BY PHIL VON MASSOW
Typically the parking garage is the largest common element in a high rise condominium and it is the primary entrance for most residents. You would think that maintenance would be a high priority. So, why do parking garages always look dark and dirty? Many of them do not even meet the basic guidelines of municipal by-laws and building code.
It always helps to talk to a professional when beginning any project. John Margaritis of Connoisseur Painting Ltd. has extensive experience co-ordinating large parking garage projects. On top of his ability to provide cost effective coating solutions, John has been able to help condominium managers bring their parking garages into compliance with provincial, federal and municipal building laws.
At first glance, the painting of an underground parking garage might appear to be a relatively straight forward process. “Underground parking garages don’t get painted often, so what you do now has to stand up and it has to be cost effective at the same time” noted Margaritis.
Managing the logistical challenges, minimizing the inconvenience for owners and delivering a finished product that will perform well into the future is easier said than done. Paint crews must be very well organized, experienced and efficient. Communication between all stake holders must be clear and ongoing throughout the project. There must also be a commitment to a high level of preparation and the use of quality products and coatings. Most property managers and Boards understand this. They also see the benefits of painting the garage walls and ceiling through the increased light levels and overall improved sense of security that residents experience.
What most property managers struggle with, however, are the various codes and legislations regulating the maintenance and coating of underground parking garages. Margaritis has noted in the past that “usually the more knowledge directors and managers have about the various codes and regulations the better their underground parking structures are maintained.” To be fair to management, directors and contractors alike, the task of reading through a multitude of codes and regulations can be arduous and almost always frustrating.
So exactly what is necessary to bring an underground parking structure up to code?
In no particular order, all of the following have something to say with regards to how underground parking garages will be maintained and painted:
- The Municipal Property Standards Code or municipal by-laws
- Fire Code
- Ontario Building Code
- OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration)
- OHSA (Occupational Health & Safety Act)
- CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
- CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety)
- ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
- WHMIS regulations
- Ministry of Labour
- and TSSA (Technical Standards & Safety Authority)
The difficulty with steering a course through this ocean of legislation is that the pertinent information regarding underground parking garage structures does not exist in one place. Most of the time, it is touched upon indirectly in all of the above mentioned regulations. To make matters more complicated, the majority of these codes are massive and difficult to negotiate. Adding to the confusion, many of the codes and regulations have overlapping legislation. They commonly defer and refer to other regulatory bodies and in the case of maintaining an underground parking structure, they all approach the case with a different mandate.
Then which code or regulation does a Board need to comply with when considering the maintenance or coating of an underground parking garage? When this question was asked of John Margaritis of Connoisseur Painting Ltd. his answer was surprising, “All of them.”
John went on to explain, “In Toronto for instance we start with the property standards code. It was amended in 2004 and is by far the most comprehensive property standards code in Southern Ontario. It does a good job detailing specific regulations regarding underground parking structures. Information on how garage walls, ceilings, pillars, exits and signage should be maintained is all easily found in section 629-40 to 629-42. Specifications might change slightly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but the basic property standard throughout most of the GTA is that the walls, pillars and ceilings are to be free of peeling paint, cracks, holes and are to be painted white. A solid black dado—a wide band—should be present on all walls and pillars, starting at the floor and ending at a height of 60 cm. Emergency exit doors and frames, as well as the wall one meter on either side of the frame and to a height of 3 meters up from the floor or to the ceiling, are painted green and all appropriate signage is present and visible”.
The problem, even with such comprehensive property standard by-laws, is that they do not deal with the piping in an underground parking garage. For this part of the equation we look to the fire code. When you look at section 6.5.2 appendix B of the fire code the language is quite specific regarding the coating of sprinkler pipes. The code states “When the piping is subject to a corrosive atmosphere a protective coating that resists corrosion shall be provided and maintained in proper condition.” A “corrosive environment” would include all parking garage structures. The fire code states that sprinkler pipes need to be protected from corrosion, yet there is nothing in the code stipulating what colour the pipes should be coated. Again, for that part of the puzzle, we have to refer to yet another piece of legislation, health and safety.
OSHA, OHS, TSSA, CSA and ANSI all regulate the proper colour coding of sprinkler, gas, and drainage pipe as well as the marking of hazards. Sprinklers and other fire protection equipment are to be painted safety red (always protect and NEVER paint sprinkler heads), gas and physical hazards are yellow and drainage is grey or black. For a summary of the different aspects of colour and signage see the link below; a more detailed version can be purchased from the CSA. http://www.iapa.ca/pdf/safsigns.pdf
John Margaritis sums it up by saying “The point of all the guidelines and regulations is to simply ensure that the underground is clean and safe for all who use it”.
It is also important to note that well maintained undergrounds, do not need to be coated as often, and when it comes time to recoating in the future, it takes much less time and costs significantly less.
A combination of effective communication and solid project management allows Connoisseur Painting Ltd. to complete projects with a minimum of disruption and inconvenience for the residents. A bright, clean and well lit parking garage that has been painted in a timely and professional manner will guarantee client satisfaction and ensure that the parking garage is ‘up to code’.