Another “Wake Up Call” for Building Maintenance

The maintenance issue is always a big topic for discussion all over the world. Although many engineers and specialists have given their point of view to show the importance of building maintenance, people always neglect the inspection report and not taking it seriously. Here is another “Wake Up Call” for us with the accident in Florida condo Collapse.

According to command7, it states that why a lot of facility managers react to problems as opposed to being proactive. It’s not hard to see why—with all of the pressure that there is to save money wherever possible, maintenance can often take a back seat to more immediate concerns. The problem is that waiting until something is broken to fix it is possibly cheaper in the short term, but can lead to an expensive surprise later on. Source: https://command7.com/importance-building-repair-maintenance-services/

Also from Ivor H. Seeley in his book” Building Maintenance” states that the building maintenance issue is being neglected.

“Major Structural Damage” in Champlain Towers

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/25/miami-condo-collapse-what-happened-latest

According to The Washington Post, an engineer warned in October 2018 that he had discovered “major structural damage” to a concrete slab below the pool deck in the section of the Champlain Towers South condominium building that collapsed Thursday, killing at least four and leaving scores trapped, according to records released by local authorities late Friday.

 

Source: Structural Field Survey Report – https://www.townofsurfsidefl.gov/docs/default-source/default-document-library/town-clerk-documents/champlain-towers-south-public-records/8777-collins-ave—structural-field-survey-report.pdf?sfvrsn=882a1194_2

Source: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/miami-beach/article252421658.html

Kit Miyamoto, a veteran Los Angeles-based structural engineer who specializes in structural resilience, said that a pillar or column supporting the building appeared to have failed. Corrosion by the salty air or a “differential settlement,” meaning differences between how sides of the building were sitting on the land, could have caused a pillar to collapse, he said.

“This is truly a classic failure of a column,” said Miyamoto, chief executive of Miyamoto International, a global earthquake and structural engineering firm. “It was supporting many stories and that’s why it happened very suddenly.”

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/champlain-towers-south-surfside/2021/06/26/a509519a-d5de-11eb-a53a-3b5450fdca7a_story.html?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most&carta-url=https%3A%2F%2Fs2.washingtonpost.com%2Fcar-ln-tr%2F34057fa%2F60d74d179d2fda8060e92572%2F596bd281ae7e8a44e7de95cc%2F11%2F72%2F60d74d179d2fda8060e92572

A ” Better Way” to understand the building condition

In GBE, we use the new technology to show our findings during the inspection in order to make our clients understand more about their unit or property condition. After the inspection, it always needs to act fast for repairing and maintenance for keeping the property in a good condition. Here are some examples of how GBE perform our findings in our inspection through Matterport.

Click here to know more about building defects!

There is always an indispensable relationship between buildings defects, structural stability, and public health. In general, non-structural cracks, structural cracks, concrete spalling, defective external wall finishes and water seepage, etc can be the common types of building defects, which can be easily found in buildings in which do not receive proper maintenance and repair.

Photo showing concrete spalling from the ceiling

Photo showing cracks inside staircase

Photo showing concrete spalling

Photo showing external wall tiles was found missing

Today, as a surveyor graduate trainee, I want to share some causes for the development of building defects. There can be a combination of factors in causing the above-mentioned defects. All property will face some sort of defects during its life span. As a surveyor graduate trainee, we shouldn’t solely focus on the physical look of building defects, we need to observe the surrounding environment and the actual usage in concluding the cause of the particular building defects.

Design, material, construction, usage, and maintenance are the common angles in diagnosis the causes of defects. Taking concrete spalling as one of the examples, given the design stage, when the building is located near the sea, the chloride attack raised from the sea may corrode the steel bar. With the corrosion of the rebar, the volume of rebar inside the concrete will expand 8 times. Crack and concrete spalling may be found.   At the same time, concerning the construction stage, the high water-cement ratio may bring void for the concrete surface due to the increase in permeability, which has the potential possibility to enhance the corrosion of rebar (you can refer to the blog from GBE dated on 28 June 2020). From the above reasons, we understand that the building defects may not be caused by a single reason only. It is the responsibility of the professional to conduct a detailed building inspection before jumping to a conclusion.

Photo showing the stage of rebar corrosion (retrieved from structural engineering blog)

Water Seepage is also a common building defect in aged buildings. The sources of water may come from rain, groundwater, element, condensation, plumbing, drainage, and user activities. When we observe some symptoms like water stains, water dripping, rusty stains, peeling of paint during the inspection, suspected water seepage maybe happened. Before diagnosing the source of water seepage, a preliminary desk study is required (if you wanna know about the details of desk study in how to tackle the annoying issue comes from water dripping in the living area, you mustn’t miss the blog from GBE dated on 4 Jan 2021). We may need to collect some background information like the location of dampness, the frequency of occurrence, the extent of the dampness, repair record, any complaints on the water seepage in identifying the source of such dampness. Visual Inspection and some testing tools like moisture mete can be applied in determining the source of seepage. In some cases, where we suspected the water seepage was caused by the defective waterproofing membrane from the upper unit or roof, a water ponding test may be adopted. At the same time, when we suspected the water dampness was raised by the leakage of the plumbing pipe, a meter test can be adopted in deterring the actual source of such seepage.

Photo showing a suspected case of water seepage

In order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for occupants, routine inspection, repair works, and maintenance works are suggested to carry out in every building.

Fire Safety in Commercial Premises

Fire safety can be regarded as one of the primary considerations in building designs. The terms of fire safety cover a wide range of building concepts, ordinances, and regulations under the law. When we consider the fire safety works in banks, the concept of Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance should not be omitted. The introduction of FS(CP)O is one of the ordinances which aims to provide better protection to the occupants and visitors on certain kinds of commercial premises.

Prescribed commercial premises and specified commercial buildings are under the scope of the ordinance.  For the captioned the premise, they are required to update that fire safety construction including means of escape, means of access, fire-resisting construction under the Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Escape in Case of Fire 1996, Code of Practice for Fire Resisting Construction 1996, Code of Practice for the Provision of Means of Access for Firefighting and Rescue 1995 respectively. Also, the premises required to update fire services installation following Codes of Practice for Minimum Fire Service Installations and Equipment and Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Installations and Equipment 1994 when the total floor area exceeds 230 square meters.

As a building professional to cope with the above issue, a desktop study needs to be conducted first. It is essential to calculate the number/width of the exit door and exit route following the purposed usage of the premises. The comparison of the recorded plan and Fire Safety (Commercial Premises) Ordinance may draw attention to the fire safety deficiencies. The site visit is followed to identify the deficiencies. fire services system always associates with water supplies and electricity. For the aged building, some non-emergency services like electricity will be located in the exit route. However, those non-emergency services did not enclose by FRR materials. It may post a potential fire hazard. Insufficient width of the MOE route, insufficient number of exit routes to the required staircase, presence of the fire shutter in the exit route, absence of exit sign, absence of the exit door, etc are the common scenario for the aged commercial premises to deal with the ordinance. The reasons for the above deficiency can be caused by certain reasons including the change in use, the absence of the fire safety ordinance during the construction period, and unauthorized building works by the owners.

Pitfalls of Buying Off-Plan Overseas

Buying Off-Plan Property is a well established practice in Hong Kong. Buyers enjoy a discount, staged payments, and more choices to choose from. This popularity is built on the foundation of regulations that protects the buyers, results of painful experience of yesteryears. With the current surge of outbound investments, especially in residential markets that are familiar to many, investors should examine these opportunities when buying Off-Plan. 

Many assume that the Common Law countries would provide the same level of protection as does Hong Kong, being a former British colony. However, selling Off-Plan Properties was not a common practice, and such sales are much less regulated than in Hong Kong. There is no shortage of examples where overseas buyers lose money on these deals due to lack of oversight. These issues may range from delays in completion, over budget, building quality, developer solvency issues, or even outright cheating investors. Oftentimes, the process of planning permissions and other government approvals may take much longer than in Hong Kong.

Taxation and law differences are often overlooked by oversea investors. Unlike Hong Kong, many countries do not experience a high rate of value appreciation in real estate, and have policies to keep the residential market from overheating via fees and tax, wiping out the bulk of the investment return. In addition, mortgages may be easily obtained, especially for foreign investors. Local law may have material impact on the investment as well. In Australia, when the S&P agreement is signed, the buyer is on the hook to complete, and there is no simply forfeiting the deposit like in Hong Kong. 

When investing overseas, many have the same assumptions from their hometown. In Hong Kong, apartment flats near public transportation are desirable and can fetch a premium. The opposite is true in Japanese suburbs. In Western countries, houses are preferred over apartments located in busy districts. Buyers may find it difficult to exit their investment if they were equipped with wrong assumptions.

Overseas investors may still enjoy the benefits associated with pre sales, or buying Off-Plan. However, one must fully understand the local market, laws, fees involved, and proper due diligence on the developers. 

 

Technical due diligence is one of our professional services to assist the complete of asset transaction. This exercise is to over-sight the major technical issues found in the real estate asset such as building blocks, apartment, carpark space, facilities or even open-space.

The technical issues can be considered in multiple-fold expertise knowledge. This covers the compliance issues, user operational safety, maintenance and upkeep issues, building structural issue, hygienic performance, existing usages issues and building performance such as energy consumption, Indoor air quality, water proofing and thermal proofing. Each individual aspects can be further drilled to become specialist’s attention . Nevertheless, a judgement call is needed to balance the depth of research and the purpose of this TDD services.

In reality, there is no building comes with perfect. Even a brand new building does carry some issues or problems. Thus , a Professional Surveyor needs to consider the weighting of each observation an explain clearly the gravity of each observation in relation to the asset performance.

In commercial world , the straight and simple way to present the importance and weighting of each issues is by means of CAPEX. This is the capital expense which may be spent on it to fix the issues if needed or if the issues become profoundly importance. Again ,the CAPEX estimation is quite tricky and demands the judgement calls. In the course of TDD, we shall examine the planned maintenance program and identify the upcoming possible repair or replacement works. We also check the maintenance logbook to find the clues about some issues like water seepage. Unfortunately, not all the buildings are well maintained with paper record nor being under the planned maintenance program. An experience curve is thus built up for formulation the judgement calls in the right and more predictive way when we need to present the CAPEX.

 

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The Case for Building Better Residential

Residential properties in mega metropolitan cities are often short of satisfaction for occupiers. Many may find their flat small, inefficient, and developers trying to cram in all kinds of features with the hope of justifying its price. This is a result of residential units built to prioritize developer’s profit over end user’s satisfaction. With WFH becoming a well adopted trend due to Covid-19, tenants and occupiers are now reexamining their homes, and demanding higher quality space that is compatible with the current environment, and less so on the building’s location or proximity to the CBD.

Taking the Kennedy Terrace project as an example, a building that was designed with the end user is the priority. With a peerless 3700 sqft for its 3 en-suite standard simplex, it sits comfortably on the top of luxury residential tenants’ shortlist. As a direct consequence of not building 1800 sqft flats, competing with the surrendering offerings, Kennedy Terrace achieved approximately double that of neighboring apartment buildings when compared on a per sqft basis. The ample ceiling height, efficient layout of the unit, and the centralization of the apartment’s electrical system make the flat the ultimate blank canvas for its occupiers to personalize the unit to their heart’s content

Increasingly, landlords and developers of luxury residential sites are now faced with a dichotomy, whether to prioritize the volume of units available, or catering to the undeserved demand for larger space such as Kennedy Terrace. While the decision to provide truly spacious flats at the expense of a number of units may seem counterproductive at the beginning, filling the glaring disconnect between developer and end user’s may be as rewarding, if not more. 

Austin Avenue Project

GBE reads the Propertyweek. GBE lead Austin Avenue project and have known many buildings in Hong Kong usually was not built with extra E-power; not with adequate ventilation ducting. Worse still, the louvres provision are limited by the pre-dominated needs for beautiful windows and the clear headroom is typically low for better GFA. This makes health sector be difficult to find right premises even this asset class is deemed to be the resilient and perform well in R.O.E.