Archive for the 'Construction' Category


Facilitating FCA’s

I couldn’t think of a catchy title for what could be a very boring blog, so please pardon the intentional pun. Smile


My current project has been one conducting Facility Condition Assessments for various city buildings all over Houston. It has been very interesting to see the environment where City employees do their work. I have seen a few good places, and a lot of bad. It has been very disheartening to see some of the cramped, broken down, and plain unacceptable conditions our Law Enforcement and other COH personnel have to endure in the course of serving, protecting, and rescuing the people of Houston. The City is well aware of this. So: The City wants to know the state of all of it’s facilities – Parks, Libraries, Police Stations, Fire Stations and needs a Facility Conditions Assessment in order to obtain this information. The definitions below will give a little more insight as to what is involved in an FCA.

Wikipedia defines Facility Condition Assessments as:

…an industry term that describes the process of a qualified group of trained industry professionals performing an analysis of the condition of a group of facilities that may vary in terms of age, design, construction methods, and materials.

The industry professionals are typically engineers of various disciplines and skilled-trade technicians, but architects are sometimes used as well.

This analysis can be done by walk-through inspection, mathematical modeling (see Mathematical Model), or a combination of both. But the most accurate way of determining the condition requires walk-through to collect baseline data.

The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) provides a more robust definition, as can be seen from the following:

Facility Condition Assessment (FCA)/Audit
The structured development [of] a profile of existing facilities conditions, typically placed in an electronic database format, and populated with detailed facility condition inspection information. A detailed facility condition assessment (FCA’s) typically involve an assessment team of three professionals (architect, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer), and depend up robust, scalable methodologies to assure accurate and consistent information. … The FCA identifies existing deficient conditions (requirements), in logical grouping and priorities, and also, associated recommended corrections and corrective costs. Costs are generally based upon industry standard cost databases (e.g., Building News, Craftsman Book Company, Richardson General Construction Estimating Standards, RSMeans).

The framework for what we’ve been doing is easily detailed in the following flowchart:

FCA flowchart


*Disclaimer: This flowchart is not the be-all and end-all for conducting FCA’s. Use at your own risk and provide a link to this page and credit the owner – me.

So far, I’m learning a LOT about what happens when buildings come together(the interaction of disciplines such as Architectural, MEP, Fire protection, Structural), how buildings age, designing for now and the future, and how Facilities Management ties in (or should tie in) to a facility from it’s conception. Expect more blogs on this as I journey through the learning process. Hopefully, you’ll learn something too.



Building a roof

I recently built a roof as part of a team in a hands-on Construction class. This class was provided as a DOL grant to improve skills of the unemployed. This was very exciting for me because I got to see a part of construction that I am usually observing.

Stage 1: Rafter and Structure Assembly

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Wooden A-frame built from two pre-existing pieces and drilled together and to the work table.


Stage 2: Waterproofing



We installed felt material to underlay the shingles. These were simply hammered into the rafters.


Stage 3: Shingles

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We stapled shingles onto the felt. This process turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. The shingles are supposed to be properly staggered to prevent moisture penetration length- and width-wise. I put about half a row of shingles before the instructor came around and showed me how to stagger the shingles like in the first photo. He also wanted to ensure that the top shingle was at least halfway over the bottom shingle and kind of pressed together (over the sticky black line that the shingles have – in picture 2)  to prevent water infiltration. Because if there’s a way, water will find it.


Stage 3: Roof Ventilation

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1. Measure and draw out the outer and inner extents of the particular roof vent you’re using.

2. Measure and cut out the inner dimensions of the vent. I forget what the square was for.

It’s important that these cuts be as close to the dimensions of the roof vent as possible to prevent any gaps. Again, our concern is water finding it’s way into the small openings.

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3. Slide the vent under the shingles(on three sides – top, left, and right) as tight as possible, and hammer away!


Stage 4: (In this process only) – Demolish and recycle

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Demoing the roof. Most of the demoed materials were recycled for use by the next class.


So there you have it folks! I built a roof, and demoed it too. Smile


The idea never dies

Despite my long foray into the engineering facet of buildings (6 years), my architectural ideas just haven’t died. Seemingly out of the blue, I get these bursts of ideas. Some of them I’ve written down (drawn, researched and investigated), and others I’ve ignored for a variety of reasons. While some people might think it is impossible to be both an architect and an engineer, deep inside me I know that it is not impossible. Heck, I even have precedents: Michelangelo, John Augustus Roebling (he didn’t practice architecture),Santiago Calatrava, Cecil Balmond, Dr. Ken Yeang, Michael Fletcher, and more.

I would love to pick the brains of the men and women (I would appreciate any leads on women who are trained and/or operating in the fields discussed here) that have forayed into this facet of the AEC industry and have managed to operate in the AE intersection of the Venn diagram below:

                     AEC venn diagram

For the many people who have this passion for buildings, space, and how people exist and interact in/with space, the idea never dies. If we have to follow a non-traditional route to achieve it, so be it! I would rather pave a non-traditional path than look down a road of regret to a graveyard of ideas. So, as much as this is a blog for information exchange, I am using this particular post to motivate myself; and say, YES! Go for it! Despite the uncertainty of the job market, and the questioning frowns at my resume when my degrees are noticed, I CAN do it!