Category Archives: Retrofitting Systems

Equipment on Terraces

As architects continue to imagine and design complex projects; it is becoming increasingly common that fall arrest and tie-back equipment are located on terraces of buildings.

As the condominium market is still as competitive as ever; builders and developers are coming up with special features and incentives to lure buyers.  Items like barbecues, bars, built in kitchens, gardens, lounges, hot tubs, patio furniture, and even pools are frequently being included on terraces of buildings.  While these are great selling features for buyers, they do create complications when designing window washing and fall protection systems.

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These condominiums are so lucrative that every detail is considered.  Therefore, as much of the buildings equipment is hidden as possible in common areas and private terraces (to not disrupt the aesthetics).  This usually means on terraces that our equipment is recessed under some sort of removable paver stones.  This regularly causes two major problems:

1)      the paver stones over the recessed equipment are not actually removable
2)      items are placed over top the recessed equipment

If it is planned accordingly there is a simple solution for problem “1)” as there are covers and inserts that can be manufactured and installed in paver stones that allow for them to be (rather easily) removed whenever recessed equipment (underneath them) require access.

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If the design of the window washing and fall protection system is provided to the architect then the architect can review to ensure there are no disruptions.

What should the architect review?

1)      They should ensure that no items (the special feature and incentives mentioned above or any others) are placed over top the recessed equipment.
2)      They should confirm items that are in line with the point of suspension (perpendicular from the parapet to the equipment) will not interfere with the rigging lines.

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This is where problem “2)” can become complicated.  The architect and equipment manufacturer have communicated and reviewed all of the areas but then a tenant installs a deck and built in kitchen on their terrace (usually without contacting the condominium corporation).  This makes accessing the recessed equipment nearly impossible which may mean a drop of windows cannot be washed or a section of the building façade cannot be maintained.

While usually a worker can move some items like small barbecues or potted plants, some items like large barbecues or large planter boxes simply cannot be moved.  A worker in some cases may not even want to move anything because they are concerned about damaging the property.

It must be stressed to tenants the importance of communicating any additions and modifications to their terrace that they are making.  The tenant should notify the condominium corporation and then the condominium corporation should contact the window washing and fall protection system manufacturer.  Also, the condominium corporation should notify tenants when the equipment is going to be inspected or used so that the tenant can remove any items that are over the recessed equipment.

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Retrofitting Systems

It is always better to have fall arrest and tie-back anchors for window washing, suspended maintenance, and fall protection systems installed in the “new construction” phase.  But far too often, builders attempt to save the client money on construction costs without due consideration of retrofit.  There are a number of reasons to avoid retrofitting these systems when at all possible:

  • it is a lot more expensive
  • will require penetrating the roofing assembly and possibly voiding existing warranty
  • intrusive; retrofitting can require gaining access through suites to get on to balconies and terraces
  • construction work during occupancy can disrupt the day to day operation and enjoyment of the building and tenants units
  • reinforcing of the structure may be required
  • cutting open the ceiling in tenants units may be required

Unfortunately, each day buildings require retrofitting of anchor systems for a number of reasons.  They may be very old, the current system may be deficient, or the building may simply have never had a system installed.  When it is decided in these cases that a system will be installed there are some things that must be considered.

The Drawings

Search everywhere you can to try and locate the as built architectural and structural drawings.  If the window washing system manufacturer has full sets of drawings he may not need as much or any access to private suites and terraces thus eliminating the need to inconvenience tenants at the design stage.  Keep in mind, access will still be required to perform the installation and for annual inspections.  Note: If this particular building already has anchors, there is a good chance that a drawing of this anchor system is posted at the roof access point.

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Roof Warranty

Check to see if there is an existing warranty in effect on the roof.  If there is, be sure that that roofer does all the patch work for the roof anchor systems installation otherwise the existing warranty may be voided.  If there is no warranty, make sure the roof anchor contractor will provide its own roofing contractor.  It is also worth considering having your anchor system installed at the same time as re-roofing.

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Suite Access

If the anchor contractor tells you that suite access is required, make sure that tenants are aware of the exact date the site walkthrough will occur.  This way the roof anchor contractor and building super are not met with any resistance when entering tenants units.

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Window Washing or Suspended Maintenance?

One of the most important things to understand is what type of system is being proposed by the anchor contractors.  Clarify if you want window washing only or the ability to suspend swing stages for facade work.  The difference in cost and functionality can be quite significant. Knowledge is power.  At the end of the day knowing and understanding more will serve to save money and headaches from getting quotes to supervising the construction of the job.

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