As the curtain closed on the legislative session, Florida lawmakers approved new rules on condominium association bylaws, paved the way for a private flood insurance market and approved tighter controls on property insurers.

Consumers got new safeguards in legislation from state Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville, whose Senate bill would ban post-claim underwriting, prevent insurers from canceling policies or using other tactics to avoid paying legitimate claims. The Legislature also moved to weed out some unethical players in the real estate sector, allotting $500,000 in the state budget to fight unlicensed real estate activity.

Among the big winners were community association managers, who fought for years with the Florida Bar over whether some their administrative duties amounted to the unlicensed practice of law. In a victory for managers, the Senate voted 36-3 for a bill that would expand the role administrators play in condominiums, cooperatives and homeowner associations across the state. Licensed by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, community association managers perform management functions including disbursing funds, preparing budgets and other financial documents, and conducting meetings.

But the bill by state Rep. Ross Spano, R-Dover, would gi ve the managers broader powers, including the ability to negotiate financial terms of contracts, draft pre-arbitration demands, and calculate and prepare assessment and estoppel certificates. The managers say this wider scope of responsibilities would save thousands of dollars in attorney fees, but the Florida Bar has taken its case to the Florida Supreme Court and is awaiting a decision. The Bar petitioned the court in 2012 to define many of the managers’ duties as the unauthorized practice of law, a third-degree felony.

“There is no rule or test to determine whether an activity is considered to be the practice of law,” according to a state House staff analysis. “However, if an activity is within a profession’s sphere of activity, it is more likely that the court will allow a nonlawyer to perform the activity, even if the activity involves drafting a legal instrument.”

Lease Taxes

While association managers celebrated, real estate lobbyists saw a bid to cut taxes on commercial leases fail for the second time. In an election year when legislators offered sweeping tax cuts, real estate industry advocates couldn’t sell lawmakers on a proposal that would shave $235 million from state coffers.

Even with powerful support, Senate Bill 176 couldn’t drum up enough support in the Senate. An earlier version sought to remove Florida’s distinction as the only state that collects tax on commercial rent, levying a 6 percent fee that generates $1.2 billion in annual revenue. This year’s bill would have cut the tax from 6 percent to 5 percent.

“Of course we’re disappointed it didn’t pass. This is an issue we feel strongly about,” said Trey Goldman, legal counsel for Florida Realtors. “It does have a big fiscal impact, but the way to approach it is to take a small bite. That way you can have a small impact that won’t affect the state’s budget in the same way it would if you tried to do it all in one year.”

Going into the session, industry supporters were backed by Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged $100 million in the state budget to phase out commercial lease taxes as part of sweeping cuts totaling $500 million for fiscal year 2014 and 2015. But the Legislature wanted broad-based tax cuts and settled on an agreement that once again disappointed Realtors. Instead of allocating funds to phase out the tax, negotiators settled on $395 million to lower vehicle registration and title fees and $105 million for three tax holidays on energy-efficient appliances, hurricane provisions and back-to-school supplies.

There was one bright spot for the industry and a hint that legislators expect the issue to resurface. House Speaker Will Weatherford promised a comprehensive study before the start of the next session to determine the effect of reduced commercial lease taxes on state revenue. “In an election year with the governor also up for re-election, the Legislature was trying to do a lot of things for a lot of people. Next year will be different. Every year has new concerns, but next year won’t quite be like this year,” Goldman said. “I think we will revisit this issue. It’s not just important for Realtors. We believe it’s important for commercial businesses of all sizes, and we’re going to keep trying.”

Flood Insurance

In a busy legislative session, lawmakers also took steps to reduce the escalating flood insurance premiums. A bill to create an alternative to the national flood insurance program created through the Biggert-Waters Act won strong support in both the House and the Senate. SB 542 by state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, encourages insurers to write polices in Florida to create an open market that supporters say will curb rising national premiums.

“I will not stand on the sidelines while homeowners in our community are being forced out of their home by more bait-and-switch tactics in Washington,” Brandes said. “Floridians deserve an alternative to the drastic rate increases of Biggert-Waters. This legislation builds a framework for a Florida-based solution that gives flexibility to homeowners. This will put Florida at the forefront of addressing this issue nationwide.”

State residents already account for nearly 2 million, or about 40 percent, of all National Flood Insurance Program policies. However, they get back only $1 in claims for every $4 paid in premiums. Lawmakers agreed on the need to control escalating costs by creating a statewide private flood insurance market. The Senate voted 30-3 and the House 98-11 to approve the legislation.

 

Source: DBR

In an Internet of Things (IoT) world, smart buildings with web-enabled technologies for managing heat, lighting, ventilation, elevators and other systems pose a more immediate security risk for enterprises than consumer technologies.

The increasing focus on making buildings more energy efficient, secure and responsive to changing conditions is resulting in a plethora of web-enabled technologies. Building management systems are not only more tightly integrated with each other, they are also integrated with systems outside the building, like the smart grid. The threat that such systems pose is two-fold, analysts said. Many of the web-enabled intelligent devices embedded in modern buildings have little security built into them, making them vulnerable to attacks that could disrupt building operations and pose safety risks. Web-connected, weakly protected building management systems also could provide a new way for malicious attackers to break into enterprise business systems that are on the same network.

The massive data theft at Target for instance, started with someone finding a way into the company’s network using the access credentials of a company that remotely maintained the retailer’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. In Target’s case, the breach appears to have happened because the company did not properly segment its data network.  Such issues could become more common as buildings and management systems become increasingly intelligent and interconnected, said Hugh Boyes, cybersecurity lead at the U.K.’s Institution of Engineering and Technology.

“It creates some interesting challenges for enterprise IT,” Boyes said. “They need to know there are some increasingly complex networks being put into their buildings that are running outside their control. “As one example, Boyes pointed to the growing use of IP-enabled closed-circuit security cameras at many buildings. In some cases, the cameras might be used instead of a motion sensor to detect whether someone is in a room, and whether to keep the lights or heat turned on. In such a situation, the camera, the lighting and the heating systems would all need to be integrated. Each of the systems could also have web connectivity linking them with an external third party for maintenance and support purposes. “You quickly get into a situation where a network that was just inside the building goes to locations outside the building,” Boyes said.

It’s not only heating, lighting and security systems that are integrated in this manner. An elevator manufacturer might stick smart sensors on all the elevators in a building to detect and spot a failure before it happens. Or, a building manager might have technology in place to monitor and conserve water use in a facility. Many of these technologies will have a path out of the building and over an IP network to a third-party supplier or service provider, Boyes said. Often the data from these systems are captured not only for real-time decision support but also for longer-term data analytics.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that many of the communications protocols for building automation and control networks, such as BACnet and LonTalk, are open and transparent, said Jim Sinopoli, managing principal at Smart Buildings LLC. Device manufacturers have adopted these protocols for product compatibility and interoperability purposes, Sinopoli said. However, the openness and transparency also increase the vulnerability of building automation networks. “None of these systems are isolated any longer,” Sinopoli said. A security breach in one system could have a cascading effect on multiple building automation systems and networks, he said.

The threat is not only about someone penetrating a building system to cause serious disruptions. There is also a potential impact on IT, such as a loss of communications due to a building system outage or unauthorized access to enterprise data because of poor segmentation between the building automation network and the IT network. “The penetration of IT into building systems is an issue that is front and center,” at a growing number of companies, Sinopoli said.

As buildings have become smarter, vendors of consumer devices have begun entering the space, said Rolf von Roessing, president of German security consulting company Forta AG and a member of ISACA’s Professional Influence and Advocacy Committee. ISACA is a trade group focused on IT governance issues, with 128,000 members. “Building automation, including critical functionality, is now readily available through web shops and hardware or electronics stores. While professional solutions usually feature in-built security and protection against hacking, consumer offerings are less well protected,” von Roessing said.

In terms of preparation, IT practitioners should extend their information security and cybersecurity management processes to cover buildings and building management systems, he said. “In many cases, these will be controlled through a Windows-based or compatible interface, using standard PC equipment and network connectivity via standard IP,” von Roessing said. “Where remote control is a known or desired feature, security practitioners should look long and hard at mobile devices, the remote control apps and underlying processes. If and where critical building functionality can be controlled and manipulated from an unprotected mobile device, there is a significant risk of breaches,” he said.

For a growing number of companies, the issue is already upon them, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at SANS. In a SANS survey on the security of the Internet of Things, smart buildings and industrial control systems were the second most frequently cited near-term concern behind consumer devices, Pescatore said. Often, IT has little idea of the sheer scope of the issue, Pescatore said, He gave the example of one university’s chief information security officer at a recent SANS conference who ran a security scan of a new building on the campus. “In a single six-story building, he found nearly 1,500 sensors,” in elevators, doors, camera systems, lighting and heating systems and elsewhere, Pescatore said.

Traditionally, building management systems have not been considered IT systems. They are not selected by the CIO and have long been considered operational technology under the purview of building and facilities management teams. That attitude will have to change. Building management and IT organizations will need to work together to identify and mitigate potential risks, said Robert Stroud, the incoming international president of ISACA. But any response will need to be based on a thorough understanding of the risks, Stroud said. Companies will likely have to pay more attention to practices like network segmentation, strong authentication and network monitoring. Vendor management processes will need special attention, Stroud noted.

Many of the devices integrated in smart buildings have little security built into them and come from vendors that are unfamiliar to most IT organizations. Suppliers in the building automation world don’t have the same kind of processes in place that IT vendors do for responding to vulnerabilities in their products. Few have any notification process to let customers know about security threats to their products. IT organizations will need to work with building management teams to update vendor lists, build a register of contacts and know who to reach out to in case a response needs to be escalated, Stroud said.

 

Source: CiteWorld

In this office, there are no cubicles, no lavish corner suites for executives and very few filing cabinets.

Employees hustle about, plugging in laptops and hooking into phone lines at any desk that’s convenient. A giant video screen overlooks a cafe where employees can conduct business in an informal setting, grab a bite or maybe catch an inning or two of the San Francisco Giants game.

This could be the headquarters of Google, Facebook or maybe Apple. But it’s not. It’s the 24th floor of 500 Capitol Mall, where the Sacramento office of commercial real estate services firm CBRE is test-driving an emerging concept in workplace design. Can a modern, perk-laden, almost-paper-free office be better for business? Los Angeles-based CBRE Group Inc., which has more than 40,000 employees and 300 offices worldwide, thinks so.

The transformation of its Sacramento office is part of a global CBRE initiative, known as “Workplace360”. It was implemented last year in Los Angeles and earlier this month in Orlando, Fla. The Sacramento office makeover is the fifth CBRE transition in the United States; more than two dozen CBRE offices worldwide are converting to the model in 2014. It’s intended to save space, promote collaboration, offer more flexibility, trim costs and even help attract the next generation of younger employees.

It’s also part of a trend in workplace design, commonly referred to as “untethered” or “free address” office space. With the advent of mobile technology, some companies are abandoning traditional office cubicles, in favor of shared or communal workspace. In a 2008 survey of 950 companies, about 60 percent said they had some kind of “unassigned workspace,” according to the International Facility Management Association, a trade group of facility managers.

For the local CBRE office, the recent move represents a major shift, physically and philosophically. In its first Sacramento office relocation in more than 40 years, the company only moved across the street but entered into a completely new way of operating. At its former offices, at 555 Capitol Mall, CBRE was spread out over three floors, with most employees working in traditional cubicles. High stacks of paper and rows of filing cabinets were the norm.

At its new address, all operations are on one floor, encompassing about 17,500 square feet. Mountains of paper have been all but banished. Each employee was allowed to bring one filing cabinet to the new office, which meant purging, scanning and recycling old files. With no assigned desks, CBRE’s Sacramento employees – about 100 in all – can plug in anywhere. Each has a company-issued laptop with Wi-Fi access to printers and digital files, as well as a virtual private network that lets them securely connect to their office documents from anywhere in the world. According to the company, ahead of the move, employees purged 500,000 paper documents, many of which are now accessed digitally by “key word” searches from their laptops.

Each desk is fully equipped with pens, highlighters, notepads, even a bottle of hand sanitizer. When employees leave at night, every desktop is “100 percent clear,” except for a phone, computer mouse, blue-tooth headsets and dual computer monitors. That “clean desk” policy applies to everyone, from top executives to junior staffers. David Brennan, senior managing director of CBRE Sacramento, said the everything-on-one-floor concept alone “was huge for us. It encourages a more collaborative environment.” Additionally, the firm’s new offices serve as a “real-world example” for corporate clients, who often seek advice on incorporating new workplace technologies, he noted.

“Workplace360” was launched after CBRE officials did extensive research on office designs that would foster mobility and flexibility, but also consolidate workspace to encourage more teamwork, as well as reduce square footage requirements. CBRE officials believe there’s a payoff in collaboration among the company’s many commercial real estate divisions, which range from financing and property management to a unit that specializes in auto dealership transactions.

Research showed that its brokers and staff typically spent about 50 percent of their time working with others and the other half working alone. Employees are encouraged to work in “neighborhoods” of colleagues doing similar tasks. There are seven “huddle rooms,” where small teams can meet for conferencing and video presentations. There are also single-person “focus rooms” when privacy is a must.

It can be an adjustment for longtime employees used to sitting at the same desk every day, perhaps surrounded by personal photos and mementos. “There was some anxiety at first,” said Chris Schempp, who oversaw hundreds of details as director of CBRE’s in-house project team during the 15-month planning and moving process. “But as things started coming together, you could tell that more (employees) were buying into the concept.”

Each employee has a personal, locked filing cabinet, which some use to keep family photos that they prop up on whatever desk they’re using that day. There also are banks of lockers for storing laptops, briefcases or other personal items and a coatroom where suits and ties can be stashed for client meetings.

Amy DeAngelis, the CBRE Sacramento senior vice president who brokered the deal for the 24th floor space and the 11-year lease in the office building owned by Tsakopoulos Investments, said care was taken to make sure CBRE workers could utilize space efficiently, “which affects the bottom line financially.” The elimination of nearly 1,320 square feet of filing cabinet space alone will yield an estimated $453,000 savings in storage costs, during the lease term.

The new office design also takes into account employee health and wellness. Desktops, which have an antimicrobial coating to prevent retention of germs, can be height adjusted at the touch of a button. Stand-up work stations give employees the option of taking a break from their self-adjusting ergonomic chairs. Strategically placed treadmill “walk stations” enable employees to burn off nervous energy without bothering others. Subtle white noise fills the office, muffling what could otherwise be an annoying cacophony of dozens of brokers talking to clients on phones. The building also has a fitness gym and bike-to-work lockers and showers.

Perhaps the most eye-popping perk is the cafe area’s video screen that can, with Google Earth technology, zoom in on virtually any spot on the globe. Brennan said the ability to scope out every angle of a commercial real estate site – remotely – saves enormous amounts of time and money. “Think of all it would take to make a trip to, say, Chico, and do all that work on the ground,” he said. “Here, we can get a detailed look at any property and its surroundings in minutes.”

CBRE is pursuing “green building” certification for its 24th-floor office, under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, which requires meeting stringent environmental standards in construction and operation, including reduced water use and renewable energy sources.

The “Workplace360” model also is designed to attract the next generation of employees – particularly young, tech-savvy workers who are likely to be drawn to offices similar to those of high-powered, Bay Area tech companies. “If you have the resources to remake your office setting, it’s a good way to go,” said Peter Schaub, a New York-based marketing and branding expert. “Talented millennials who have the skills to be in demand aren’t necessarily thinking like their parents. Pay and benefits still count of course, but they put high emphasis on the look and feel of a workplace. “It could make the difference between landing talent, or not,” said Schaub. “If you have a recruit say, ‘Wow, I get to work in a place that looks this cool,’ you’ve probably got them hooked.”

The company doesn’t divulge what it spent on all of its new office technologies, but considers it a long-term investment. “It was not so much a cost-saving initiative but an investment in our employees and the workplace of the future,” said CBRE consultant Matt Fritsch. Now, when he visits the company’s traditional offices in Roseville and Stockton, those office environments seem so “foreign,” he said. “For employees who enjoy a clutter-free environment, this is a beautiful place to be.”

 

Source: The Sacramento Bee

Approximately 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day.

That staggering fact is not lost on the world of commercial real estate, and many in the property management field in particular are working to deal with the waves of coming retirements.

And, as the younger generation of property managers take over, many experts say they will continue to carry the flag of sustainability and push property management to be even greener than it is now. “It’s not that the new generation will save our bacon,” says Marc Intermaggio, executive vice president of BOMA San Francisco, noting that property management has come a long way in sustainability goals. “But there is a broader level of consensus among the younger folks simply because these environmental issues have been elevated more for them, than during the 1950s and 1960s.”

BOMA San Francisco has been partnering with San Francisco State University’s College of Business to develop curriculum that allows students to get a certificate in commercial real estate by taking four specially designed classes. The first four students graduated from that program this winter. “We’re trying to take this to the rest of the California state university system,” says Intermaggio. “This is going to help students be more job-ready, to have even more training, to have a greater familiarity with the issues.”

Industry analyst CEL & Associates Inc. estimates that there could be an annual shortage of 15,000 to 25,000 qualified real estate professionals—in all fields— nationwide, says Christopher Lee, president of the group. Property managers are a profession that is also constantly in demand, Lee says. In a boom, more managers are needed to meet demand of new construction; in a downturn, managers are still needed to keep existing buildings going—and to ensure they operate at peak efficiency to save crucial capital.

Lee says it is difficult to predict when real estate professionals will be leaving because many are staying on longer due to the recession. Property management is also a field that allows people to work into their later years, unlike more physically taxing jobs, he says. “Many people are holding back on retirement because of economic uncertainty,” says Lee. “But once they leave, they will leave at a quick pace and my concern is that there is a lack of people in the pipeline to take their place.”

Individual companies are also working to ensure that the younger generation is ready to take the reins—and that they will continue to maintain sustainability programs. CBRE Group Inc. has put 15,000 employees through BOMA’s Energy Efficiency Program. It has 500 LEED AP (Accredited Professionals) employees in all fields. Cushman Wakefield has 71 LEED AP professionals and 100 LEED GA (Green Associate)-certified employees, mostly in property management. Over the next two years, the company plans to train 80 managers through the Urban Green Council’s GPRO courses.

 

 

Source: National Real Estate Investor

Advances in building and information technologies have brought a new “big data” analytics-based approach to facilities management—one that ushers in a new era of operational control, reliability and productivity for businesses and workers. Smart buildings can increase employee comfort, engagement and productivity, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s latest report, The Changing Face of Smart Buildings: The Op-Ex Advantage.

Technological advances have finally converged with long-existing and significant opportunities for improving energy efficiency and the user experience within buildings. We are seeing tenant satisfaction improve while building operating costs are reduced, especially when tenants are actively engaged with controlling energy usage.

The Big Data generated by smart building systems is a major force shaping the human experience within buildings. Building data analytics provides unprecedented insight into energy use and facilities operations.

Today’s computer-controlled “smart” building systems can be programmed to accommodate the needs of building occupants. Lighting and temperature, for instance, can automatically adjust during peak and off-peak occupancy periods. Smart building technologies can be used to provide a more customized and energy-efficient experience for building users—think, better temperature, lighting or security control for offices, and more reliable power for manufacturing facilities.

In addition, these automated systems generate reams of data that a smart building management service can transmit to a remote data center for analysis by facilities professionals. Using predictive analytics, facilities managers can anticipate and address user needs and requests related to heating, ventilation, lighting, way-finding, security and more.

Affordable new technologies driving smart building progress

Recent significant price reductions in cloud computing-based building management technologies have made these systems affordable. For example, wireless sensors used in smart building managed services are now available for less than $10 per unit. These sensors can transmit data from smart systems in hundreds of buildings to far-flung remote cloud-computing platforms where advanced analytics can turn data into actionable intelligence to improve building performance.

Building occupants’ growing expectations

Smart buildings can boost tenant satisfaction and productivity, according to The Changing Face of Smart Buildings. Along with next-generation buildings comes a new generation of building occupants, with new workplace preferences and expectations for their work facilities. Companies increasingly rely on mobile workers, and smart buildings are able to adapt more readily to new flexible workplace models. Clean, green, efficient buildings are gaining a marketing advantage for landlords.

The trend for employees to connect from anywhere, or to bring their own devices to custom-fitted work settings, will profoundly change the way building owners lease space. Demand for more network sophistication that can adapt to changing work patterns will play to the advantage of smart building owners.

Smart buildings also can help companies use sustainability as a hook for engaging employees. In a major Empire State Building energy retrofit, for example, the project team added smart building components to the landmark office property. Real-time energy displays enable Empire State Building tenants to better monitor and control their energy consumption, and even compete with other tenants in the building to achieve energy savings.

Looking ahead is Fraunhofer CSE’s Building Technology Showcase in Boston that houses Fraunhofer’s building science research facilities, designed to consume half the energy of a comparable structure. In the lobby, an iPad-driven display shows the building’s internal smart building technology at work, with digital read-outs showing real-time energy gains in lighting, cooling and heating, water use and energy generation. It’s a simple but powerful idea that potentially could be applied in every smart building lobby.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s report, The Changing Face of Smart Buildings: The Op-Ex Advantage, provides a comprehensive, state-of-the-market view on smart buildings, providing the first multi-dimensional business case for smart technology investment. The full report can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/HvhSx6

 

 

Source: NREI

biggest office deals of 2016

Homeowners that want coverage from Citizens Property Insurance could end up with a much more expensive policy from unregulated out-of-state insurers under a new bill passed in the Senate Friday.

The Senate voted 22-16 for the bill that could result in homeowners seeking coverage from Citizens to be shifted to a private surplus line insurance company that aren’t subjected to state regulations.

Several senators, includings some Republicans, objected to the bill. “We have insurance regulation in the state of Florida for a good reason,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth. “It’s to make sure consumers in Florida aren’t being taken advantage of.”

Since the tea party wave of 2010, the Republican majority in the legislature has chipped away at the policies covered by Citizens. The state-backed insurer was set up to be the insurer of last resort, but grew as private insurers tried to limit their exposure in the state.

Last year legislators approved creating a clearinghouse that requires insurance agents to look at offers from private insurers before allowing someone to purchase a Citizens policy. A customer is ineligible for Citizens if one of the insurers charges premiums that are within 15 percent of Citizens rates.

The Senate bill (SB 1672) would add surplus line insurers to those insurers that could be offered through the clearinghouse starting in January.

Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, defended the bill and said it would give homeowners another choice for coverage. He said homeowners would be told ahead of time that the surplus line insurers are not regulated the same way as other insurers.

Simmons added that homeowners would also be allowed to move back to Citizens after receiving coverage from the surplus line insurer. He also noted some Floridians already insure their homes with these type of insurers.

“We have gone overboard to protect the consumer so the consumer can make an intelligent decision,” Simmons said.

Florida’s former insurance consumer advocate, however, blasted the proposal.

“These surplus lines insurers are a last resort given the lack of regulatory oversight,” said Sean Shaw, founder of Policyholders of Florida and who is running for the Florida Legislature. “These companies would be able to jack up rates on Floridians without state regulation — putting seniors and families at risk. We stopped this from happening before and it needs to be stopped again.”

Source:  NBC Miami

We’ve all seen them hanging from the side of a building and thought to ourselves, “Man, I would never do that. Those guys must be crazy.”

Well, to be honest, some of them are, but most are not. The fact is, the profession of washing windows on high rise buildings is actually very safe when all of the standards and regulations are followed properly. Of course, it still takes a tremendous amount of courage to climb over the side of a building and into a boatswain’s chair or to power that stage down when there is nothing separating you from the ground other than a thin aluminum floor.

So how do these folks do it? What makes them secure enough to make a cognitive decision to walk off of a perfectly good rooftop and into thin air, where, for the next hour or so, they will be suspended from lines as thin as your thumb, all the while cleaning the glass of your office or condo building?

The answer is, or should be, safety. Safety is the most important factor when any suspended maintenance work is being performed. Who is responsible for this safety, and what does working safely really mean?

The first question is being asked all across the United States every day with respect to window cleaning, particularly window cleaning done from a boatswain’s chair. Up until now, there was no clear definitive rule with respect to boatswain’s chair work under Federal OSHA. Federal OSHA does address cleaning windows using a powered platform. While some of those rules can be applied to chair work, there are so many areas of uncertainty that Federal OSHA has made proposed changes to Sub Part D – Walking Working Surfaces where they include some rules with respect to this common form of window cleaning.

The new document and the existing ANSI Standards clarify that it is the responsibility of the building owner to provide anchorages for these window cleaning professionals to attach their suspension and safety lines. This is important when the workers are utilizing boatswain’s chairs because more often than not, they are rigging directly to the rooftop anchors for both the suspension and safety lines. The rules and regulations both state that the suspension (the line supporting the worker) and safety lines (used in the event the suspension line fails) should be attached to separate and independent anchorages.

The standard form of anchorage is a rooftop anchor attached to the building’s structure that has been ideally installed during construction. We do know, however, that most building’s do not have these permanent rooftop anchors. Thus, the window washing professionals are required to make do with what structure is available on the rooftop.

We cannot expect a window washing contractor to obtain permission to drill through the roofing and down into the structure and attach a rooftop anchor as, quite simply, they are not qualified to perform this type of work. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the owner of the building to ensure rooftop anchors are available for workers to attach to prior to commencing their work.

The next burning question, assuming we have rooftop anchors or some other form of structure, is how are these workers to attach safely?

Many buildings, maybe even yours, have some form of window washing system installed. Unfortunately, more often than not, they are not in compliance with today’s rigid standards and proposed regulations. We often see derelict davit bases at an unprotected roof edge. These davit bases were originally designed to be used for suspended stages. However, as you know, most window cleaning operations are performed using a boatswain’s chair. So, how do the window washers work safely if there are no independent rooftop anchors available? The workers do what they must to ensure they can complete the work as safely as possible. This does not mean they complete the work in compliance with all the codes and standards. It means they do what they must, which, at times, really is crazy.

They will attach to vent stacks, stair railings or cinder blocks piled on the roof, none of which are designed to take the applied loads of a fall. Further, if these davit bases are existing at the roof edge, often the window washers will attach a tag line between the davit bases and attach both the suspension and safety lines to this line. The problem is the tag line has not been engineered, and in the event of failure of this line, both suspension and safety lines are attached to the same “anchorage.” The failure of one line leads to a catastrophic failure of this unengineered system, resulting in serious injury or death of the worker.

Now, realizing this is a lot of information to take in, I expect you have a lot of questions about the codes and standards. What is required? How do I know? Etc. The test is simple. Take a walk out onto your rooftop and ask yourself, “If I had to,would I attach my entire life to that anchorage?” If there is any doubt in your mind at all, contact a rooftop anchor design professional and have your building assessed for compliance and safety. Once you have the building assessed and certified and when someone asks you if those window cleaners are crazy, you can confidently answer, “Not as crazy as you think.”

 

Source: Facilities Magazine

It’s the newest residential development to go vertical in Downtown Miami—and it tackles two of the biggest challenges in the city’s recovering housing market.

Brickell View Terrace addresses the lack of market-rate rental apartments and the shortage of affordable housing options within the urban core. The multifamily tower is a joint venture between Pinnacle Housing Group and East Little Havana Community Development Corporation. Located at 940 Southwest 1st Avenue, the 23-story apartment building will combine 76 traditional multifamily units and 100 affordable housing units within a single building.

The project marks the first mixed-income multifamily building to be developed in Miami. Miami, ranked as the nation’s least affordable major city according to the Center for Housing Policy, becomes the latest US market to adopt the mixed-income model, which has proven effective in cities from New York to San Francisco.

“Just as Miami’s luxury condo market garners headlines around the world, there’s a growing need for safe, affordable, well-located places to live,” says Mitchell Friedman, partner with Pinnacle. “Brickell View Terrace will offer residents all the conveniences of urban living within close proximity of public transportation links and Miami’s major employment hubs.”

Set for completion in late 2015, the construction of Brickell View Terrace is getting under way just as an amendment to the City’s Miami 21 zoning code passes. The amendment aims to encourage residential development combining market-rate and affordable units.

“The strongest urban cores in the nation are home to a healthy mix of housing types catering to residents from all points of the economic spectrum,” says Pinnacle partner David O. Deutch. “With funding for traditional affordable housing development in Florida becoming increasingly scarce, mixed-income projects are a viable method for meeting demand and getting worthy projects built.”

Brickell View Terrace will offer community rooms, a cyber cafe, two fitness centers, and a picnic area with outdoor game tables, car care area, electric car charging stations, and a park with gazebo. The multifamily project is next to Miami’s Brickell Metro Rail Station, just west of Mary Brickell Village on Southwest 1st Avenue between Southwest 9th street and Southwest 10th Street. Brickell View Terrace will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.

 

Source: GlobeSt

Miami-Dade County has started a series of water and sewer rate hikes to pay for $12.6 billion in proposed improvements to its water and wastewater systems, including a $3 billion project to drastically reduce the amount of treated sewage the county discharges into the Atlantic Ocean by 2025.

The county’s Water and Sewer Department raised rates 8% for the fiscal year that started last October. Annual increases of 6%, 5%, and 5% are planned for the next three fiscal years, department Deputy Director Douglas Yoder told Miami Today.

And there should be more increases in the future – wiping out Miami-Dade’s longtime reputation for low water and sewer rates to raise money to fix an underfunded system that has been rife with unlawful discharges from weak and leaky pipes and system overflows, described by critics as an environmental nightmare. “Rates will continue to be impacted as we get into the actual construction, which is where you spend money quicker,” Mr. Yoder said.

Miami-Dade’s water and sewer rates have been among the nation’s lowest for many years, according to the department. Even with the 8% increase that’s already in effect, a customer using 6,750 gallons a month pays a monthly average of $45.39 – up $3.36 from the previous average. That’s still the lowest among the nine major municipal systems in Florida, the department said.

Under federal and state pressure for years to improve its wastewater system, a centerpiece of the department’s capital improvements plan for the next 15 to 20 years is the $3 billion “ocean outfall” project. The outfall project, Mr. Yoder said, is in response to a state law approved in 2008 that will ban Florida municipalities from flushing treated sewage into the ocean and will require them to reuse 60% of their wastewater by 2025. The law was eased last year, allowing municipalities to discharge up to 5% of their annual treated sewage flow into the ocean, but only due to “peak flow events” such as storms. It also gave municipalities more ways to meet the 60% reuse threshold.

Most of the cost of Miami-Dade’s outfall project – about $2 billion – will involve building a fourth wastewater treatment plant inland, somewhere near the west end of the county. It will also involve improvements to the county’s existing plants closer to the coast, including adding another layer of filtration and other cleansing steps, Mr. Yoder said. He said he expects construction for the outfall improvements to start in three to five years. Currently, he said, the county typically discharges 180 million gallons a day of treated sewage into the ocean – and sometimes 250 million gallons a day or more during peak flows – through two outfall pipes.

One pipe goes out from the Central District Wastewater Treatment Plant on Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay near downtown Miami and empties about three miles offshore, and the other pipe goes out from the North District Wastewater Treatment Plant and empties about two miles offshore, Mr. Yoder said. The central district plant was built in the 1950s and its outfall pipe was extended to its current length in the 1970s. The north district plant at Northeast 156th Street was built in the late 1970s, he said.

Before being discharged into the ocean, he said, the sewage entering the plants goes through a “biological treatment system” that removes about 90% of solids. The sewage also is disinfected with chlorine. The outfall pipes discharge into water about 190 feet deep offshore, where the outflow is swept up in the swift northern Gulf Stream current. “It’s a high volume of water that’s continuously moving,” he said. “It’s like the equivalent of eight Lake Eries going by the coast every day.”

There’s also the South District Wastewater Treatment Plant south of Cutler Bay, but treated sewage from that plant is not discharged offshore. Instead, he added, it’s discharged about 3,000 feet underground into “the boulder zone” amid the Florida saltwater aquifer. That doesn’t have affect drinking water, according to Mr. Yoder, because any saltwater from the aquifer that’s used for public consumption requires a high enough level of treatment anyway that other contaminants also are removed.

Meanwhile, the outfall plan calls for greatly increasing the amount of treated sewage that is reclaimed for reuse. A lot of the reuse, he said, will come from an agreement to send treated sewage to Florida Power & Light Co.’s enlarged and renovated Turkey Point nuclear plant for cooling its reactors.

 

Source: Miami Today

 

Florida Power & Light Co. last Wednesday proposed a pilot program that would build community solar energy projects — some with panels spanning the size of half a football field — in select cities including Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The projects would be financed by customers who choose to give FPL $9 per month, because the company would not seek state approval to be compensated for the cost of construction. Customers who contribute would still  pay the same for their electricity, since energy produced from the projects would be fed into the broader grid, not directed specifically to funders, FPL said.

The new “voluntary” program would differ from an earlier FPL solar rebate program, where the company gave rebates to select customers to install solar on their rooftops but all FPL customers paid for those installations through their electric bills, said FPL President Eric Silagy.

“No one has to pay for this if they don’t want to,” Silagy said.

But some in the solar business questioned the financing model that seems to have FPL coming out as the winner.

“Basically, what they’re saying is ‘A lot of people want solar. So you give us $9 a month and we’ll build it, and you get nothing out of it but a feel-good,’ ” said Wayne Wallace, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

Wallace rejected FPL’s claims that rooftop solar is less cost-effective than larger community solar projects.

“Investor-owned utilities don’t want to see a lot of people putting solar on their roofs, because it cuts into their revenues,” said Wallace. For consumers, rooftop solar can be very cost effective by slashing the price of their electric bills, he said.

FPL is the largest solar energy producer in Florida, but it produces only about 110 megawatts of electricity from the sun yearly  — or about one-tenth of 1 percent of all its power, said Silagy.

The company faces huge hurdles to ramp up further, he said, because state regulators are required to approve utility projects with the lowest cost of generation. Solar now is more expensive than natural gas-fired plants or nuclear plants.

That’s why FPL came up with this pilot program, seeking creative ways to add solar capacity, he said. The pilot projects proposed would build up to 2.4 megawatts of solar generation over three years.

“If it’s successful and we have a lot of customers interested, we can go bigger,” Silagy said.

FPL aims to start the first community solar projects in early 2015 and is looking to build in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Sarasota.

“The City of Fort Lauderdale is excited about the possibility of partnering with FPL to bring renewable energy generation to our neighbors,” said City Manager Lee Feldman in a news release.

But other smaller-scale solar options also are open to consumers, with other financing terms.

“What they are doing is great for the environment. We all should move toward solar,” said Joe Spector, vice president of operations for Ygrene Florida, a company negotiating with Broward County to develop a Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE program.

PACE lets property owners finance solar on their rooftops without paying any upfront cost and then, repay the financing over years with their property taxes.

“In the PACE program, the person who pays is the one that gets the direct financial benefit” by using their own solar to replace energy from the grid and slashing their electric bills, said Spector.

FPL said their new program will help measure the true interest of customers in solar energy. Many customers now say they want solar but may not be willing to pay extra for it, said Silagy.

Yet some see the pilot program as a “flawed referendum” on solar.

“If they don’t get people willing to donate $9 a month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s no huge interest in solar,” said Michael Wallander, a principal in EcoCity Partners, which also is negotiating with Broward for PACE programs. “People want solar. But many want to generate their own.”

FPL said it would make no profit on the three-year pilot program. It plans to donate $200,000 each year from program funds to nonprofits in Florida. The nonprofits would be selected by customers who choose to contribute to the program.

Regulators at the Public Service Commission must give the go-ahead for the pilot program. Hearings are expected later this year, and if approved, FPL hopes to start in January.

FPL’s parent company, Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy is the largest producer of sun and wind energy in North America.

 

Source:  SunSentinel