “the building still needs serious attention.”

One source close to City Hall, however, told Stabroek News that the building does not pose any immediate danger. “While the building is leaning, it is not leaning to the extent that it will fall down. It can’t fall at any time, there are other buildings that the council should be looking at, like the New Thriving building on Camp Street,” the source said. “The building itself is not a threat to anyone at the moment based on the modifications done to stop the building from further leaning by doing underpinning,” the source added.

In early February, City Engineer Colvern Venture had told Stabroek News that his department has made it mandatory for geo-technical reports to be submitted before construction takes place given the high number of buildings in Georgetown sinking due to poor foundations.

Meanwhile, as regards the former New Thriving building on Camp Street and Brickdam which is said to be “tilting,” another source at City Hall said. “This building has come up at three statutory buildings ago and several councillors have expressed concern, including the fact that the foundation is sinking and the building is leaning. This situation could pose threat to life and limb,” the source said.

According to the source, the council has decided that the engineering department must consult with experts with respect to the cost of soil tests. “When the matter was discussed at the city works committee, councillors felt that the matter was so urgent that the engineer needed to take all steps necessary to correct the situation,” the source added.

However, when contacted by Stabroek News, a manager denied that the building is leaning. “The foundation is sinking, the construction is solid and the building is settling,” the manager said. He added that they are looking to do renovations. “I can’t say when, but we are hoping to do renovations in the near future,” he said.

In an invited comment, Chairman of the City Works Committee Llewellyn John told Stabroek News that at the committee level, questions have been raised as to whether the building poses a threat. “The council is seeking to get technical advice in that regard. The city engineer gave his opinion and the council is seeking another opinion,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Hamilton Green told Stabroek News that the council had taken a decision with regard to the building several months ago. “We [the council] gave instructions to Town Clerk Ms Carol Sooba at a council meeting to contact the owners,” he said. “We decided that if they (owners) don’t take corrective measures then we shall do it and send the bill to them,” Green said.

Asked about the leaning structure at Hill Street, John said that the building has been the subject of consideration by the committee. “It was noticed that the building was physically leaning and the owners gave indication that they were to do some work to correct this,” he said. “The council would like to meet with the owner as there are still some concerns,” John added.

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