Friday, August 1, 2014

TITLE 24 CODE BREAKERS

Deja-vu all over again!

This July 1st was the deadline for plans to be submitted for plan checks before this new and much more stringent Title 24 code came into effect. It truly put our company's resources to the test, as I'm sure it did for many other engineering and architectural firms.

We were bombarded with phone calls, e-mails and personal appearances in our office from clients who wanted to make sure that their jobs beat the deadline for submittal. We had over 15 projects to finish at the same time! Our staff of 16 people worked and worked hard, but we delivered what we promised.

Now we can take a breather right?

Not really. The construction industry is really on the upswing from simple room extensions to second story additions to brand new single family residences to multi-family complexes, like apartment buildings and even condominiums. Although we don't have this pressing dead line to deal with, work abounds at all levels. We have 10 to 12 RFP's (request for proposals) every day for potential projects.

It feels like old times!

I want to thank all of our clients, some of them loyal to us for 35 plus years, for all the opportunities they're giving us to serve them and for considering us for their next job. Our company will do the best to keep their trust. As our motto says:
"We provide excellent structural engineering with Hungarian friendliness and personality, with German precision and effectiveness, and with the best Californian ingenuity, knowledge of the building code and timely service in the industry" Of course let's not forget about our wonderful staff, present and past alike, from all around the world, including but not limited to Japan, South Korea, Egypt, Iran, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, India, Pakistan, China, Mexico, Nicaragua, Vietnam and many more.

(Originally posted in our email newsletter on 7/24/2104)

I'M 100% RIGHT ON THE 50% RULE!

Those who follow my periodic newsletters will remember my rants criticizing the so called 50% rule in the 2011 City of Los Angeles building code. Just to refresh your memory, this rule states, in Section 3403.1.1 under replacement, retention and extension of original materials, the following:
"Whenever the aggregate value of the addition, alterations, repairs or rehabilitation of the existing portion is in excess of 50% of the replacement cost of the building or structure, the entire building or structure shall be made to confirm to this code."

This rule means that if there was an addition, alteration, repair or rehabilitation to an existing one, or even a two story, building on one side or wing in excess of 50% of the original aggregate value, the entire existing and untouched original building has to be upgraded to current building code, including shear walls, connections and the very expensive foundation work. It is totally unreasonable in cases where the new addition does not affect the original building or structure. Adding insult to injury, it is up to the individual plan checker to determine what is 50%, and it is almost impossible to fight it without a clear set of rules. It's a very subjective decision by the individual plan checker, a very gray area.

Many additions were cancelled by the owners because of the unnecessary and very costly structural upgrade that would be incurred. In this forum of my newsletter I called on the building officials to revisit this issue in the next edition of the building code.

To my surprise, this particular section of the building code was fully deleted from the 2014 Building Code. I personally verified this code change with building officials in the Building Department, asking specifically that this was not an accidental omission? The answer was that they no longer enforce this rule, so it is official.

Is our little newsletter so powerful to influence the people who write the Building Codes? Of course not, but it was so out of place, that I'm sure lots of people complained and the change happened. Yahoo!!!

Originally posted in our email newsletter on 7/24/2104

SANTA MONICA STEPS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

The city of Santa Monica has now announced they will go after structurally unsafe buildings! The city will become the first in the state to identify and later make the owners prove them safe or fix them. The ruling concerns three types of potentially dangerous buildings: High rise concrete, steel office towers and soft story wooden buildings. Technically, the city has already passed an ordinance in 1994 -- ordinance #1748 for soft story buildings -- but never fully implemented it, even losing the list of the identified buildings that somehow got thrown out over the years.

While San Francisco mandated last year that property owners must fix soft story wooden buildings, and Los Angeles is considering putting together an inventory of concrete and wooden apartment buildings, in the Southland Santa Monica actually acted first with this newest announcement.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to question the mayor of Santa Monica, Pam O'Connor, about this decision. She emphasized that seismic safety always has been a very high priority for Santa Monica, especially given the excessive damages from the last earthquake in 1995. I also asked her what advice she could give to the neighboring cities on the west side, like Culver City, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, to come up with similar programs. In her opinion this is an undeniable trend and it's only a question of time until it will be followed by most, if not all, of these cities. This seems especially true since the largest city in the Southland, Los Angeles, has decided to go after these structurally unsafe buildings, a move championed by the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. You know the story of being in the same room with a 900 pound gorilla. When he makes a move, everybody will feel it and make adjustments. In Pam O'Connor's opinion, all of these cities will come up with a program which will be the most suitable for that city, sooner or later. The sooner the better.

Originally posted in our email newsletter on 7/24/2104