Why Commercial Building Evaluations Protect Public Safety
Though it will take some time for officials to determine the cause of the tragic partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South, a beachfront condominium building in the Miami suburb of Surfside, Florida on June 23, 2021, one thing is certain: the questions regarding the integrity of the building and possible issues with reports citing structural damage have reinforced the importance of inspections and evaluations on existing structures.
The Surfside condo collapse resulted in the Mayor of Miami-Dade County ordering a 30-day audit of all buildings 40 years and older in the county, and left building owners and managers to reassess their recertifications and the measures that need to be taken to ensure the safety of its structures.
Daniel Connolly, the owner of Connolly Engineering, said, “Even the most well-constructed buildings have a lifespan. Natural deterioration and damage will occur, so in order to make improvements and recommendations, existing building evaluations are a necessity.”
The Basics of Commercial Building Evaluations
“Existing building” means buildings, structures, facilities or conditions that are already constructed. Many property managers, building owners, and realtors choose to purchase existing spaces rather than create an entirely new building.
Whether you currently own or are planning to purchase an existing building, an assessment must be conducted to tell you what shape it’s in. Structural and civil assessments will check the integrity, strength, and viability of structures and their components, and will evaluate whether the building meets regulations and building code requirements. Without sufficient building assessments, there could be a potential danger to public safety.
Additionally, in most cases, banks will require a formal evaluation prior to final approval on a commercial property loan.
Here are just a few things civil and structural engineering assessments will evaluate:
- The structural impact from external impact such as trees, vehicles, etc.
- Flooding, leaking, and moisture issues
- Inadequate strength of building materials
- Construction deficiencies
- Improper design
- Structure overloading
How Are Existing Building Evaluations Conducted?
The nature of the structure and the depth of information about its existing condition will dictate the analysis method. There are two main approaches to testing:
- Destructive Testing
Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) methods are used in the following scenarios:
- When a building owner prefers not to have any damage to their existing structure
- The evaluation may be associated with a building purchase
- The client doesn’t own the property yet
- When destructive testing could potentially cause more damage than the original deficiency being investigated
Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR)
This method includes the transmission and reflection of electromagnetic waves into a structure or material. This testing is used to determine or identify:
- The thickness of concrete
- Location reinforcement in concrete
- Wall anchors and underground utilities
- Measurement of concrete cover thickness
- Moisture variations
- Measure voids
- Honeycombing, cracking and delaminations in concrete
- The degree of concrete
- Rebar deterioration in conjunction with half-cell potential
Half-Cell Potential Corrosion Survey (HCP)
This method is used to investigate the thermodynamic corrosion tendency of embedded reinforcing steel. Intended to measure the electrical activity of the corrosion process, this approach identifies the probability of corrosion activity of steel reinforcement in reinforced concrete structures.
This ultrasonic testing technique introduces mechanical energy in the form of a short pulse into a structure and then measures its response. The IE test method is typically used in concrete, stone, shotcrete, and masonry structures to detect internal flaws such as honeycombing, voids, and delaminations.
Shear Wave Ultrasonics (USWT)
Commercially known as the MIRA, this test unit generates 2D and 3D tomographic images of structural elements to measure flaws. Typically used in concrete, stone and masonry structures, this system finds internal flaws such as delaminations, cracks and poorly consolidated or honeycombed concrete, as well as locates voids in grouted tendon ducts.
Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity (UPV)
This ultrasonic testing technique measures and assesses the transit time of reflected pulse stress waves through materials such as concrete, stone, shotcrete, and masonry. This method is typically used to detect internal flaws such as honeycombing, voids, and delaminations in structures.
Infrared Survey (IR)
This non-destructive test method utilizes an infrared camera to produce visual images that display the thermal signatures of materials. Often used to detect structural flaws such as delaminations, cracks, and poor consolidation or honeycombing in concrete, stone, and masonry structures, it can also be used for building envelope applications. In these cases, IR can uncover issues related to moisture intrusion, air exfiltration, heat loss, or material defects.
When an engineer identifies areas in a structure that may sound hollow, the physical contact of one or more devices along the surface of the concrete is used to determine areas of delamination. A common method of “sounding” concrete is the Chain Drag. New devices such as the rotary percussion tool make it easy and efficient to test large areas, especially overhead.
Destructive Testing (DT)
Destructive Testing is just as the name suggests. Core samples or some form of isolated demolition is performed to remove material for testing. Concrete cores are typically taken to identify the exact size and location of reinforcement in the slab or wall. The same can be done for pavement and roof assemblies. Steel coupons can be taken from older steel buildings to determine the chemical properties of the steel.
Additionally, physical and chemical tests can be performed in the lab on the core sample.
Partner with the Best for your Building Assessments
To ensure that your structure does not pose a threat to public safety and meets all current building codes, collaborating with an experienced and thorough partner is a must.
Depending on your needs, Connolly Engineering provides a wide range of building evaluations, structural analysis, and repair. If your building requires an evaluation, Connolly Engineering can guide you through the entire process.
To determine the strength and soundness of your building, it takes experience, diligence, and a high level of skill. For over two decades, Connolly Engineering has provided clients in New York and the surrounding areas with unparalleled evaluation expertise.
Connect with Dan today to ensure that your building is up to code and will remain safe in the days to come.