View All Blog Postings
Due to our growing need for space, we have relocated our Columbia office. Please note the address & phone number change…we would hate to miss your call!
A common deterrent to personal enjoyment in multi-family buildings is sound transmission. Often determining what is too loud is subjective and measured by the sensitivity of our ears. The Building Code requires that walls and ceilings meet an STC (Sound Transmission Class) rating of 50 and an IIC (Impact Insulation Class) of 50. STC is related to airborne noise like a television, speech, or music and IIC correlates to footfalls or a dog’s toenails when they impact a tile floor.
At an STC rating of 50, loud talking cannot be heard but load music can be noticed. We usually are asked to investigate sound transmission concerns in wood framed buildings when the thuds of foot traffic of the resident or their pet, above, is perceived to be disturbingly excessive. Many condominiums have rules related to the percentage of the floor area that must be covered by carpet. This is likely because most carpeted floors comply with a IIC 50 sound rating.
Manufacturers of products used to construct wall and ceiling assemblies have their materials tested in a laboratory with various combinations of framing, drywall, and insulation to determine the STC rating. To inspect a noise concern, our first step is to review the available architectural drawings to determine the intended design and the associated STC rating for the wall and/or ceiling construction. Then we will cut a few holes at inconspicuous places to confirm if the drawings were followed. Most people are surprised to learn that no insulation was placed inside the wall or ceiling and that many assemblies can achieve the required STC rating without insulation.
Products are available that can be installed on floors, walls, and ceilings to reduce the offending sound transmission. Installing these materials can be limited to sleeping areas to save cost and the amount of disruption that the project has on a living space.
Satisfactory remediation of a sound problem can be difficult. Our ears will perceive a reduction in noise by one half when the STC rating is increased by about 10 points. Conversely, anything less than a10 point change is hard for people to distinguish. Finally, any expectation that a once noisy unit located within a multi-family building will become “sound proof” or like a recording studio after remedial work is complete is unrealistic
Here is our list of latest design considerations if you are planning to add a fitness center to your facility.
- Understand the type of desired physical activity that suites your community: for example, does your community want cardio equipment more than weights or do they require instructional studio-type facility.
- Understand local code requirements and have a professional perform code analysis and a feasibility study for your space/facility.
- The growing trend and appreciation is towards flexible space that can be tailored to any type of exercise activity such as stretching, yoga or pilates.
- End-users enjoy natural daylight during the work out; therefore, if the space allows, fitness center should be located near the window façade of the building.
- Entrance to the fitness center should be well marked with signage and preferably with glass doors and windows.
- Ceilings are a big area for cost savings. Often finish ceilings are not installed in the fitness center, painting the existing structure is all that is needed.
- LED light fixtures and simple ceiling fans are desirable and readily available at any hardware store.
- The growing market is towards less equipment and more open space. A gym equipment company which offers both buying and leasing options should be consulted. Make sure to incorporate WIFI and TV connectivity to the gym equipment.
- Walls of the fitness center should be painted with light and vibrant colors that reflect daylight into the room.
- Floor of the fitness center should be rubber mats strong enough to support heavy traffic and exercise equipment. Rubber floors are available in rolls and tiles with a variety of colors and textures.
- Add a self-service water coolers or cold drink vending machines area. Water fountains should be strategically placed and handicap accessible.
Just a little humor to start the week.
If you experienced one or all of the following situations inside your building, most likely your building (and you) need a little more fresh air.
1. Did you see condensation on your window pane in the winter? Without enough fresh air and proper ventilation to remove the moisture from inside the building, humidity will keep building up in the air. When the moisture content of air reaches the level of the dew point at the cold surface of the window or any cold spot inside the building, condensation will start to form and accumulate. When too much condensation is present, water may drip into the wall cavity and cause damage. In addition, high humidity will encourage growth of mold and mildew.
2. Do you always smell something “unique” in your house as soon as you step into the building from outside? Is it your favorite food smell, kitty litter smell or air freshener smell? This means you don’t have enough fresh air to push the old and stale air out of the building. Proper ventilation will get rid of this “unique” household odor and provide you and your visitors a fresh and clean air smell.
3. Ever wonder why you don’t quite feel energetic and frequently feel sleepy staying inside the building? Maybe some fresh air can help. Fresh air provides you with a steady supply of oxygen which is needed by your brain and every single cell of your body. Time to treat your body with a good supply of fresh air.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out your building doesn’t have enough fresh air. However, it definitely takes a professional engineer to evaluate, analyze and design a cost effective and energy efficient ventilation system to provide adequate and comfortable fresh air supply year round
Perforated PVC pipes used for underground drainage have offset holes drilled along the centerline of the pipe. It seems that some philosophical disagreements exist related to the placement of the holes in gravel filled trenches (i.e. French Drains). A review of installation instructions from several State DOT manuals reveals that the holes should be down (i.e. placed facing the bottom of the trench). The reason is that this allows the water to enter the pipe and drain from the soil at the lowest level. If the holes are located along the top of the pipe, then the water must rise to the level of the top of the pipe before it can be drained. In most cases, the purpose of these buried pipes is to collect water in the ground before it enters a building basement or seeps up through parking lot pavement, so it makes sense to collect the water at the lowest level available. Water will follow the path of least resistance, so once it enters the pipe, gravity will make it travel until it reaches the discharge point at the low end of the pipe.
Millennials are defined as a generation of people whose age ranges from 18 to 34, that means born after 1981 or before 1999. This age group that has surpassed baby boomers in population are characteristically confident, self-expressive, multi-cultural, open to change and technically savvy. Millennials are not only aware of the latest market trends in design, they also expect their living environment to be up to the latest standards of design and construction. In conversation with recent Millennials buyers for condominiums, we discovered some of their priorities and expectations.
- Building preferably located from a walking distance to train station, grocery store, restaurants and school. There is a strong preference for centralized community living and vibrant neighborhood.
- Paper-less communication for all condominium announcements and meeting notes.
- Outdoor jogging/walking trail and a dog park should be located nearby, if not on the building premises.
- Automated control system for the condominium such as window shades, lighting and thermostat.
- A well-lit spacious lobby that welcomes not only the visitors, but also serves as a lounge area for the residents to meet and greet. Front desk should have also a package delivery service.
- Light fixtures should have motion detectors that could save their electrical bill and energy consumption.
- Bike repair station and bike lockers should be located near parking garage, along with electrical charge stations for hybrid cars.
Researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are working on placing bacteria in concrete mixes to fix cracks in concrete and make it self-healing. This could make concrete less susceptible to damage related to water that infiltrates a beam by way of a crack and results in rebar corrosion.
What do you really know about your roof warranties? There may be separate warranties issued for various materials and the installing contractor may have also guaranteed workmanship. Each will expire at some point and there are things you should do to preserve your protections.
1. Review the documents and assure they were properly executed. If, for example the papers were never signed and returned to the manufacture, you probably don’t have a warranty.
2. Be aware of your responsibilities. Failure to properly maintain the system could void warranties.
3. Properly notify all involved parties (manufacturers, contractor, etc.) of problems within the 10 to 30 days typically required.
4. Be sure that repairs are made using approved materials and contractors certified by the manufacturer. Unapproved materials and repairs may void coverage, at least in the areas affected by repairs.
5. Have a knowledgeable person evaluate the roof covering periodically and within six months to one year in advance of warranty expiration dates. There may be conditions that could be corrected at no cost before coverage lapses.
Some warranties can be extended or renewed for additional cost; however it may not always be advantageous to do so. The manufacturer could impose maintenance or rehabilitative requirements that are unreasonable when compared with the value of the coverage. Spending $100,000 to get a five-year warranty extension on a $200,000 roof might not be the best use of the money.
There is a lot of talk these days about using drones to inspect exterior building walls. Aside from issues regarding safety, liability, federal regulations, etc. there is little doubt that up close video photography can be a helpful tool. Visual inspection using binoculars from ground-level or other vantage points is a basic part of exterior wall inspection and investigation procedures. This process can only benefit from the use of drones in terms of being able to quickly examine large areas with good quality imaging (documentation).
However, any visual inspection is limited. An up-close inspection by a qualified inspector or engineer (using a roof-mounted swing stage, scaffolding, or a man-lift) provides the most reliable information possible by allowing the person to touch, probe, and sound (tap) areas of concern to check for delamination, stability, soundness, etc.
In addition, having an individual “on the wall” allows for intrusive sampling needed to determine in-place, hidden conditions. Visual examination alone cannot fully evaluate these matters.
Yes, drones can be a valuable part of an exterior wall inspection and/or evaluation. We own a drone and use it for certain inspections. However, drones alone are not capable of providing all the information necessary to perform a complete and comprehensive investigation of exterior walls or building conditions.
When buying a condominium or renting an apartment, amenity spaces have become an important aspect of resident’s comfort and lifestyle. In newer developments, as the size of the apartment is shrinking, it is the amenity spaces that become the home and outlet for activities. Traditionally, a residential building has a club room, weight room and an outdoor pool, which still serves well for many communities. However, in today’s market, buyers have many new interests and requirements. In general, the trend has been leaning towards spaces that suggest specific activity areas. Here is a list of growing trends in amenity spaces that has grabbed our attention.
- A Play Room for kids is a place for kids to go, without going anywhere (outside the building). It provides a place for kids (as well as parents) to have fun, play and interact with their community. Rooms are specially designed to provide kid’s furniture and colorful room finishes.
- A Fitness Center that is more than just a weight room. It includes a cardio room, machine room, free weights area, yoga/ Pilates studio and a massage room. We have seen many of these rooms located on ground floor with large windows to allow plenty of sunlight and fresh air.
- Entertainment and Sports Lounge for the sports enthusiasts. Watching a game with friends and having a pizza is a great American tradition. This room provides a comfortable family room environment to kick back and enjoy a game with friends and family.
- Rooftop Sundeck-Pool and an Outdoor Kitchen have become essential for residents to escape their daily lives and enjoy the outdoors on their rooftop. Many buildings offer special catered events to celebrate 4th of July and have a great meal.
- Dog Wash Room is a very practical amenity for pet lovers. Dog hair can easily clog your bath tub and taking your pet to grooming shop get tiresome during freezing months. Why not have a dog wash and grooming room that takes care of your pet inside your building.
- A Vegetable Garden is an amazing addition to your backyard, so why not to your building. Growing vegetables provides a healthy choice for food and exercise for the residents. Although it requires maintenance plans and agreements between management and residents, it is worth the effort.