Category: commercial property condition report

Structural engineering

The Problems the Millennium Tower is Facing in San Francisco

When the $550 million construction for the Millennium Tower in San Francisco was announced, there were no shortage of buyers ready to spend millions of dollars to purchase living space. However, less than a decade later, those buyers have lost significant value in their investment due to various unforeseen issues to the tower.

Various structural engineering companies, as well as geotechnical companies, are evaluating the building daily to analyze the cracks, sinking and leaning that are clearly present. While the problems with the Millennium Tower are evident, there are still plenty of questions surrounding the safety of it, who is responsible for these issues and what structural engineering experts are going to do about it.

How Safe Is The Building Today?

The good news is the last time a structural engineer evaluated the building, it was deemed to be safe to live in, even if an earthquake occurred. However, the fact that the sinking of the building doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon can’t be ignored. Structural engineering experts estimate the building will continue sinking between 1.5” to 2” every year, which simply means action needs to be taken now to prevent a potential disaster in the ensuing years.

Where The Blame Lies

Initial inspections indicate the main problem being in the foundation of the Millennium Tower. The soil it’s built on consists of sand, clay and mud, and the foundation does not even extend far enough down to reach solid bedrock. There’s some controversy surrounding the City of San Francisco and why they allowed the construction and design team to not anchor the foundation low enough to reach the bedrock.

Another area of blame has to do with the construction of the transit center that was newly built adjacent to the tower. The construction company responsible for building the Millennium Tower is suggesting the company that constructed the transit center pumped too much groundwater during their project, which caused the sand under the Millennium Tower to compress, and has resulted in the sinking.

Possible Solutions To Fix The Millennium Tower

As structural engineering experts continue to discover the reasons why the Millennium Tower is experiencing these problems, they are also developing short-term and long-term solutions. One of the possible solutions includes removing some of the top floors in order to reduce the weight of the tower. The most discussed solution for the long-term is to bore micro piles on the side of the building that’s sinking in order to eventually anchor it to the bedrock underneath. Once this occurs, the high side of the building must sink to the level of the low side before the anchoring can occur. This proposed solution could take up to five years and cost several hundred million dollars, but it is the most viable solution for the long-term, as analyzed by structural engineering experts.

At BE Structural, we always monitor these types of stories and are actually involved in many of them. We are a structural engineering company with experts coming from many different backgrounds and having various levels of experience. If you have any specific questions about the problems the Millennium Tower in San Francisco is facing, or have a need for a structural engineer, contact us today.

Building envelope engineering

5 Key Components to Help Identify a Building Envelope Failure

By the time a building envelope fails, a thorough investigation has to take place to determine the exact cause. There are many reasons why this failure can occur on any given building, but identifying the issue takes some experience. With a building envelope inspection by a professional, most issues can be identified and corrected before major damage occurs. However, there are some signs you can look out for as well to help identify the potential for failure.

Air Leaks

If air leaks out of a building through windows, doors or attics, potential problems could arise. There could also be air leaks in a building you aren’t even aware of until your energy bill skyrockets. Air leaks are problematic because they can lead to condensation if the humidity from outside is being pulled inside.

Water Penetration Vulnerabilities

Sometimes poor design or construction of a building can lead to water penetration vulnerabilities over time. During the course of building envelope engineering, a significant amount of sealant is used to prevent water penetration, but even the tiniest oversight can cause big problems.

Insulation Breakdowns

Insulation in a building is more functional than simply keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It also acts as a barrier to prevent outdoor elements from getting into the home and causing problems with the building envelope. Without insulation, extreme temperature difference indoors compared to outdoors can create moisture and lead to building envelope failure.

Differential Movement

Thermal expansion of concrete, masonry or other building materials can lead to differential movement. This is one of the most difficult features for the average person to identify, since the changes are so subtle. Too much differential movement can cause the structure to fail in different ways. Getting a building envelope inspection frequently is sometimes the only way to identify and correct this issue.

Condensation

Condensation that builds up on windows during certain times of the year is generally harmless when it’s wiped away. However, when condensation builds up in between wall cavities, it could eventually cause building envelope failure. This type of condensation is more difficult to identify, and when you do, most of the time the majority of the damage has already been done.

BE Structural has a team of building envelope engineering experts to help you identify potential failures in your structure. If you have the ability to identify any of these signs on your own, then don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule an inspection. It’s always a good idea to schedule regular inspections anyway to prevent building envelope failure from occurring in the first place.

Building envelope inspection

Is Your Building Envelope Failure Because of Workmanship Errors?

Just like there are many reasons why a building envelope may fail, there are many workmanship errors that can cause the failure to start. Following a building envelope inspection, most of the time the issue discovered boils down to a workmanship error during the design, construction or the installation of certain components of the home. Most building envelope failures are the result of water intrusion, and many times the expertise of building envelope construction is needed in order to identify the issues. Here’s how you can tell whether your building envelope failed because of a workmanship error.

Most Common Workmanship Errors

Since water intrusion is generally the most common reason why building envelopes fail, building envelope consultants typically identify workmanship errors as being the cause. Most of these errors deal with the improper installation or improper sealing of water diverters and end dams.

Not all workmanship errors derive from the installation process, however. Sometimes poor design and planning practices can also lead to issues with the building envelope. Sometimes it takes more than a simple building envelope inspection to determine the actual root cause of the error.

Can Workmanship Errors Be Prevented?

Since there are many different people who work on the design and construction of any given building, a workmanship error is inevitable. However, sometimes these errors aren’t a result of negligence. Rather, it could be the installation professional did not have access to the original design plan or was not instructed correctly. In order for every single workmanship error to be prevented, each person involved with the process of constructing a building from start to finish must be on the same page and have a clear understanding of the installation requirements.

Building Envelope Inspections Can Reveal Facts

You will never truly know where an error originated from unless you have a thorough building envelope inspection conducted. Whether it’s a residential or commercial building, these inspections can actually begin the investigation process of determining who is at fault for the building envelope failure. Many times it’s discovered that the person who performed the installation actually isn’t at fault at all.

BE Structural has a team of building envelope consultants to thoroughly analyze and evaluate the reasons why a particular building envelope may have failed. The extensive process of the inspection is detailed and is the only way to truly identify whether the failure was caused by workmanship errors or any other reason. To learn more about the process, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

Structural forensic engineer

Forensic Engineering Explores Steel Framing After a Fire

One of the many roles of forensic engineering services people may not be aware of is assessing steel framing following a fire in a building. Steel can withstand high temperatures, and sometimes it may even look like it was unaffected after a fire. However, even if it appears to be normal, the integrity of the steel could have been compromised. A structural forensic engineer looks at many different factors to determine the integrity and viability of steel framing following a fire. Here are some of those factors, along with some background on how fire affects steel.

How A Fire’s Temperature Impacts Steel Strength

The higher a fire’s temperature is, the more steel will be impacted. The framing could buckle and twist, as well as experience a reduction in stiffness and overall yield strength. But the unique thing about steel is it’s possible for it to regain all its properties back if the fire’s temperature does not exceed 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit for more than about 20 minutes. However, if the temperature is higher than that or it takes longer for the fire to be extinguished, then a structural forensic engineer will likely find some major issues with the integrity of the steel.

Determining Whether Steel is Usable After A Fire

If you happen to watch steel framing as a fire is taking place, the average person will deem it unusable. However, buckling and other deformations can occur in steel at relatively low temperatures. This does not mean the overall integrity of the steel framing is completely and permanently compromised, though. Each situation is unique, which is why forensic engineering practices are needed to determine exactly whether steel framing is strong enough for people to even walk into, much less use the building ever again.

How Forensic Engineers Assess Steel Framing

A structural forensic engineer will look at the external appearance of steel to determine how high the temperature of a fire got, and how long it remained at that temperature. If the steel looks a normal color and there are no other obvious deformities, then most likely the temperature was less than 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. But if the temperature exceeded that number, then the surface of the steel may appear oxidized, show signs of pitting, reduction of thickness and will have a different color. Once the structural forensic engineer determines the severity of the impact the fire had on the steel framing, he can determine whether the steel is usable as it is, if it can be used with slight modifications or if a complete replacement is needed.

BE Structural has a solid team of experts to provide many different forensic engineering services. A fire can cause an extensive amount of damage in a short period of time, so it’s important to have a structural engineer analyze the damage to deem the building safe or unsafe. To learn more about how the process works, feel free to contact us at any time.

Building envelope inspection

Common Mistakes Made When Building Envelopes Fail

A building envelope is important to keep the inside of the building safe, as well as maintain the overall integrity of the building. However, when a failure is identified, action needs to be taken right away in order to prevent major issues from occurring. Not only could these issues lead to an increase in costs, but they could also create an unsafe environment. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when a building envelope fails, and what you should do instead.

Not Having A Sense of Urgency

An issue with a building envelope isn’t going to fix itself. In fact, it’s only going to get worse before it gets better until you take action to repair it. If you’re dealing with a moisture leak, air leak or other problem, having a sense of urgency to fix it will prevent long-term damage from occurring. Depending on the type of issue, it may be worth it to bring in a building envelope engineering company to evaluate the issue and determine the source of the problem.

Temporarily Fixing The Problem

It’s easy to add some sealant or tape to a leaking area. However, that’s doing nothing to actually fix the problem. Conducting a temporary fix may work for a few days or even a few months, but more times than not it will lead to bigger issues in the future. A simple building envelope inspection can help you identify exactly what went wrong so you can fix the leak or other issues properly and never have to worry about it again.

Not Identifying The Source of The Failure

Finding the source of the building envelope failure is easier said than done for most people, which is why many people don’t take the time to do it. If you find water on the inside of your building, it means there’s a problem on the outside of the building most likely. Simply putting a patch on the inside to plug the leak will force the water to go in a different direction to cause a similar problem. This is just one example of not identifying and fixing the source of the failure. Not conducting a thorough building envelope inspection in these situations is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

BE Structural wants to ensure you don’t make these common mistakes when dealing with building envelope failure. We are a building envelope engineering company with extensive experience in not only identifying issues, but recommending the best course of action and following through with taking action. If you haven’t conducted a building envelope inspection in a while, contact us today to see how we can help protect the integrity of your building.

Structural glass design

Remarkable Structural Glass Use

The use of structural glass has evolved over the years to the point where it’s no longer considered simply a cladding material. Homeowners and businesses are realizing how a creative structural glass design can make a statement about your personality and how you approach business. The opportunities to be creative and have virtually endless options have challenged structural glass engineers to design some of the most unique structures ever seen. Here are three of the most remarkable uses of structural glass we’ve come across.

Harlem Hospital Center, New York City

The Harlem Hospital Center has a unique structural glass wall that’s nothing short of greatness. It has essentially used glass to create a work of art on the building facade. They’ve used silk-screened glass to place digital images to set an impressive scene of their facility. Every single detail of the facade was taken into consideration, even during the night when the art is still visible due to the backlighting from the building’s interior.

Metlife Lobby Wall, New York City

The Metlife Lobby Wall proves structural glass design doesn’t have to be only on the exteriors of buildings. The use of glass in this building provides one of the most unique lobby areas you’ll see, and it’s prominently placed between the entrance of the building and the escalators. The glass is semi-transparent, which clearly defines two sections of the space, but also keeps an open floor plan. The support structures also blend in well with the glass, so it almost appears as if the structural glass wall is floating in mid-air.

Elevated Acre Park Light Beacon, New York City

This unique structure rises high above the nearby park and is just as impressive looking during the day as it is at night. It truly gets its notoriety in the dark, though, since it uses a multicolor backlight to create a scenic view. The custom-fritted panels provide one of the most unique appearances you’ll ever see, which makes the Elevated Acre Park Light Beacon a popular attraction for both tourists and locals.

BE Structural has a team of structural glass engineers ready for any challenge presented to them. We’ve seen some of the most impressive glass structures in the world and are excited about the opportunity to work on a new project for your home or business. Be sure to contact us for a consultation to learn if a structural glass design is right for you and how we can help you achieve your vision.

Building envelope consultants

New Technology Monitors Building Envelopes

Smart building technology is currently being used throughout the engineering and construction industries in many ways and in varying degrees. Whether it’s controlling the temperature in a building, locking doors or windows or controlling lights and ceiling fans, technology makes monitoring a home or business much more convenient. With this advancement in technology, you can also monitor your building envelope.  A building envelope is the physical barrier that separates the exterior from the interior of a building.  Here are a few of the many benefits new technology offers when it comes to monitoring a building envelope.

How Smart Sensors Enhance Building Management

Software, sensors, analytics and automation all combine to enhance how a building is managed. Some of these sensors will use real-time weather data to control the temperature inside the building by automatically adjusting the HVAC system. On a similar note, technology can be used to monitor the performance of your HVAC system in general.

The real-time data shows the usage of the system, which could identify a potential issue if it appears to be working harder than it should. You can essentially take a snapshot of your building at any given time to identify problems and work toward improving efficiency by addressing any building envelope failures.

Potential Cost Savings With New Technology

One of the goals of a building envelope inspection is to identify areas where energy is being wasted. With smart technology, you can easily identify these areas right away and fix the problems promptly. Consequently, your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard and will result in energy savings. This technology will continue to advance, so the potential for more significant savings in the future is very likely.

Will Technology Eliminate The Need For Building Envelope Consultants and Inspections?

While some of the sensors can detect an issue, they can’t go to work to fix the issue. There’s still value in speaking with building envelope consultants and getting frequent evaluations, but it’s no secret that technology will make them less frequent in the future.

Forensic Engineering: Crane Collapse on the Tappan Zee Bridge

expert forensic witness

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Tappan Zee Bridge in New York is one of the busiest, since it connects the city’s northern suburbs. It’s estimated that around 138,000 cars travel on the bridge every day. It is currently undergoing construction, which is scheduled for completion in 2018. However, the completion date may be set back slightly after the recent collapse of one of the cranes being used for the bridge’s construction.

The crane supposedly malfunctioned and fell on the bridge, which caused the lanes to be shut down for hours. Fortunately, only minor injuries were sustained, including one construction worker, but the investigation into what caused the malfunction is just beginning.

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The Ins and Outs of Building Envelope Engineering

building envelope engineeringDepending on how much you know about the engineering industry, you may or may not have heard of building envelope engineering. However, it is a very important part of the engineering process, and involves the three basic components of a structure: the foundation, the walls and the roofing. If these parts of the building are not structurally sound, then the building itself is unstable and not fit for human use. It turns out that all three of these building components have one uniform purpose. The purpose of this article is to educate you on what they are, and how they’re a significant part of what structural engineers have to think about when they plan out an engineering project.

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Structural Engineers and the Commercial Property Condition Assessment

Get a commercial property condition assessment.

Learn the benefits of a commercial property condition assessment.

When individuals are interested in purchasing commercial real estate, a commercial property condition assessment (PCA) is necessary to evaluate the current condition of the property. Many structural engineers use the ASTM 2018 Standard to assess commercial properties. A property assessment for commercial buildings can also be used to assure lenders that prospective buyers will be able to properly maintain the building and pay off their loan with their current cash flow. These extremely detailed reports must be completed by trained professionals to ensure the validity of the report.

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