Maintaining Your Facade…
Why some associations are ditching traditional lifts and scaffolding and installing permanent access support systems
By Josh Tatum, Condo Owner Magazine, Volume 17, Issue 3
Most mid-rise and high-rise condominium owners are faced with the added expense of renting man lifts and ground erected scaffolding or a combination of these types of access equipment each time the façades of their buildings must be accessed for repair or maintenance. But owners typically don’t see this expense since it is embedded as part of the lump sum cost within a contractor’s bid. Neither do they see the expense of lost rental income by utilizing this method of repair and maintenance, for the work that can be performed from the equipment can be highly inefficient.
Man lifts limit the number of individuals that can work from the lift basket and allow only a very small area to be serviced at one time. Additionally, scaffolding consumes time with the erection and dismantlement processes required. Both of these situations create longer durations for projects. In fact, the costs to access the building to perform an annual cleaning and routine maintenance using these methods can consume 30 to 50 percent of the total project cost.
As an alternative to lifts, many condominiums utilize temporary “weights and beams.” These items allow for a contractor to suspend a stage from the building for more efficient work and shorter durations; however, this method comes with its own set of problems, the biggest of which is the transport of equipment andmaterials which typically includes transporting aluminum beams and steel weights up elevators to the condominium’s roof. These heavy weights and long beams are then dragged over, maybe even dropped, on the roof. moved from stack to stack during the work effort and then hauled down the elevators. Unfortunately, even the best contractors can cause damage, to some extent, to the roof and elevators with the excessive activity. Other issues to consider with the use of temporary access equipment are the actual labor cost for the mobilization and demobilization and the make shift efforts to secure lifelines and equipment. Often times, this involves the contractor tying a cable or rope around the nearest penthouse, stair railing, or air conditioning rack.
In order to avoid these inefficient and problematic methods, many condominium owners are seeking solutions that were not available, or maybe not presented, when their buildings were constructed. One of the most viable and practical options being sought after today is the installation of permanent suspended access support equipment at the roof level. This type of installation is being utilized on condominium roofs of any shape and size (i.e., mansard roofs, metal panel roofs, low-slope roofs, etc.) and, over time, will often save money.
The cost associated with the design, procurement, installation, and certification of a permanent system can often be recouped by the ownership within the first two usages when costs are compared to other conventional access methods. Additional advantages associated with the permanent access equipment include ease of access to the façade for pressure cleaning, window washing, maintenance and general repair activities.
One way to calculate potential savings is to have an architect or engineer put a deduct alternate in the bid form that asks the contractor, “How much would you deduct from the bid if the condominium had permanent suspended access support equipment, complete with tiebacks, for each of the stacks?”
Not only are condominium owners seeking more cost efficient options, they are also seeking safer options. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has very detailed requirements for safety, it has yet to adopt a standard for all methods of access, including permanent systems. However, the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) coupled with the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) has developed a new standard in safety pertaining to safe access to building façades. The publication is referred to as ANSI/IWCA I-14.1.
The ANSI/IWCA has many specifications and requirements regarding the design, certification, and inspection of permanent access equipment. For instance, the design of the equipment and layout on the roof must be completed by a professional engineer. Additionally, a professional engineer must supervise the certification of the equipment at the initial installation and at ten-year intervals, or whenever the roof is replaced. Furthermore, the ANSI/IWCA states, and many condominium owners are not aware, that inspections of the equipment must be completed by a qualified person every time the equipment is utilized or at intervals not greater than twelve months. The purpose, of course, for all of these requirements is to protect the public welfare.
Even though the new standard is not directly specified by OSHA, it does recognize the standard and has, in fact, referenced the standard in numerous citations. One key factor that many condominium owners do not realize is that the condominium association, in addition to the contractor, “shall furnish a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees;” as described by the General Duties Clause. Therefore, the citations that have been written have been against the contractor and the condominium association. As a result of these citations, many condominium associations are installing permanent equipment in accordance with the standards set forth by the ANSI/IWCA I-14.1 and contractors are demanding compliant equipment as well.
Joshua Tatum, PE, is a Senior Project Engineer for Building Engineering-Consultants, Inc. (BE-CI), an engineering, consulting firm based in Destin, Fla. Mr. Tatum has developed a special interest in suspended access support equipment and, since working with BE-CI, has headed the development of this area of specialization within the company. He is a graduate of Auburn University with a BS in civil engineering and a member of RCI, Inc, an organization comprised of roofing, waterproofing, and building envelope professionals.
Co-Author: James Fell, Sr.
James E. Fell Sr. is the Founder and former CEO of Building Engineering-Consultants, Inc. (BE-CI). Mr. Fell has over 50 years experience in the commercial construction industry and over 20 years experience in research, development, and problem resolution for façade systems. He now heads the Special Projects Department of BE-CI.
Bookmark the permalink.Print Version