Posted on Leave a comment

What is a 40-year certification Illumination Study?

If you are reading this blog, it’s probably because you have an interest in getting 40-year recertification completed for your property.  But then you also need to do an illumination study in addition to the 40-year inspection.  

Before I go into what an illumination study is, I must define that 40-year recertification is an inspection that an Engineer does to a property when a property is 40 years old and every 10 years thereafter.  Basically, the inspection deals with electrical and structural issues that a property may have that may be a safety issue for the property’s inhabitants. There are certain minimum items that a property must comply with including the illumination at the parking areas.

As of the writing of this blog, only properties in Dade County are required to have an illumination test 

Why do you need an illumination study?

We all know that dark areas at night can be a hazard.  There are many things that can happen in open parking lots such as car accidents, muggings, and robberies.  It is for this reason that Dade Country has required that parking lots contain a certain minimum amount of lighting.  It all comes down to a safety issue.  We all want to be safe.

Light meterWhat is an illumination study?

An illumination study is an analysis of the lighting levels at the parking areas of your property. At its most fundamental, your professional that you hire for your 40-year recertification will walk around the parking lot and measure the light levels at the different areas.  A light meter is used to measure the levels and at no time will the lighting levels be less than 1 foot-candle.  After the inspection, your professional should be able to let you know, through a written report, the areas where the lighting needs to improve.

What to do before the inspection?

There are many reasons why your lighting is at a level that is lower than those required.   But the fact remains that you should take certain steps before your professional performs the inspection. One of the main things you can do is to change the bulbs on the lighting that may have blown and are no longer working.  Another item is so cut down any branches or other vegetation that may be covering any lighting.  These 2 items are cheap, quick and easy to perform.  If the electrical current has been cut off to one of the light fixtures, it would be a great idea to get an electrician to repair it.  Once you’ve completed all the easy steps you can to bring your lighting up to snuff, then you can get your professional to do the inspection with the light meter. If you fail to take these up-front simple measures, then chances are that your inspector will do the inspection and then require you to perform the repairs and then will likely charge you for a re-inspection.

What to do to increase illumination levels in your parking area if you fail the illumination test?

You're professional that performed the inspection will be your first line of defense. They will guide you through the most feasible and economical ways to bring your parking lot to acceptable levels.  The best and most economical case is that your light fixtures can accommodate a brighter bulb and you can take care of it like that. On the other hand, the worst-case scenario is that you will need to completely re-do your lighting which will require new lamps, posts, and underground wiring.  Again, it is your profession that will guide you through the process and the possibilities.

It is important to note that this performing a lighting analysis is not as simple as it sounds. How can an engineer guarantee that by just changing the bulbs to a higher wattage will make the problem go away?  Also, how can an engineer know that by adding 20 light posts instead of only 10 posts will make the problem go away?  The answer to these questions lies in the fact that these engineers have computer programs that model the parking lot and are able to experiment with different types of lights and locations so that your entire parking lot has the correct lighting levels. Of course, this is a specialized engineering task and you will likely be charged for this service.  Again, it Is your inspection professional that will best guide you through the process.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Dade County requires that illumination studies be done in parking lots as a requirement to the 40-year recertification report.  After you make sure that the simple items are done, such as changing out non-functioning bulbs, you can call upon your professional to perform the test and ultimately rely on them to take you through the entire process as your consultant.

We here at G. Batista & Associates are engineers that have performed thousands of inspections and are ready, willing and able to help you on your 40-year recertification inspection and your illumination test.

Posted on 4 Comments

Basics on Photometric Study for your 40 Year Recertification

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.

Posted on 6 Comments

How to choose an engineer for your concrete restoration project?

choose an engineer

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:

Choosing the Engineer1- 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.

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.