Archive 2017

Competition for Tallest Building

With the latest generation of high-rise buildings reaching new heights of close to 2,000 feet, the supertall construction boom is bringing new challenges as projects are built higher, faster and with increasing complexity. As the (re)insurer for many of the world’s tallest buildings, including the soon to be ‘world’s tallest building’, the 3,280 ft. Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, and New York’s One World Trade Center, engineering insurer Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) analyzes the challenges of assessing and managing such exceptional risks in its latest Supertall Buildings Risk Bulletin.

The growth of the world’s tallest buildings continues to accelerate in the 21st century. By 2020, the average total height of the tallest 20 buildings in the world is expected to be close to 2,000 ft., or double the height of the Eiffel Tower, made possible by a combination of new technologies, innovative building materials and creative design elements.

US skyscraper dominance is declining. North America now accounts for only 16% of the world’s tallest buildings. At 1,776 ft., One World Trade Center is just over half the proposed height of Kingdom Tower but is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and fourth largest in the world.

South East Asia (48 percent) and the Middle East (30 percent) are home to more than three quarters of the tallest 100 buildings. China has 30 of the world’s top 100 tallest buildings in 15 cities, double North America. Dubai is home to 20 percent of the tallest 50 buildings.

“The eastward trend is set to stay, driven by rapid economic and demographic growth, urbanization, strong investor appetite for flagship real estate assets and lower labor costs than in the traditional Western markets,“ explains Ahmet Batmaz, Global Head of Engineering Risk Consulting at AGCS.

Elevators biggest obstacle to first mile high building

While concepts for the first mile-high building already exist, elevator technology is lagging behind building technology. Elevators currently can only transport people about 2,000 ft., mainly due to challenges in braking and cabling technology. Other limiting factors include:

  • Availability of building materials to potentially replace steel and cement;
  • Safety measures for occupants and surrounding areas;
  • Damping systems to reduce the negative impact from wind or seismic activity;
  • Financing for these mega projects.

At the same time new challenges continue to arise. Glass facades have raised concerns about the long-term impact of “solar gain” – the extent to which a building absorbs sunlight and heat – with governments introducing regulations around shape and structure.

Insuring billion dollar buildings

AGCS engineering risk experts maintain that these projects are highly complex, as they can involve up to 10,000 workers and over 100 subcontractors. Potential challenges of supertall constructions include:

  • Building material choice: Glass panels need to be thicker and more durable for the higher stories, while concrete mixes must vary to withstand the differing building loads that vary with height;
  • Cranage and lifting items to extreme heights;
  • Significant variations in wind speeds between ground and upper levels;
  • Maintaining verticality as the building height increases;
  • Elastic shortening of constructed building elements as the imposed weight from the completed building increases;
  • Fire risk both during construction and occupied phases – Efficient evacuation of a building which has multiple purposes like hotels, restaurants, residential areas, shopping centers and offices is crucial.

Impact of light and color on psychological mood

The aim of the study was to determine whether indoor lighting and colour would have any systematic impact on the mood of people working indoors. Earlier studies have mostly focused either on light, colour or windows in laboratory settings. The present study was carried out in real work environments at different seasons and in countries with different latitudes. A total of 988 persons completed all parts of the study. In the countries situated far north of the equator there was a significant variation in psychological mood over the year that did not occur in the countries closer to the equator. When all four countries were considered together, it became evident that the light and colour of the workplace itself also had an influence on the mood of persons working there. The workers’ mood was at its lowest when the lighting was experienced as much too dark. The mood then improved and reached its highest level when the lighting was experienced as just right, but when it became too bright the mood declined again. On the other hand, the illuminance as measured in objective terms, showed no significant impact on mood at any time of the year. The relationship between mood and the distance to the nearest window was bimodal. The results also indicate that the use of good colour design might contribute to a more positive mood. It is suggested that in future research light and colour should be studied as parts of the more complex system making up a healthy building.

Finding apartments online

Figure out what your budget is. Before you think about what kind of apartment you want, you need to realistically consider how much you can spend. Take your usual income, then subtract your cost of living including food, socializing, shopping, and anything else you typically spend your money on. When you see how much money you can realistically spend on rent, you can more effectively start searching for an apartment within your means.[1]

  • Most renters spend about 25-30% of their income on housing expenses, so keep this in mind when drawing up your financial plan. Remember that this includes not just the rent, but utilities and renters’ insurance as well.[2]
  • Also consider the cost of your daily commute. Will you take public transit? If you drive to work, will you have to pay extra for a parking spot?
  • There are also starting costs to renting an apartment. Usually you’ll have to put down a security deposit. You’ll also be charged more if you own a pet.
  • If you’ll have a problem affording rent, splitting the costs with a roommate is an option. Make sure, however, you sign a roommate agreement spelling out what each occupant is responsible for, like share of the rent, chores, guest policies, etc.[3]
  • For more tips on drawing up a budget and saving money, read Budget Your Money.
Prioritize the amenities in your apartment. Having a clear idea of what you want out of your apartment will help narrow your choices down when you start searching. Ask yourself what is most important to you. A washer and dryer? A view? More than one bedroom? The things that you consider important will help determine which apartment you eventually choose.[4]
Decide on a location. Location directly affects you whenever you’re considering where to live. It determines price, safety, the convenience of your commute, and so on. Always investigate a neighborhood before moving in.[5]

  • Look at Google Maps and see what conveniences are nearby. Are there stores, restaurants, gyms, etc.? If these things are important to you, you’d want to find out what’s in the area.
  • Some real estate websites offer safety assessments of neighborhoods. Try something like the Trulia neighborhood map.
  • Local police precincts also usually have reports on their websites about local crimes. Try following precincts on social media to see if there are regular crimes reported in the area.
  • Visit the area if you can. See how it is at different times of day to get a feel for the neighborhood and see if you could live there.
Post your apartment search on social media. Before randomly searching around sites, you could see if someone in your social network knows of an apartment up for rent. A personal reference is always a good way to go when looking for an apartment. While in the past your potential network of people to ask was limited, the internet allows your request to reach hundreds or thousands of people. You never know who has a friend or family member looking to rent out a room in their house.[6]

  • Make a post that you’re currently searching for an apartment and looking for any personal references. Make sure to say in the post that any leads should message you privately.
Contact the landlord directly. Don’t only rely on a website or even email. Speak with the landlord on the phone when investigating apartments. This will ensure that you know who you’re dealing with and make it easier to see if everything is legitimate.[12]

Lighting Control Systems

Lighting control systems are advanced network-based solutions that automate, analyze and control lighting in real time.

Small and medium-sized California businesses from every industry have realized that these systems can significantly reduce energy costs and increase efficiency. For this reason they are widely used for both indoor and outdoor applications for commercial and industrial spaces.

To understand the advanced capabilities and full potential of today’s lighting control systems, let’s examine how they function, how they can inform energy management decisions and the benefits they can provide to California businesses.

How lighting control systems function
As the diagram illustrates, lighting control systems use several components that operate in unison to help create a more efficient work environment. Working together, these components transmit the energy management information that allows a business to optimize their energy efficiency and savings.

Smart Sensors, Gateways, Energy Management Device, Data Dashboard

Smart sensors are the first components in the system. Ideally, smart sensors are installed for each fixture. These sensors are extremely advanced and can automatically adjust energy consumption by responding to light, motion, heat and other environmental factors. Once this data is collected, it is transmitted wirelessly to the gateway.

Gateways are the information conduits between smart sensors and the energy management device. In this role, they wirelessly gather data from individual sensors and send updates and commands to the sensors.

An energy management device stores, analyzes and provides visual reporting of smart sensor data. It does this via a browser-based data dashboard.

The data dashboard provides real-time occupancy and energy consumption information. Business owners can view historical data per fixture or building-wide and adjust the settings of the system for their needs. In addition, custom settings can be profiled and sent to specific fixtures.

As the interface between the user and the system, the data dashboard empowers business owners to make more efficient energy management decisions. The information it provides helps them take a holistic approach to energy that incorporates total building energy use. This allows them to pinpoint simple actions that can increase energy savings and optimize efficiency for their businesses.

Business owners can also use “behavioral” information to see how energy is actually used by their company and reveal areas where efficiency can be increased. For example, knowing which areas of the business are unoccupied during certain business hours will allow them to adjust the energy that is used in those areas.

Types of lighting controls
There are numerous types of lighting controls available today, and the benefits they bring to businesses have expanded greatly as lighting technologies have become more advanced. For example, occupancy sensors perform a much greater role than merely turning lights on and off. Some are now equipped to detect the space temperature along with occupancy and provide feedback to the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system and/or Energy Management System. Bi-level switching is another option. It provides simple manual control of lamps connected on two separate circuits to achieve lighting levels of 0/50/100% or 0/33/66/100%. Many businesses use task tuning to set lighting levels to meet the needs of particular tasks. For areas with abundant natural light, automatic daylight dimming is a wise choice because it controls a room’s lighting level based on the amount of daylight in the space.

These are only a few of the types of lighting controls that a business can implement. To learn more about lighting controls for commercial energy efficiency projects, download “PG&E’s Guide to Lighting Controls and Occupancy SensorsOpens in new Window..” This guide was developed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to help California businesses capitalize on the many benefits of lighting controls and find the resources to implement them correctly.

Fire Prevention steps in flats

The holidays are coming, and that means residential structure fire season is coming. This applies not just to single family homes, of course, but also to apartments and condominiums and in townhomes, low-rise and high-rise communities alike (though considerations and countermeasures are slightly different for each type of property).

The threats

Apartment fires: there were about 98,000 reported apartment fires in 2013, which killed at least 325 people that year, and injured about $3,900 more, according to data from the National Fire Prevention Association.

High-rises: Each year between 2007 and 2011, there were about 15,400 reported high-rise structure fires. While most were relatively minor, the threat is nevertheless deadly – and expensive. These high-rise fires kill about 46 people, injure over 500 more, and cause $219 million in direct property damage per year.

All told, apartment fires result in between $1.1 and $1.6 billion in damages. Every year. Most of them could have been easily prevented with proactive planning, communication and outreach on the part of property and community managers.

Here are some of the best practices that multi-family residential managers and their staffs can put to work to keep your residents safe.

The causes

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) has published a detailed report on the seasonality of residential fires and their causes. Heating-related causes account for 27 percent of winter structural fires, and as you would expect, are concentrated in the colder months of the year, with elevated frequencies between December and February. (The single most dangerous day for fires, though, is Independence Day. However, those in areas with substantial Asian populations may see substantial fireworks-related risk due to the observance of Chinese New Year, traditionally celebrated with firecrackers.)

Every year, there are about 900 fires that occur specifically because of holiday decorations catching fire, according to the National Fire Prevention Administration.

Five holiday safety tips

  1. Tell residents about Christmas tree safety.  Needles should be green and difficult to pull off. If they are brown, dry or fall off the boughs without much effort, the tree is extra flammable and not a good choice. To prevent fires after the holidays, consider arranging a pickup service to remove trees after Christmas/New Year’s Day.
  2. Tell residents not to set Christmas trees up near heat sources. (Note, if you know there’s a radiator vent near the front window, and you see Christmas trees set up by the window, you know there’s a potential problem).
  3. Share information with residents about light safety. More than three light strands should not be linked up unless the manufacturer’s written guidance says differently. Wires on electric lights should never be warm to the touch. Keep Menorahs away from drapes. Even the electric ones.
  4. Stay alert during Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving-related fires account for 5,200 fires each year, injure 51 people and kill about 11. Yes, they’re largely cooking-related.
  5. Bump up your security presence on Halloween. The incidence of confirmed or suspected arson is higher on Halloween or “Devil’s Night.” The City of Detroit had a big problem with Devil’s Night arsonists in the 1990s, but managed to turn it around when property owners, law enforcement and fire departments got proactive about removing abandoned vehicles, mattresses and other debris and establishing neighborhood watch countermeasures on October 29th through the 31st.

Plus Fifteen year-round fire prevention tips

  1. Get ahead of the game by engaging residents with flyers, mailers and even on-site fire safety clinics you can hold in common areas. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The City of Vancouver, Washington, has made monthly seasonal newsletters available for download. Bonus: The text is available in Spanish and Russian, as well!
  2. You can also download a variety of excellent flyers from the National Fire Prevention Association dealing with topics like religious candles, Shabbat fire safety, fireworks, grilling safety, appliances like dryers, microwaves, generators, medical oxygen and many others here.
  3. Ask for a courtesy inspection from your local fire marshal. They will inspect the common areas of your building and such units as you have access to and advise you of any hazards they spot. Possible hazards include overloaded outlets, circuits, obstructions, improper storage of chemicals and other hazardous or combustible material, and other things property managers commonly miss. They can also suggest equipment, materials, techniques or measures you can take to make your property safer from fires. Generally you won’t be fined for issues or violations of code uncovered during a courtesy visit that you request, provided you correct them in a timely manner. Some areas charge a small fee for these visits.
  4. Carefully inspect laundry rooms. Remove lint buildup in hoses. Pay careful attention to anywhere exhaust hoses may twist or turn – potentially causing buildup. Also ensure your wiring is adequate to handle the load, and check for water leaks near electrical appliances that can create a risk of electrocution.
  5. Get furnaces and HVAC units serviced before the weather turns cold, and people start turning on the heat.
  6. Get the word out about space heaters: Keep them at least three feet from anything remotely flammable. Never leave them on unattended.
  7. Ask residents to unplug small appliances when not in use.
  8. Tell residents to notify your staff immediately in case any breakers trip. Tripped breakers can be a sign of a serious electrical problem.
  9. Have a licensed firm inspect and charge your fire extinguishers before the holidays.
  10. Consider requiring renters insurance from all tenants. You can make this contingent on lease renewal.
  11. Rehearse your fire drill. Ensure there is a procedure in place to get firefighters access to utility rooms, storage areas, electrical rooms and anywhere else fires may break out or where firefighters may need to shut off electricity or elevators, etc.
  12. Clear driveways and approaches of debris and ensure that in the event of a fire, fire trucks have plenty of room to approach and maneuver anywhere on the property.
  13. Enforce no-parking or stopping areas to ensure emergency vehicle access to fire hydrants.
  14. Schedule an appropriate time to  test your fire sprinkler and smoke alarm system checks and replace batteries. Make sure you document this effort, right down to the individual alarm. Don’t forget to check carbon monoxide detectors.
  15. Have chimneys inspected by certified contractors.