Case Study: How the Terms Mouse Trap and Fire Training End Up in the Same Sentence

Fire Mouse TrapA mouse trap is a common, albeit annoying, word in suburban households. To most people, we picture a small slab of wood, a piece of cheese, and the impending doom for a little furry critter. A mouse trap, regarding to fire training, is a whole new ball game.

Helfrich-Associates was called out to a job site in the Inland Empire: A Fire Training Center. This state of the art training center will be utilized by fire departments and students in the surrounding area with every square inch of this training center being built meticulously. There are buildings that are being constructed specifically to be put on fire, but most interestingly, and why Helfrich-Associates is here, is the Mouse Trap. Continue reading

Understanding Shoring for Building Repairs or Renovation

An example of shoring.Shoring is a critical technique for many building renovation projects. If you have an older property that needs repairs or renovation completed, you may need to include shoring in your plans. Shoring a building consists of temporarily supporting the structure while critically important portions of the building are removed and replaced.  These include critical elements include foundations, load-bearing walls, and the roof.  Shoring can also be used to prevent collapse of building elements that are failing, and can allow the building to be safely occupied during repair construction.

Three of the most common are lateral shoring, vertical shoring, and excavation shoring. Continue reading

Common Signs of Home Damage and Deterioration

A deteriorating homeDo you know the common signs of home damage and deterioration? It’s important to be aware of changes around your home or property that could be signs of deterioration. These signs could be sagging beams, discoloration on ceilings/walls, cracks in floors & foundations, rust on steel stairs, tipping of retaining walls or slope movement.

Let’s face it, home or property repairs are never fun. They’re costly and time consuming. Most of us want to get them done as quickly and economically as possible. Yet there’s one thing you should never exclude from your project — a consultation with an experienced construction engineer about the signs of home damage. Continue reading

When Does a Property Need a Floor Elevation Survey?

When Does a Property Need a Floor Elevation Survey?Is it time for a floor elevation survey? Have you noticed a lot of cracking of the foundation or patios on your property? It could be related to ground or soil movement. When the ground under a property shifts, it can  lead to cracked foundations, patio slabs and/or interior finishes such as drywall and tile. This can be especially true in places like Southern California where we have very adverse geology such as clays, loose sand and unstable hillsides. Add to this years of drought followed by an El Niño year, and ground movement is inevitable. Continue reading

The Dangers of Building Without A Permit

The Dangers of Building Without A PermitGetting ready to start an improvement project and wondering if you can start building without a permit? If you’ve ever been in the market for a new property, for instance a new home, you may have come across some that were remodeled without a permit. Buyers may encounter properties that have been updated since their original construction with additions that range from electrical work to an expansion of the building. So what should you do when you find that perfect property that’s had work done but the previous owner may not have obtained a permit to do the work? Continue reading

Foundation and Structural Retrofits: Gentrifying Los Angeles

 

Gentrifying Los AngelesHave you noticed a gentrifying Los Angeles? Over the last decade or two much of Los Angeles’ downtown has been gentrified. Gentrifying, sometimes referred to as upscaling, can be defined as taking older properties and improving and renovating them so that they appeal to a broader range of potential renters or buyers. Gentrification can apply to many kinds of property. Often when a neighborhood begins to gentrify for residential use, commercial properties also upscale to meet the demand of the new tenant demographics. These projects are often use “outside the box” design to take full advantage of existing properties. Continue reading

Oroville Dam Engineering: What Happened?

The California Department of Water Resources stopped the spillway flow on Thursday morning to allow engineers to evaluate the integrity of the structure after water had been released at 20,000 cubic feet per second through the night.

(Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources).

Last week California’s Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, almost failed due to a surplus of water filling Lake Oroville. As the lake filled higher and higher, water was being released, via spillways, into the Feather River. The volume of water caused erosion of the dam’s main spillway, causing it to crater and break apart. As a result, the dam’s emergency spillway began to erode. That spillway had never been used and was unlined. The lack of concrete lining may have led to its erosion as well.

Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from the area, many of them fleeing to higher ground cities like Sutter. As the water began to recede, residents began to travel back home.

But what went wrong? What caused the damage in the first place? Continue reading

Aerial Cranes and Properties with Poor Construction Equipment Access

Helicopter Transport in Construction and EngineeringA few days ago, I saw a report on the global crane market forecast for 2017 through 2024. It got me thinking about the different types of cranes that I have used in my career. Especially aerial cranes. Aerial cranes are great because they can be used to move large loads in areas that are hard to access and they can do so at a fraction of the price of a traditional crane. They also do not require the set up and tear down process that a traditional crane requires.

Sometimes we get asked to work on properties that are difficult to access. This could include a property that is in a remote area, on a small parcel with limited access due to surrounding properties or buildings, or in mountainous areas.    Continue reading

Avoiding Surface Water Drainage Issues

Avoid Surface Water Drainage Issues with a Gutter SystemStanding water can ruin a property and pose serious issues to a community’s health. It can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitos, and can lead to structural issues for buildings on the property. There can also be issues for adjoining properties, which can in turn will draw the ire of neighbors and possibly result in increased litigation risks. If you’ve ever had a property that has issues with surface water drainage, then you know full well the damage and headache it can cause.

Continue reading

Is Rotten Wood Ruining Your Property’s Structures?

Fence with Wood RotEven in drought-stricken Southern California wood rot caused by water is damaging structures on both commercial and residential property. Rotten wood caused by moisture can be easy to miss, especially when the seasons have been as dry as they have been over the last 10 years. It’s also easy to put off the repairs – for some of us the drought makes dealing with wood rot seem like a back burner project. It’s easy to ignore the problem when we aren’t expecting wet weather.

Water-caused rot develops when moisture lingers on wooden surfaces that are unprotected. The lack of protection happens when wooden structures are not repainted regularly or resealed after a period of time. The moisture will settle into unprotected cracks and crevices and that creates a fantastic environment for fungi – the real culprit of the wood rot. Wood rot only needs 20 percent moisture content to live. That means it can show up in all but the most arid temperature zones. Continue reading