In today’s episode of Confess Your Unpopular Opinions, I confess that I kind of like Mitch McConnell. I’m grading on a curve, of course, the curve being “people who oppose everything that is right and good about America.” Still, I kind of like the fact that McConnell doesn’t generally get on his high horse. For example, when Republicans blocked Merrick Garland last year, most conservatives started peddling a load of nonsense about how Supreme Court justices were never confirmed in a president’s final year and they were just upholding the grand traditions of the Senate blah blah blah. But not McConnell. He basically said that Republicans were doing it because they could. That’s OK. I mean, if you’re going to screw me, don’t try to pretend that you’re doing me a favor at the same time.
Likewise, I kind of liked John Boehner too. He was just a man born too late. If he had been Speaker of the House 30 years earlier, he would have been fine. He would have logrolled and compromised and made deals and the government would have chugged along. By 2011, however, the GOP was fully tea party-ized and Boehner had more trouble with his own caucus than he did with the Democrats.
Boehner seemed genuinely happy when he finally left the House, and ever since he’s been unusually open about the reality of trying to deal with the loons in his own party. Today, he cheerfully explained that Republican plans to quickly repeal Obamacare were just “happy talk”:
He said changes to former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement would likely be relatively modest. “[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare — I shouldn’t call it repeal-and-replace, because it’s not going to happen,” he said.
….Boehner said the talk in November about lightning-fast passage of a new health care framework was wildly optimistic. “I started laughing,” he said. “Republicans never ever agree on health care.”
“Most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act … that’s going to be there,” Boehner concluded.
Yep. I wrote a piece for the magazine a couple of months ago making the same point, and it got way less attention than I thought it deserved. That’s rankled my fragile male ego ever since, so I’m taking this opportunity to highlight it again. Here’s the ending:
Obamacare’s preexisting-conditions provision provides Democrats with some leverage. Republicans need Democratic votes to repeal the provision and pass a workable law, which means that if Democrats hold out they can certainly get a far better deal than Ryan’s plan. They might even be able to stop the Obamacare repeal in its tracks. It all depends on how well they play their hand.
Boehner’s argument is expressed differently than mine, but it comes to the same thing: the best way for Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare is to compromise with Democrats. Their next best option is to somehow ram through a plan of their own and accept all the flak this entails. However, both options require Republicans to stay ruthlessly united, and as Boehner says, what are the odds of that?
Entrance strategies that prevent water and soil from causing problems in your building
By Justin Feit
The ideal entryway in a building will have a flooring system that adequately protects occupants from injury and the rest of the building from outdoor elements that find their way inside. These measures can ensure that you are doing both.
Slips and Falls with Floor Mats
Providing the right flooring solutions in your entryway is vital because it facilitates the transition from outside the building to the inside, which becomes even more critical when weather is a factor. Providing the right materials for the entrance will keep your building safer and cleaner.
“The key is to focus on the walkway surface that people encounter when they first come into a building. That’s really important when preventing slips and falls,” says Russell Kendzior, President and Chairman of the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). “A lot of businesses will simply use entryway floor mats, which are great if you use the right type and the right size. The problem is that those mats, although designed to prevent slips and falls, then create trips and falls.”
The greatest threat to floor mats working effectively is moisture. Once they become saturated, they not only allow water to be more easily tracked into the rest of the building, but they also pose a new, often unexpected threat to people entering.
“Once the water gets on the floor or under the mat, it becomes a surfboard. Somebody walks in from outside, steps on the mat and it flies under their feet. The mat induced the slip and fall,” explains Kendzior. “We don’t recommend vinyl-backed mats because they have a very low water retention ability. They also have a very poor level of slip resistance for their backings. We recommend that floor mats being selected have the appropriate backing – one that’s NFSI-certified as high-traction.”
Mats with high-traction backing and the ability to absorb high levels of moisture without becoming saturated will be able to withstand more water than lower quality options, but even the best mats – when saturated – are ineffective and will bring water and materials from outside into the building while also presenting safety hazards.
“When that floor mat gets saturated, remove it from service promptly,” says Kendzior. “One of the biggest headaches is that floor mats get saturated, and when people walk from the mat onto the floor, they take that water with them on their shoes. Now you have a wet floor, and people slip and fall.”
Other Options and Measures
Floor mats aren’t the only option for an entrance. They require more oversight and care, and for those in buildings that have larger entrances or higher traffic than floor mats can withstand, there are better solutions available.
According to Kendzior, walk-off carpet tiles can provide a heavy duty option that will more effectively mitigate the transfer of moisture and outdoor materials inside. However, unlike a traditional mat, walk-off carpet typically requires a change in flooring at the entrance. Nevertheless, they can reduce maintenance and injury risk.
“Walk-off mats remove most contaminants that would otherwise be tracked into buildings,” explains the Minnesota Department of Health. “Proper maintenance will ensure they are effective at preventing these contaminants from being deposited in rooms. Sand and grit can also damage flooring, making these surfaces harder to clean.”
Another measure to better safeguard your flooring inside is to address outdoor conditions. Winter is a particularly troublesome time because of the quantity of snow and water that will migrate into the building, so providing your building with a first line of defense outside can save the interior flooring.
“Some facilities employ the use of scraper mats, and they can be very effective based on the specific type and size of the scraper or rubber mat that you’re using,” says Kendzior. “If you’re going to use a mat outside of your building to have people knock some of the soil or snow off of their shoes, using a large, rubber scraper mat is a great way to do it. By the time they come into the building, snow that was on their boots or shoes is not being tracked in.”
Of course, addressing walkways and other surfaces where building occupants might pick up snow, ice and soil will also help. Having a proactive response to winter weather will reduce the amount of water and material that occupants’ shoes will pick up on their way to the building. Moreover, Kendzior suggests using deicer before it snows so it can effectively reduce snow and ice buildup before it becomes a problem.
For more information about entryway flooring options, visit www.nfsi.org.
Justin Feit firstname.lastname@example.org is an assistant editor of BUILDINGS.
by Lloyd Alter–
Local building is like local food: Adapted to the climate, the local environment, a product of the local culture developed over time. Thanks to the refrigeration revolution, now you get McDonalds in Osaka and sushi in Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, thanks to the air conditioning revolution, local building has gone the same way, with our houses becoming homogenized. In many cases, the vernacular architecture is disappearing completely, even though, as Bernard Rudofsky wrote in Architecture without Architects, “vernacular architecture does not go through fashion cycles. It is nearly immutable, indeed, unimprovable, since it serves its purpose to perfection.”
On ArchDaily, Ariana Zilliacus does a wonderful post, looking at 11 Vernacular Building Techniques That Are Disappearing. She writes:
These local methods are far more sustainable and contextually aware than much contemporary architecture seen today, despite ongoing talks and debates about the importance of sustainability. As a result of these trends, a tremendous amount of architectural and cultural knowledge is being lost.
Some of these vernacular designs have been discussed on TreeHugger, such as seaweed roofs in Læsø, Denmark. (No, they were not killed by air conditioning.)
We have also looked at the amazing Iranian system of cooling and storing water; this even popped up in our recent posts on radiant cooling.
Malay houses built on stilts were so well adapted to the climate; Ariana writes:
To deal with the humidity and heat, traditional Malay Houses were designed to be porous, allowing for cross ventilation through the building to cool it down. Large overhanging roofs allow for open windows in rain and sun, both of which occur on nearly a daily basis. Building on stilts was another way to increase airflow and prevent damage to the house in the event of heavy downpours.
Most of these houses were built of teak, and in fact are far more valuable today for their wood than they are as houses. Their owners are offered as much as $ 50,000 for the house and replace it with a concrete block box with an air conditioner on the side.
Ariana also shows mud huts from Cameroon and reed houses from Iraq, all adapted to climate, local materials and resources. But air conditioning and urbanization changed everything. Now everything looks the same wherever you go, and everyone has a little box on the wall sucking away.
City Council members in Redwood City on Monday night wrestled with how to guide new office and apartment projects in the rapidly developing downtown area — and how easy they should make those endeavors for developers.
While the six-person council didn’t take any votes related to the plan, each council member indicated that it may be time to see some slow-down in Redwood City’s growth. Council Member Diane Howard recused herself from the discussion because of financial interests.
For the past six years, development in Redwood City’s downtown core has been fast-tracked due to a long-term planning document called the Downtown Precise Plan, which preemptively completed the environmental work for 2,500 new residential units, 100,000 square feet of retail, 500,000 square feet of new office space and 200 new hotel rooms.
Development caps for downtown office space and apartment are being hit now — about a decade faster than city planners had anticipated. There’s still plenty of room for retail and hotel development in the plan.
That’s not an entirely bad problem to have, said Mayor John Seybert.
“If this was a business and we hit our targets like that, we’d be (considered) wildly successful,” he said. “Having said that, there are certainly some challenges with that.”
Of the 15 residents and business owners who spoke to the council about the plan Monday, many said they felt fatigued by the fast development boom. Many of those in attendance did express support for additional housing development, particularly of affordable units.
Gary Johnson, a Redwood City resident and a partner at Menlo Park-based Acclaim Cos., was among those residents. Acclaim has built more than 100 residential units in Redwood City under the caps.
The company is also among the first to propose a project beyond the set maximums and is currently completing the environmental work to add 7,000 square feet of retail and 80,000 square feet of office space to the downtown area.
Johnson said he’s fine with no longer fast-tracking developments in the city.
“I believe that every project that comes to the city should be judged on its own merits, not whether it falls under a cap,” he told council members.
It’s unclear how much of a slowdown developers will see once the City Council takes action on a new set of policies that would govern downtown development. That likely won’t happen for at least several more months.
But none on the City Council Monday said they wanted to stop new projects from coming to the city.
At the same time, there also wasn’t much will among members to again have the city undertake the environmental work to keep development speeding along at the rate it has been for the past six years.
Instead, several council members said they’d like to explore options that would have developers completing their own environmental impact reports for projects. Such reports, which are a common requirement for projects across California, can be costly to developers and easily take years to complete.
Others on the council, including Seybert, said they’d like to enact a hybrid version of a downtown plan that would incentivize developers to help achieve some of Redwood City’s specific goals, like adding more affordable housing, building and maintaining park space and creating new retail uses on Main Street.
Council members agreed they should also assemble a community task force to discuss the city’s long-term growth as they consider the next version of the Downtown Precise Plan.
San Francisco and San Jose are at the top of their cycles, and Ten-X said it is time to sell multifamily assets in those two high-priced cities. Sacramento is the best place to buy multifamily assets with rising rents and low vacancies. Thousands of units are expected to be delivered in San Francisco this year, and some developers have had to make hefty concessions to get their recently delivered multifamily projects leased up. San Francisco will remain a top real estate market, but the apartment market may be past its cyclical peak, according to Ten-X. The research firm expects vacancies to rise to 8.3% by 2020. San Jose is in a similar situation, with vacancy increasing 4.1% with an oversupply of housing. Rent growth is slowing down — increasing only 1.5% last year. Comparatively, rents increased 10.3% in 2014. Rents in Sacramento increased by 8.3% year-over-year and vacancies are extremely low at 2.1%. Vacancy is expected to remain low even with tons of supply hitting the market over the next three years, according to Ten-X.
San Francisco and San Jose are not the only markets with oversupply. Along with New York City, Miami and Milwaukee, these top “sell” markets have been a part of the shift toward urban centers over the last 10 years. Developers responded by flooding certain metro areas with units, Ten-X chief economist Peter Muoio (above) said. Ten-X Research calculated a record 260,000 units were completed last year with another 250,000 to flood the market this year nationwide. Absorption remains strong nationally, but new supply could drive vacancy up to 5.6% this year before surpassing 6% during a forecast cyclical downturn heading into 2019. “While many larger metros appear to have reached a critical mass of supply and are now seeing fundamentals begin to cool, a strong economy and more limited development continue to make multifamily an attractive bet for investors across the country,” Muoio said. Nationwide, effective rents were up by 3.8% year-over-year in the third quarter with vacancies down to 4.3%. Cap rates increased 10 basis points to 4.9% over the second quarter. Top “buy” markets could boast double-digit increases over the next three years. These markets, including Sacramento, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Phoenix and Dallas, have robust local economies and a steady influx of new jobs and are attracting residents willing to rent in a large metro region over homeownership.
Top “Sell” Markets
SAN FRANCISCO Q3 2016 Rents (per unit): $2,465 Expected 2020 Rents: $2,257 Change: -8.4% A reliance on the volatile tech industry makes San Francisco risky for multifamily investors, but San Francisco remains a strong real estate market overall. NEW YORK CITY Q3 2016 Rents (per unit): $3,405 Expected 2020 Rents: $3,064 Change: -10% Ten-X Research expects New York’s rents to fall over 5% by 2018 with vacancies rising as supply increases in Brooklyn and Queens. SAN JOSE Q3 2016 Rents (per unit): $2,048 Expected 2020 Rents: $1,946 Change: -5% Even though the local economy is expected to grow, Ten-X expects multifamily investment returns to be flat through 2018 before entering a decline. MIAMI Q3 2016 Rents (per unit): $1,269 Expected 2020 Rents: $1,327 Change: +4.6% Vacancies in Miami are rising and reached 4.7% last quarter. Rents reached all-time highs, but growth is slowing. MILWAUKEE Q3 2016 Rents (per unit): $919 Expected 2020 Rents: $957 Change: +9% Slow job and population growth will keep Milwaukee’s economy in a mild rut. Vacancy may reach as high as 7% by 2020 with more supply hitting the market
Pacific Structures, a San Francisco-based company that’s now under investigation by state workplace safety regulators in connection with a high-rise accident in the South of Market area on Wednesday, was one of the firms linked to a major construction fire in the city over two years ago.
On Thursday, city building inspectors barred construction work at the Tehama Street skyscraper site for 48 hours and California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) began its probe of the incident.
Cal/OSHA inspectors gained access to the building hours after crews were able to stabilize a platform on the 35th floor that began to tip the day before, a scare that led to the evacuation of more than a dozen nearby buildings.
A hydraulic jack, part of a device described by building inspectors as a climbing-form machine, was supporting the platform but failed, leading to concerns that a concrete slab it was holding up would fall to the street.
“The platform tilted when the hydraulic jack failed,” said Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza.
“It tipped over, the machine then ran into the wall and caused this concrete form to angle out,” said Bill Strawn, a spokesman for the Department of Building Inspection, in an interview.
The climbing-form machine acts like a massive elevator, allowing crews to lay out concrete floor by floor. The large device was being dismantled Thursday, Strawn said.
Building inspectors have issued a notice of violation on the worksite, requiring that crews make the area safe and that a licensed engineer issue reports to the city on the cause of the failure and attesting to a new setup’s structural integrity, he said.
The main contractor for the project is Lendlease, an international construction firm based in Sydney, Australia.
Pacific Structures, a subsidiary of the firm Build Group, is a subcontractor on the project dealing in concrete.
Pacific Structures and Build Group were involved in the renovation of the former Renoir Hotel at 45 McAllister St. when it was badly damaged in a three-alarm fire on Aug. 4, 2014.
The fire injured eight workers, led to an investigation by Cal/OSHA and eventually prompted the San Francisco Fire Department to issue two safety citations against Build Group.
Fire officials said at the time that the company removed sprinkler systems at the McAllister Street site and another one on Buchanan Street.
Build Group initially appealed the two $1,000 penalties, but in May 2015 it quietly withdrew its objection.
The Renoir Hotel blaze came in the middle of the city’s building boom and months after a much larger construction site fire in the Mission Bay neighborhood that also led to citations against a subcontractor.
A spokeswoman for Build Group and Pacific Structures has yet to comment on Thursday’s incident.