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

What Caused the Big Sur Landslide of 2017?

Big Sur Mud Creek SlideWondering what caused the Big Sur landslide of 2017? Landslides can be one of nature’s most catastrophic forces. On May 20, 2017 California suffered its biggest landslide since the 1980s. A portion of Highway 1, not far from Big Sur, was buried under 30 to 40 feet of soil and debris.  Anything in its path was most likely swept away into the ocean below — altering the iconic coastline for years to come. Luckily nobody was killed, since the portion of the highway affected had been closed off due to smaller, earlier landslides that have been occurring since January 2017. 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

The Future of Science and Engineering Is Now

Orange County Science and Engineering FairThe Orange County Science and Engineering Fair has promoted science and engineering in Orange County, California since 1955. For the last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of judging some of the brightest young minds in Southern California as they engage in project-based learning in the fields of engineering, science, mathematics and technology. These STEM subjects are critical to ensuring California has the talent to continue innovating and leading in each of these fields, now and in the future.

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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

Preparing Your Property for Severe Weather and Its Aftermath

ThunderstormsDuring the Thanksgiving holiday the Southland got a little more relief from our record-breaking drought conditions. While it’s important that we get enough rain to hopefully end our dry conditions and restore our groundwater levels, it’s also important to keep people and properties safe during and after rainstorms.

Areas of particular concern are slope stability and water intrusion. When an area has been particularly dry, slope stability issues can threaten properties in and around the slope. Unstable slopes can move very slowly or very quickly, and lead to property foundation issues as well as safety hazards. This is especially true for burn areas where the plants and trees have been destroyed and the integrity of the soil has been undermined.

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6 Common Questions from Property Owners

Frequently Asked Questions KeyboardEver noticed something about your home, office or property and thought: “That doesn’t seem quite right …” Unfortunately, many property owners get spooked and think that easy-to-correct problems will be mandatory, costly or difficult to solve. If the problem is allowed to worsen, it can lead to bigger problems down the road and bigger headaches for the property owner. As an added problem, a diagnosis from the wrong party can also lead to unnecessary repairs if that person is not an engineering expert. The best course of action is to deal with problems right away by asking the right expert and asking the right questions.

Below you’ll find some common questions we get from our clients and their answers. Continue reading

Engineering Using Google Earth

EarthIf you’ve ever used Google Earth, you know it’s amazing mapping tool from Google, the search engine company, that can help you find out all sorts of really neat geographic details about your property, neighborhood, city or region – and even the whole Earth. It’s such a useful tool that Google Earth is used in everything from the classroom to the board room.

At Helfrich-Associates we use Google Earth as a part of many of our projects. It’s a very useful tool that helps us plan our investigations and determine relevant conditions on a job site.

Let’s take a general look at how we use Google Earth for some of our work and how we used it for one real-world project. 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.

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