Category: property assessment

Structural engineering company

The Different Ways a Steel Structure Can Fail

The job of every structural engineer is to ensure any given building is safe and structurally sound. This can occur during the initial design of a building or during the inspection of an existing building. When it comes to steel structures, it’s hard to imagine them failing due to the strength of the building materials themselves. However, there are several different ways steel structures can fail, and most of them can be prevented with the help of great structural engineering practices. Here are the main ways steel structures can fail.

Insufficient Strength With Connections

Almost every time you hear about a steel structure failing, it’s because of a connection issue. A structural engineer has to put in an incredible amount of thought and detail when designing the joints and connections to ensure they are strong enough. Calculating the strength of joints and connections is a tedious process, and it’s important for the structural engineer and the construction professionals to be on the same page. Any type of miscommunication in the type of bolt or other materials to use can lead to insufficient strength and possible failure.

Tension Failures

Another possible failure in steel structures is putting too much tension on any given member. It takes a significant amount of tension to create this type of failure, and most of the time it only occurs when the structural engineer makes a mistake in the design process. Tension failures are widely known as the most dangerous type of failure, so every structural engineer places a high level of importance on it in the design phase.

Too Much Weight On Beams

Beams can fail in a steel structure as well. It’s fairly simple to figure out when this type of failure will occur, since it happens when the weight on the beams exceed the weight limit they can handle. Lateral torsional buckling is the main concern for every structural engineering company, since it involves predicting where the most significant amount of weight will be placed on the beam. The strongest point of the beam is in the center of it, so buckling could occur and lead to beam failure if the weight on either end of the beam is too much for it to handle.

BE Structural is a team of structural engineering professionals that has an extensive portfolio of construction and engineering projects. Whether a steel structure undergoes minor local buckling or has experienced significant structural failure, we have an expert ready to evaluate the situation and provide the best solutions. No project is too large, small or complex for our structural engineering professionals, so don’t hesitate to contact us at any time when you need us.

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.

Structural glass design

The Advantages of a Modular Home

With custom underground homes becoming popular in many countries, modular homes are also getting more recognition. If you aren’t familiar with modular homes, they are constructed by assembling various prefabricated rooms that are manufactured and shipped to the location where they will be attached. While these homes must go through a transportation process, they also must adhere to the same zoning codes and building safety standards that traditional homes do. So what are the advantages of living in a modular home? Here are some of the most attractive benefits.

Better Quality Construction

Since the different modules making up the home have to be shipped, the components have to be strong enough to withstand the elements of transportation. As a result, the materials used are generally stronger than a traditional home. Most of the building components are the same as standard homes, but the construction process is generally more detailed and specific for a modular home.

Customized Design Options

If you want a structural glass design in your modular home, all you have to do is request it. You can combine multiple different features you like from other homes all into a single modular home. You also have the ability to design your own floor plan and even pick out details like what siding or windows should be used. The only limitations revolve around the space you have to place the modular home.

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Most of the time a modular home is built with energy efficient qualities. While custom underground homes have natural energy efficient properties, modular homes have to be constructed accordingly. Since each module of the home is designed and constructed separately, more detail and emphasis gets placed on sealants and other components to help reduce energy costs. And many times, a structural glass design can add to the energy efficient properties of a modular home.

Reduced Construction Costs

Any time you custom design a home, you have to expect the cost to be significantly higher than buying a standard home. However, with modular homes, you can enjoy full customization without having to pay outrageous construction costs. Since each smaller module is constructed individually, the process of building them is much more time efficient. Those time savings get passed on to you through lower construction costs.

BE Structural is a team of experts with a broad range of expertise. We have professionals with experience in bulk materials handling, structural inspecting, forensic engineering and much more. The advantages of a modular home are becoming more clear and evident every single day, so the popularity will undoubtedly rise in the coming years. To learn more about modular homes, contact us to ask any questions you may have.

Facade engineering

Structural Engineers Aim to Assist in a Zero-Waste Future

Excessive waste is a serious problem across many different industries, but it’s especially problematic in construction. It seems like no matter how much effort is put forth to reduce waste, the issue is still prevalent. Structural engineers are putting their best foot forward to create a zero-waste future, and with a continuous effort, they could be successful. From the design process to the components used and even bulk materials handling, here are ways structural engineers will have an impact on significantly reducing waste.

Detachable Building Components

Through forensic engineering investigations, results indicate a significant amount of waste can be reduced by using materials that can be detached rather than demolished. And even further in the future, the detached components could be recycled and used in other applications. Detachable components are far from being usable today, but it is something on the radar of every structural engineer.

Design For The Future

Another thing structural engineers are doing is requesting that the design teams think about the future of the building throughout the design process. Things to think about include how a building could potentially expand, be repurposed or have other functional implementation. Planning ahead in this manner could reduce the chances of having to demolish materials in order to expand or repurpose any given building.

Maintain High Performance, While Minimizing Resources

Technology is continuing to advance, whether it’s regarding facade engineering or any other component of the construction process. Structural engineers are placing an emphasis on using the latest technology to their advantage in order to use fewer resources, but still keeping performance at high levels. Many advancements in technology are designed specifically for this purpose, but they aren’t necessarily used accordingly.

Continuous Effort Will Reduce Waste

The more forensic engineering investigations that identify waste, the more structural engineers will push for a zero-waste future. We have come a long way in our efforts of reducing waste, but there is still a long way to go to eliminate it completely. When everyone involved in the construction process gets onboard with waste-reduction efforts, the better the chances are of it becoming a reality.

At BE Structural, our structural engineers and facade engineering experts constantly think about different ways to reduce waste. Through diligent and continuous efforts, we all work together and contribute to waste reduction practices. To learn more about how we are working together in our efforts to reduce waste, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time.

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.

Forensic engineering companies

The Advantages of Forensic Engineering in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Appliances naturally produce low levels of carbon monoxide as they operate, but rarely do they produce extensive levels. When there’s a case of carbon monoxide poisoning, an in-depth investigation must be conducted to determine the source of the issue and swift action must be taken. In high amounts, carbon monoxide can cause serious harm to people, and can even turn lethal. A comprehensive forensic investigation is the first thing that needs to happen when higher-than-normal levels of carbon monoxide are detected. Here’s why it’s important to bring in a forensic engineering service to do the job.

Locate The Specific Cause of Carbon Monoxide

The roles of forensic engineering companies vary significantly, and providing analysis in carbon monoxide poisoning cases is one of them. If the average contractor does an investigation in a building, the answers you’ll likely hear will be very surface-based, such as recommending replacing the water heater or improving the venting in the building. However, when you have a forensic engineering service conduct an investigation, the specific cause will be clearly determined and a thorough analysis will be conducted to see exactly why the water heater was faulty or how the venting became poor. This can lead to proper action being taken, rather than making general assumptions on what needs to happen with the specific appliance in question.

Test Specific Appliances for Carbon Monoxide Production

Forensic engineering companies have special equipment to analyze the air concentration in order to detect specific levels of carbon monoxide. In addition, the equipment can test specific appliances to determine how much carbon monoxide each one produces. In most cases, a forensic engineering service can quickly and easily find the appliance producing excessive amounts of carbon monoxide. The next step is to analyze why the appliance is producing these excessive amounts.

Pinpointing The Source

Just because an appliance is temporarily producing extraordinary amounts of carbon monoxide doesn’t mean it has to be replaced immediately. Sometimes it’s just a minor issue detected during a forensic investigation that can be easily fixed. Still, a forensic engineer will evaluate the appliance thoroughly to ensure it was built to the specific safety standards and determine if there is a specific person or entity at fault for the appliance failure. Once the source is identified and all analysis is completed, the homeowner or building manager is provided with a comprehensive report with the findings so swift action can be taken to alleviate the issue.

BE Structural has all of the specialized equipment needed to conduct thorough investigations in carbon monoxide poisoning cases. Quick action when carbon monoxide is detected can protect you and everyone around you. The importance of relying on a forensic investigation can’t be understated, so contact us today to learn more about the process.

Forensic engineering firms

How a Forensic Engineer Can Help After a Water Leak

Intruding water in large amounts can be devastating to a home or office space. But even the smallest drip of water leaking every few seconds can cause a significant amount of damage as well. The longer the leak goes undetected, the more potential damage can occur. The role of forensic engineering firms is to send an expert out to find the source of the leak so it can be fixed, and then go a step further to analyze why the leak started in the first place. Both of these roles are important for different reasons, and here are the reasons why.

Forensic Engineers Detect The Source of Water Infiltration

Sometimes you may not even know you have water infiltration until you notice a warped floor, rotted wood or water spots on your ceiling. By that time, the damage is already done, but finding the source of the problem, is still paramount.  

A secondary issue arising from water infiltration is mold.  Mold can be deadly when left unchecked.   After a thorough analysis is complete, the forensic engineer is responsible for telling the story of how the water infiltrated the building envelope and what should be done to remedy the problem.  

A Failure Analysis Must Be Conducted

When you have water damage in your home or office, you should file an insurance claim as soon as possible. Most likely, the insurance company will send a forensic engineer to conduct a failure analysis to get to the bottom of the source of the leak. The analysis not only involves finding the source of the leak, but also the circumstances around the leak, how it happened and who is responsible for it.

Why 3rd Party Forensic Investigations Are Needed

A 3rd party forensic structural engineering expert may be hired by the building owner directly in cases where the owner is not satisfied with conclusions of the insurance company’s engineer.  A forensic, structural engineering firm can be hired as a 3rd party, independent expert to investigate the building and probable cause of the water infiltration.  Their deliverable  is usually a stamped, Professional Engineering Report that includes onsite findings, probable cause or what is referred to as “origin” as well as recommendations for remediation.

At BE Structural, our team of structural engineers work every day to protect homeowners and business owners from catastrophic events like water events. Whether you need our services to do an initial inspection or to investigate an ongoing issue, an expert is just a phone call away. Be sure to contact us at any time to learn more about how we can help with any structural engineering and water infiltration concerns.

Building envelope consultants

Building Envelopes Cause a Rise in Energy

Saving energy is important in more ways than one. However, you could be wasting a significant amount of energy every day and not even know it. Even a minor leak in your building envelope can cause air from the inside to escape, or air from the outside to enter. This causes your HVAC system to run more often than it should, leading to wasted energy and higher costs. You can do inspections on your own, but it’s also well worth the investment to hire a facade engineering company to do a thorough inspection periodically as well.

Building Envelope Failure Leads to Higher Energy Costs

One of the main ways to lower your energy costs is to ensure your HVAC system is running as efficiently as it can. Having a leaky building envelope is one way to guarantee your system is working harder than it needs to. The source of the air infiltration can be virtually anywhere. The challenge is not only plugging up the air leak, but also determining what caused the leak to begin with so the problem can be addressed permanently instead of temporarily.

How to Inspect Your Building Envelope

The most likely areas for air leakage are around doors, windows and other cracks, seams and joints. Examine the integrity of these areas and see if you can identify anything out of the ordinary. In many cases, you can put your hand close to the area and feel if there’s a draft coming from the outside. But in more difficult situations, calling a facade engineering company to conduct an inspection for you can ensure you’ll identify the right issue and fix it to perfection.

Don’t Hesitate to Contact A Professional

When you’re dealing with building envelope failure, one of the best things you can do is hire building envelope consultants to do an inspection. In fact, scheduling these professionals to come out to your building frequently will not only help identify and fix the issues quickly, but also prevent issues from occurring in the first place. The cost of hiring professionals is minimal when you compare it to the potential wasted money on your energy bills as a result of a leaky building.

BE Structural is comprised of a team of building envelope consultants ready to help you do a thorough inspection of your building. Energy costs are rising for various reasons, so having a secure building creates more energy efficiency and cost savings. Be sure to reach out to us to see how our professional inspections can help you save energy, time and money.

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.