Apparently, the Hartford, CT Mark Twain House & Museum contains an amazing collection of artifacts collected by Samuel Clemens throughout his life. Sadly, however, much of that collection has been threatened by mold growth caused by a faulty HVAC system.

According to Susan Dunne of the Hartford Courant:

In November 2015, mold was found in the storage facilities of the historic home’s museum center, tainting at least 5,000 of the museum’s 16,000 artifacts. The vulnerable pieces are varied: 19th-century furniture, upholstery, metal, glass and leather items, as well as books, including some Twain first editions and translations, whose fabric and leather bindings are conducive to mold growth. The spread of the mold has been halted for the time being — the HVAC system has been repaired and the archive’s relative humidity is being carefully monitored — but the task remains to remove the mold that already is there…

More specifically, the cause was related to a rather sophisticated geothermal heat pump system designed to use substantially less energy than more traditional HVAC systems.

“The motors in the geothermal wells that moderate the temperature in the building would break down regularly,” Lamarre said. “One of the wells malfunctioned, causing enormous pressure to build up in the system. The pipes in the mechanical room burst in multiple places, causing water to flood down the back hall of the museum center. The auditorium was flooded with a foot and a half of water.”

“The explosion of the geothermal well led to an increase in the humidity problem in the building at large because the decision was made to cap the wells instead of repairing them,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the historic home and museum has faced operational issues, however. From 2002 through 2010, a former employee of the organization embezzled more than $1-million. In 2008, the organization laid off 33 of its 50 employees following a financial restructuring.

Sanjoy Malik, writing for Green Biz, discusses an issue that is something most building owners, developers, operators and other stakeholders aren’t too familiar with. However, for those of us with experience in improving/optimizing existing buildings, the issue can be a real deal breaker.

What’s the problem? Since de-regulation of the energy utilities, the data produced by rate-payers is now proprietary. Without readily available access to both quantitative and qualitative data regarding the energy usage of existing buildings of certain sizes and use types, it is extremely difficult to develop new strategies for improving efficiency. (You can’t improve what you can’t measure…)

Malik proposes a new business model mirroring the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that many technology providers have successfully exploited in the past decade or so:

The Energy-data-as-a-service (EDaaS) model holds great promise for the industry. There are various firms providing services within the energy industry that could benefit from a single source of energy data, including:

  • Accounting and finance. Many firms provide energy budgets, pay utility bills and forecast future costs and progress towards reduction goals. These activities require significant process-oriented operations and analysis capabilities. Adding the acquisition of energy data may be too much effort for these firms.
  • Energy optimization. Energy performance in many buildings can be improved using more detailed data, analyzing it and creating statistical models that include other variables such as weather and occupancy. Firms that provide such analytics products can scale their operations by using a standard energy data provider.
  • Energy procurement and supply. Energy purchasing decisions are complex and firms that provide these services typically invest in analysis of historic bills and bidding and negotiating capabilities to find and secure the best prices on energy. By using a third-party for the raw energy data, they can more quickly make decisions about the procurement strategy for their clients.
  • Sustainability and compliance. Many firms are investing in greater transparency around energy performance, using sustainability reports and other public information disclosures. Many large cities are starting to mandate that building owners get Energy Star scores to benchmark their properties. Both of these processes can be expedited by more quickly and systematically collecting energy data via a third party.

Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s treat is a neat video that a builder made during the construction of his brother’s home.

The way he made this video is actually really cool. By programming a route for the drone, and then flying that exact route every day, Youtube user ChuckPPhotography then edited the video from around 32 to 34 of the passes together. The end result makes it look as if the entire home was constructed during a single pass of the drone.

My team and I have been working on something similar for our clients.

Check out the video below:

Ever since GoPro tried to launch their new line of drones for their adventure enthusiast market, problems have tarnished the normally stellar reputation for solid, quality-built imaging technologies. Forbes’ Ryan Mac wrote a thorough analysis of the saga, with the provocative headline, “The Sky Is Falling For GoPro.”

The article opens with a story of a disappointed customer’s experience:

Six days after the release of GoPro’s first-ever drone in October, Brian Warholak was itching to get airborne. As an employee at a Chesapeake, Va.-based government contractor, Warholak, 43, had few opportunities during the workweek to fly his new toy. But on Friday, he left his desk early, unpacked his GoPro Karma from its carrying case and set it on a manicured lawn near the company parking lot.

In the video of Warholak’s aeronautic excursion, the drone lurches upward, pausing for its master to pan the attached camera. What it captures initially is unremarkable: a nondescript office building and a mostly empty car park. Then, two minutes into the voyage, the device bricks. Its four propellers cut out and the drone begins a five-second, 170-foot freefall toward earth. It smacks a few tree branches on the way down for good measure and lands camera upward to capture its owner rushing to the crash. “F***, now where is the rest?” Warholak is heard saying on the video. “Son of a b****.”

Here’s the video in question:

Man, depositions can be rough on some people. I personally know of situations in which various parties have thrown their laptops down in a temper tantrum, expert witnesses breaking down in tears or faking illness to take more time to prepare, or the time when an infamous developer parked his Ferrari right outside the room where his deposition was being held where he would try to claim he was broke, and have even seen video of a deposition in Texas where a fist fight broke out (Google it – you won’t be sorry…). (more…)

On December 8, 2016, an office building in Boulder housing two local high-tech firms had to be evacuated after the partial collapse of the second floor due to a beam whose structural integrity had been negatively impacted. Nearly 280 people were temporarily relocated until repairs could be made.

But before repairs can be made, someone has to figure out what went wrong, and how best to fix it. As is often the case with forensic building assessments, these things can take time.

Seven weeks after the collapse, building owners and tenants alike are still awaiting further information. The Daily Camera’s Jerd Smith says that the cause of the failure remains a mystery:

Dave Thacker, chief building officer for Boulder, said the city is waiting for a forensic engineering report to be completed before determining what if any citations might be issued and what corrective actions might need to be taken. In the meantime, it has issued permits to allow for initial inspections, creation of a “safe passage” for construction workers, the shoring of the building’s foundation and the floor’s repair…

Such structural failures in commercial buildings are “unusual,” Thacker said. Among the theories under discussion include a weakening of the building’s foundation, due to the 2013 floods or a below-ground water leak, but no one has ruled out other causes as well, he said.

According to a preliminary investigation of the site, a connection tying a massive steel beam to a metal plate embedded in a concrete column sheared off. The beam supported the second floor. What caused the beam connection to fail is unclear.

The upside to using modern electronic/smart door security systems in hotels across the globe is that it is really easy to check guests in and out, replace lost keys, and prevent former guests from reusing their key to gain unauthorized access.

The downside is that the smarter these security systems become, the more susceptible they become to hacking. (more…)

Finally, after 6-1/2 years, the utility at fault for the horrific San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed 8 people, destroyed 38 homes, and damaged 108 homes in total, will finally face some consequences related to criminal charges filed against the utility.

This evolving saga has been covered multiple times over the years by AECforensics.com. Here is a quick timeline of what has happened to date: (more…)

As the construction industry becomes more reliant upon technology, we must follow the proven examples of other industries and adopt standards for exchanging information.

It started with CAD. All of a sudden there was a way to create drawings electronically that could improve the precision of the design process and reduce the repetitive labor associated with manual drawing/drafting. As software developers saw the opportunity for creating CAD programs for the AEC industry, a bunch of different options sprouted up, each with its own unique file format. Quickly it became apparent that it was in the industry’s best interest to standardize those file formats to make it easier for design teams comprised of multiple distinct entities to collaborate.  (more…)

Safety First is the mantra we’ve been hearing for decades in the industry, and while construction has become much safer for workers, we clearly still have a long ways to go.

Fortune’s Anne Vandermey has more:

First, the good news in American workplaces: Four decades ago, 14,000 U.S. workers were killed on the job each year. Now, that number is closer to 5,000…

But not every industry is enjoying a decline in the number of accidents. As the construction industry climbs back toward its pre-recession peak, accidents are rising with it. There were 937 fatal work injuries in private construction in 2015—the highest number since 2008.