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 6 Comments

Concrete Repairs on Parking Garage Structures

Sample of a Parking Garage

Introduction

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.

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.