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Concrete Repairs on Parking Garage Structures

Introduction

Parking Garage
Sample of a Parking Garage

Parking garages are very distinct structures form all the other structures out in the world. These structures have large beams and columns and thick slabs that are designed to withstand the daily weight of thousands of heavy vehicles. Furthermore, the vast majority of parking structures are open which means that they are in direct contact with the open air.  The weather and  chlorides that are present in the air can lead to long-term effects on the concrete.  Due to the aforementioned, owners of concrete parking structures should take special care in monitoring the state of their structure.  Naturally, timely corrective measures  significantly add to the longevity of structures.

Cracks on your concrete parking structure

Cracks on concrete appear due to many different reasons. These reasons range from pouring a bad batch of concrete, to improper curing during the construction process. In other words, its those cracks that are caused by the constant movement, expansion and contraction of the structure and the vehicle traffic.

If you are in a parking garage and you stand still while cars are passing by, you will likely feel yourself vibrating. Of course, this is normal and you shouldn’t be alarmed. The heat and cold cycles of day and night cause the structure to expand and contract.  All these items come together to cause fissures in the concrete on a long-term basis.  It is normal for a concrete parking structure to contain cracks.   Small cracks typically do not constitute a serious structural problem although a review by a structural engineer is always recommended.

In any event, any type of crack should be filled at a minimum.  Your structural engineer will be the person who determines which cracks are serious and which are not. Additionally, the engineer will be the professional that will not only quantify the amount of cracking, but will also provide you with the best method of repair.  Needless to say, engineers have the training and the experience to provide you with guidance on dealing with cracks.  Furthermore, it is beyond the scope of this blog to instruct the regular lay person on the ins and outs of  analyzing a structure.

Concrete spalls on your parking garage

As mentioned above, cracks can pose an immediate serious threat to the structural integrity of the parking structure.   However, cracks can also cause long-term damage to the parking structure in the form of spalling.  This spalling occurs when chlorides seep into the concrete and cause the reinforcing steel inside the concrete to rust, expand, and then rupture the concrete.  Click here for our blog on the definition of a spall. This is of particular note in a parking structure that is not only open to the elements, but also contains cracks where these chlorides can easily access the reinforcing steel and make it rust.

Damage to beams

Parking structures tend to have wide open spaces.  Engineers design parkings to have as few columns as possible so as to avoid any collisions with automobiles.  This means that the engineers must design long beams that span from column to column.  As you might have guessed, the longer the beam, the more stress it takes from the vehicles driving over it.  At times, these beams show outward signs of stress by sagging and cracking.  Concrete beams are critical structural elements in a parking garage.  If you see widespread cracking on a beam, do not hesitate to contact a local structural engineer to inspect it.  Depending on the size, location, and direction of the crack, it could be a tell-tale sign that there is a serious structural failure lurking.

Other types of repairs

If I were to provide a comprehensive list of all the issues that can arise in a concrete parking structure, this blog would be many more pages long.   Cracking and spalling are by far the most common and prevalent issues in a concrete parking garage.  To further illustrate, there are several other types of repairs that are typical and these are as follow:

Water Intrusion

Although parking garages are open structures, we still like to walk to our car without getting wet while we are still inside the structure.  If cracks are large, they will let water seep down into the concrete slab and the water will eventually find its way downward by the force of gravity.  Water that goes through concrete picks up chemicals that can consequently damage the nice paint job on your car.  Furthermore, parking structures also have construction joints and caulk joints that can fail.  If these joints are not properly maintained, they can also fail and cause water to seep to the interior of the structure.

Rusting plates

steel embed
This is a steel embed

Some parking structures are what we call “pre-cast” where many concrete pieces are brought in and welded together in the field.  Each one of these concrete pieces has an “embed” which is a small steel plate where the different pieces make contact and where the welders make the connections to build the structure.  These embeds can rust and sometimes fail.  Needless to say, these failures can lead to catastrophic problems and even collapses.  Although collapses are rare, the owners of these structures should be vigilant and have a professional make periodic inspections on the embeds.

Conclusion

In conclusion, parking structures are very unique types of structures.  They are constantly exposed to the ravages of the weather.  Also, they are subjected to extraordinary stresses from the vehicles that day-in and day-out travel through it.    Eventually, failures in the form of cracking and spalling will appear and it is up to the owner of the parking structure to ensure that a maintenance regimen is applied in order to identify these anomalies and cure them.  As mentioned above, a structural engineer is your best line of defense in providing guidance.

This guidance is on the form of an inspection to identify any cracking and spalling that has occurred.    In fact, this professional can also help you in providing you with plans, specifications, and a protocol to perform these repairs.  Engineers that specialize in concrete repair, such as G. Batista & Associates, can guide you through the entire process.   This includes obtaining a suitable contractor to perform the repairs.

 

 

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Basics on Photometric Study for your 40 Year Recertification

The Basics

A few years ago, Cities began to require that photometric studies be done for parking lots within properties as part of the 40 year recertifications.  You will ask yourself “Why?”.  The answer is very simple. Let me begin by defining what a photometric study is.  A photometric study is a survey of the lighting levels in your parking lot.  Light intensity is measured in foot-candles.  The higher the foot-candle, the more intense the light.  As an example, a typical office has about 20 foot-candles of light.  In contrast, a parking lot has about 2 foot-candles.

Miami-Dade requires that parking lots contain a minimum of 2 foot-candles of light.  Just imagine if a parking light had less than the required lighting.  As you can probably guess, there may be more car accidents.  Additionally, the darkness may invite muggings.  People feel safe when there is more lighting.  Therefore, the County mandates that all parking areas have a minimum lighting standard.

How is the Photometric Study Done?

In general, inspectors use a light meter to walk around the parking area and measure the light levels.  The picture below shows a light meter.  A light meter contains a gauge and a read out where one can read the light levels.  With the readout, the inspector can pin-point the areas where the light levels are lower than the required amounts.

Light meter
Light Meter

Obviously, these inspections must be done at night time.  All of the lights in the parking must also be turned on because any lack of lighting will result in a low reading.  Maintenance personnel should also replace or repair existing light bulbs.  Once the parking is ready to be inspected, then you inspector will do the inspection and provide you with his feedback.

Regardless of who does the inspection, the question of the cost always becomes important. There are many aspects of a study that affect the price such as the size of the parking lot or the company that is performing the test.   Be that as it may, one should call several companies and compare prices as in anything else.

What If the Parking Fails the Photometric Test?

If the Parking fails the test, it is not the end of the world.  There are many ways that lighting levels can be adjusted so that you can comply with the requirements.  In the first place, your inspector knows your property and should be the first person to provide you with possible solutions to your particular situation.

The easiest and cheapest way to increase the light levels in the parking lot is to increase the light intensity of the bulbs by changing out the bulbs.  At times, changing the direction of the existing lights can make a difference.  However, when these things do not work, then adding lighting to the parking lot is your only choice.  In this instance, you will need to hire an experienced professional to design a lighting scheme that will comply with the requirements and at the same time, not break the bank.  New lighting installations can be expensive especially when light poles are needed and underground wiring is required to wire the poles.

Worst Case Scenario – Installing New Lighting

Lets say that your inspector tells you that you have no choice but to add new lighting to your parking lot.  Although you may be dismayed by the prospect of potentially spending a lot of money, the fact remains that this is mandated by law and simply ignoring it will make matters worse.  The County is very good at monitoring those that are not in compliance and will be fined eventually.

First, you must hire an engineering company to assess the situation and provide you with a game plan on how to remedy your light level issue. You should interview more than one company given that different professionals may provide you with different options. For example, our company G. Batista & Associates, has been doing illumination tests and designs for many years.

The professional that you hire will guide you through the complicated maze of the design process.  Additionally, they will be your consultant when you decide to hire a contractor to perform the installation of the lights and the poles.

To Finalize

Once the project is completed, then the inspector will provide the final inspection and hopefully a clean bill of health.  Your 40 year recertification is well on its way to being approved.

 

 

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How to choose an engineer for your concrete restoration project?

Introduction

Choosing the right engineer is vital to a concrete repair project.  You can compare your engineer to a head coach of a basketball team. The coach teaches and advises the team members on the best approach to compete.  He can also present a plan that will ensure ultimate victory.  Therefore, it is important to hire your coach at the very beginning of the repair process. Your engineer is the professional that is experienced and qualified to help you through all the complicated steps.

Many people begin with choosing a contractor. This is the wrong way to approach your concrete repair project.  A concrete repair contractor may provide you with a good report and quantifications, but these cannot be used to submit these repairs for a permit. Only an engineer can sign and seal the plans required for a permit.  If a contractor performs this engineering work for you, it will likely be a waste of time for him, since the inspection will have to be redone by an engineer.

Choosing the Engineer

Choosing the right engineer doesn’t have to be a grueling task. A written proposal to complete the job should suffice as a tool to compare candidates to each other. You should ask them to provide the following information with their proposal:

  • Past projects
  • References
  • Qualifications
  • Copies of their licenses
  • Insurance information (Errors & Omissions insurance)

Many Associations have found it helpful to ask the engineers to talk to the Board and introduce themselves and answer questions on the spot. But you must keep in mind that the cost of the engineer is typically a fraction of the eventual cost of the repairs.  All your energy should not be focused on hiring the right engineer. Instead, allot more time to finding a reputable and competent contractor.

Checklist for Choosing the Right Engineer

I have compiled a checklist as a guide for those seeking an engineer for their concrete repair project.  Ask for the following:

  • Florida Professional Engineer License Number.  Confirm if the license is valid by logging on to www.myfloridalicense.com. You can also verify if any complaints have been levied against the Engineer.
  • Years of Experience in Concrete Repair.
  • Amount of E & O (Errors and Omissions) Insurance. Also known as Professional Liability Insurance. This covers the Engineer (and thus the Owners) from mistakes or omissions made in the normal course of the work. $1  Million is the norm for established firms.
  • Amount of General Liability Insurance. $1 Million to $2 Million is the norm for an established firm.
  • Intangibles. Insist on meeting the licensed Engineer in person and any person that he will delegate your project to. Rate your engineer on his communication and interpersonal skills. Is the engineer approachable and accessible? Does the engineer exude leadership, respect, and confidence needed to lead the team?
  • Amount of Technical Staff to perform the work (including required inspections) when the project requires it.
  • Does the engineer have an established physical office? For how long have they had this office?
  • Has the engineer ever been sued or have any legal claims been made against him or the company with reference to his duties as an engineer? Are there any current and pending claims?
  • Always ask for past project references.
  • Does your engineer also have hands-on experience in concrete repair (Contractor) and is someone who can bring that dimension of experience to the table when performing the engineering facet of the project?
  • Memberships in Associations related to the concrete repair industry
  • Leadership Positions or in Professional Organizations (Is the Engineer respected in his field?)

Notes:

1- Keep in mind that the cost of an engineer is typically a small fraction of what your construction costs are going to be. Make your main focus hiring the right contractor and helping your engineer stave off issues before they happen.

2-  This Checklist is to be used only as a general guide in order to help you choose the right engineer and to empower you to ask the right questions of those you are looking to hire.

3-  You can log on to www.gbaconcreteengineeringandrepair.com for more information and other blog posts.

Final Word of Advice

Engineering contracts for concrete repairs can be complicated.  On the simple side, an engineer can give you a contract that is only for him to provide you with plans for the repair.  On the complicated side, the engineer can provide you with a contract that could include additional services such as inspections and other administrative duties during construction.  Finally, you should always hire an attorney with some experience in the construction industry to guide you through the legalities.

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Guide on How to Hire An Engineer to do your 40 year Recertification

The Beginning

You have received your notice in the mail and are asking yourself “what is a 40 Year Recertification?”.  Before you proceed to read this blog, make sure you know what a 40 Year Recertification is first.  Once you know the answer, you can then proceed with the next step.  Obviously, you must find a qualified professional to do this work. This blog will provide you with some guidance.

Finding a Professional

First of all, only qualified people can do 40 Year inspections.  Florida law says that it either a licensed engineer or architect can do the inspection. Obviously, there are many engineers out there than can do the inspection and it is up to you to do some homework to find one.  A good place to begin your search is the internet. Although you can use the yellow pages or referrals, Google is the best place to begin the search.  Once on the Google page, you can type in “40 year recertification engineer Broward”. You can change the key words to include the place you live.  You should get several places that market this type of service.

Checking up on the Engineer

Now you are ready to put your investigator hat on.  The first place to check is the (DBPR) Department of Business and Professional Regulations  website.  You can click here to access the site where you can input the name of the inspector and/or the name of the licensed owner of the business.  This will let you know a little bit about the person and if there have been any complaints files against them or even if their license if active.  With this information, now you are ready to make the phone call and ask some smart questions.

Questions to ask the Engineer

Now you need to ask some questions and hopefully get some good answers.  You may want to have a paper and pen ready to jot down the answers so that after you speak to each, you can compare the answers.  Some of the questions may be as follows:

  • Do you carry Errors and Omissions insurance?  Needless to say, the more established and serious firms carry insurance to protect you and protect themselves. This is a good thing to have.
  • Do you have a written proposal that you can send me once I give you the information on my building?  Written proposals are very important.
  • How much do you charge for the inspection?  Do you include a second or third visit after you perform the initial inspection?  Read our blog on how much an inspection costs.
  • What are the payment terms? Can I pay you once the inspection is finished?
  • What is the time frame to do the inspection?
Inspection clipboard in hand at inspection
Inspection clipboard

Signing the Contract

Finally, you have found your engineer and are ready to sign the contract.  At times it is important to have your attorney check the contract, especially if this is a large and expensive inspection.  The language in the contract should be plain and simple.  As such, you should be able to carefully read it and ask the engineer any questions you may have.  This inspection may be technical, but the contract language does not have to be.  You have every right to ask questions and get good honest answers.

Many contracts require payments up front.  It is normal to pay a portion up front, but try not to pay the whole amount until the inspection is performed.  Finally, you should monitor the progress  of the inspection.  Engineers are licensed professionals and are held to a high ethical standard and as such you should not have problems.

Go to our main home page for G. Batista & Associates.

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How much does a 40 Year Recertification cost?

Introduction

President Greg Batista, PE
Greg Batista, PE

If you are reading this blog, then you have received your notice to perform a 40 Year Inspection.  Simply put, a 40 Year Recertification is an inspection that is required by the State of Florida when a building turns 40 years old.  Additionally, you must to inspections every 10 years thereafter.  You can find a lot of information on the web that will help you understand what a 40 year recertification is.  However, this blog is about the price of a 40 year inspection.  But in order to talk about the cost, one must realize the reason for the existence of the 40 year inspections to begin with.

Beginnings of the 40 Year Recertification

The 40 Year Recertifications were put into law primarily for the public safety.  Building owners perform upgrades and renovations to buildings without pulling permits. Also, Owners many times do not maintain their buildings properly.  As a result, many properties contain unsafe conditions for its occupants.  Examples of these unsafe conditions are as follows:

  • Faulty or exposed wiring
  • Spalling concrete
  • Hidden structural problems
  • Failed roofing systems
  • Possible fire hazards

The law requires that a licensed architect or engineer take the responsibility of the inspection and submit a signed and sealed report.

The Cost of a 40 Year Recertification

The best way to find out how much a 40 Year Recertification will cost you is by calling around and getting proposals.  Of course, a simple search on the internet will yield  lots of information on available professionals in your area.  Each engineer or architect has their own way of calculating how much they are going to charge you for an inspection. The following are the items that most affect the price of a 40 year building inspection (in order of importance):

  • Size of the building (i.e. number of units)
  • Complexity of the structure
  • Accessibility

Size of the Building

As you may have guessed, the size of the building is the factor that most affects the price of a 40 Year Recertification.  Lets take the example of an inspector that has decided he must visit 50 apartments in the case of a high-rise building.  An inspection like this could take most of the day.  Depending on the inspectors findings, the report could be lengthy.

Complexity of the Structure

As an extreme example, lets say that the inspector is to do a 40 year inspection of an electrical plant for FP&L.  On the structural side, there are many unusual structures such as towers and trusses which are difficult to inspect.  On the electrical side, there are high-power devices and mechanisms that are not typical to a regular inspection. Naturally, the inspector will have a very difficult time looking into all the details unless he has much experience with these types of structures.

On the other hand, a much simpler inspection would involve a one-story four-plex apartment building.  Typically, these buildings are constructed of concrete and block and a have a roof structure that has trusses and a shingle roof.  This simple building will also likely have 4 electrical meters and an electrical panel for each unit.

Accessibility

Although this does not tend to be an issue, accessibility can be a big problem. An example of difficult accessibility is the lack of authorization to enter the units of an apartment building.  Another example is where the inspector cannot easily see possible structural problems at the exterior of a 50 story high-rise building.  Accessibility issues can be easily overcome by coordinating with the Owner by planning ahead.

Inspection clipboard in hand at inspection
Inspection clipboard

Conclusion

Although the cost of a 40 Year Recertification can vary widely from professional to professional, there are certain basic items that can affect the cost.  Either way, it is a good idea to understand what these potential issues are so you can discuss these with your engineer.  Your engineer can provide you with a proposal once he has a good understanding of your building.  Some engineers  provide a price “per door” or per apartment. Prices can range between $10 per door to $300 per door (depending on many factors).  Others provide a price based on square footage.  Still others take into consideration the location or the structure, its age, and even if it has a crawl space that he may have to squeeze into.

Be ready to provide answers to your engineer.  The better information you provide, the better proposal you will get.  Let G. Batista & Associates provide you with a proposal.

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Is Your Curtain Wall Leaking?

This is a Glass Curtain wall system
Picture of Greg Batista
President, G Batista & Associates

What is a Glass Wall?

What is a Glass Wall? Glass walls (or Curtain Walls) is a system of glass panels that cover a building.  The featured image on this post is an example of a Curtain Wall system.  Curtain walls differ from regular windows in that they fit to the outside of the building instead of fitting inside a concrete opening.  These glass systems are designed to be strong and to keep the weather out.  Most significantly, they are designed to keep the people inside safe and comfortable.    Many modern buildings have glass that are made of special materials that allow light in and at the same time keep the heat outside.  This way, energy savings are increased as costs are kept to a minimum.

Can Curtain Wall Leak?

Curtain walls have been around since the 1950’s. This means that there has been enough trial-and-error in order to develop this system to where it is today.  Glass systems these days are complicated mechanisms that are comprised of hundreds of different pieces.  These window systems now have built-in  waterproofing and water-diverting systems that keep these from leaking to the interior. However, these are man-made objects and it is a matter of time until there is a failure that will allow water to enter.  Therefore, the short answer to the question above is “yes”.

Main Reasons Why Curtain Walls Leak

In my experience, these are the main reasons why curtain walls can leak:

  • Curtain walls have sealants, plugs, and diverters that directs water along a vertical stem.  The stem then leads the water to the exterior of the system.  Sometimes these items break, loosen, or are installed incorrectly.  Consequently, leaks will occur.
  • Water can enter at the top of the glass and then find its way to a failed gasket.  Gaskets are the rubber parts of a glass system.  Rubber can crack and fail as time passes.
  • In addition to gaskets failing, these rubber parts can also dislodge.  In order for gaskets to work properly, they must be constantly compressed.  Parts of the system may loosen over time and cause for these gaskets to create a breach in the wall.
  • Finally, these glass wall systems are typically made many pieces of aluminum that are fastened together.  Many times these parts are glued or screwed together.  Leaks can occur when the spliced pieces are poorly sealed.

What Can You Do About a Leak?

It is often very difficult to find the source of a leak.  A water stain can appear on a ceiling tile on one area, but the water can actually be coming in from an entirely different area.  When water enters a break in the building “envelope”, it travels by gravity through the path of least resistance.  Many times, it takes a little investigative know-how to find the source of a leak.  Other times, it proves to be much more difficult especially when the suspect is a curtain wall system.  It is not the intent of this post to go over every leaking scenario, but to steer you in the right direction.  Many curtain wall experts may be available in your area for hire.  You should seek out an experienced professional to help you out with your issue.  You can:

  • Do a google search for  “curtain wall consultant” or “building envelope consultant”.
  • Click on the National Glass Association’s Website and click on the “Resources” tab.
  • Find a reputable and experienced glazing contractor to help you.