Florida Residents Complained About Champlain Towers Development Two Years Before Collapse

Two and a half years before the Champlain Towers South building collapsed in Florida, residents were complaining that the buildings were being developed too closely together and didn’t seem safe. 

“We are concerned that the construction next to Surfside is too close. Workers were digging too close to our property and we have concerns regarding the structure of our building. There’s construction equipment directly across from our building’s property wall,” resident Mara Chouela, who is also a board member of the condo association, wrote in a January 2019 email to a building official.

Rosendo Prieto was the official responsible for sorting through complaints made by the condo association at the time. 30 minutes after Chouela sent the initial email, Prieto responded that there was nothing that needed to be checked. He reasoned that “the offending development, an ultra-luxury tower known as Eighty Seven Park, was directly across the border separating the town of Surfside from the city of Miami Beach, which runs between the two buildings. 

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Now, after the Champlain Towers South collapse, Eighty Seven Park is facing even more scrutiny over the construction of these buildings. In fact, Champlain residents often complained that all the construction from the neighboring buildings continuously caused their units to shake.

“The construction of 87 Park did not cause or contribute to the collapse that took place in Surfside. But the 18-story tower would not have been allowed to be built across the border in Surfside, where buildings are subject to a 12-story height limit (although Champlain Towers itself received an exemption in the 1980s to add nine extra feet),” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Maggie Ramsey is a Florida resident whose mother is among the unaccounted for Champlain residents, and she claims her mother had been concerned about the work being done next door for weeks now. 

“She did complain of a lot of tremors and things that were being done to the other building that she sometimes was concerned about what may be happening to her building, and if she was at risk.” 

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Peter Dyga, the president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said that “the likelihood of the Eighty Seven Park construction being a significant cause in the Surfside collapse is slim, but no lead or idea should be excluded.”

“There’s probably going to be multiple things in the end that have contributed in some way or another. Still, buildings are built next to buildings all the time, and it doesn’t mean that they come down.”

Records also show that Champlain South residents have sent a series of angry emails to Terra Group, the developers behind Eighty Seven Park, complaining about construction debris, noise, and lack of action. 

“I am shocked and disappointed to see the lack of consideration and respect that Terra has shown our residents. You have said you want to be a good neighbor… This is truly outrageous and quite unprecedented from what we hear from other associations in the area that have dealt with construction beside them,” Anette Goldstein, a condo board member, wrote to executives with the developer. 

Luxury Home

Home Construction Projects At An All Time Low Since Pandemic Began

The US is currently facing a historic shortage of homes for sale, which is why it’s surprising that homebuilders aren’t working as frequently as they once were towards the beginning of the pandemic. With the pandemic itself coming to a close, many Americans are continuing to look for work, and real estate prices and service fees have only increased for the same reason. 

According to reports from NBC, single-family housing is priced 13% lower when compared to this time last year. This marks the sharpest decline since last April, when the pandemic initially shut down the economy.  

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“I have to blame the difficulty in procuring lumber and other products, along with labor issues for the miss, in addition to likely cancellations due to skyrocketing costs for single family starts,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.

According to a recent survey performed by the National Association of Home Builders, “prices of new and existing homes are at record levels, and the increases are accelerating at the fastest clip in over 15 years. Nearly half of all builders say they are adding escalation clauses to their sale prices because of rising material costs.”

“Escalation clauses specify that if building materials increase, by a certain percentage for example, the customer would be responsible for paying the higher cost. Including such a clause allows all parties to be on notice that the contract costs could change if materials prices change due to supply constraints outside the builder’s control,” according to the NAHB.

In a monthly sentiment survey, they also noted that “builders said they were slowing production in order to deal with higher costs for lumber, steel, gypsum and copper, some of which have hit record highs this year. A broad mix of residential construction materials is up in aggregate 12.4% over the previous 12 months.”

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The NAHB claimed in their statement that lumber alone increased in price tremendously throughout the past year; specifically the group claimed the increase has added an additional $36,000 charge to every single-family home building cost. 

The housing sector, like most of the industry, is also dealing with a major shortage in labor. Last April saw a major decrease in construction employment due to the fact that construction projects were some of the first to be halted when the pandemic began, leaving thousands of laborers unemployed or indefinitely furloughed. 

“Contractors are experiencing unprecedented intensity and range of cost increases, supply-chain disruptions, and worker shortages that have kept firms from increasing their workforces. These challenges will make it difficult for contractors to rebound as the pandemic appears to wane,” said Ken Simonson, chief economist with Associated General Contractors of America, an industry trade group. 

“Builders are also reporting difficulty obtaining other inputs like appliances. These supply-chain constraints are holding back a housing market that should otherwise be picking up speed, given the strong demand for buying fueled by an improving job market and low mortgage rates,” said Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association.

NYC’s West Village Now Has A 100,000-Square-Foot Amenity Space Of Luxury

New York Architect David Rockwell recently completed this project that’s located under the five-acre luxury development known as Waterline Square. The space itself is described as a 100,000-square-foot amenity level in New York’s Upper West Side that has attractions such as indoor gardening, a boxing gym, and a half-pipe skate park. 

Real Estate Meeting

Global Real Estate Leader Discusses Covid-19 Impact On Design And Commercial Industry

Jack Paruta is the senior project architect with Gensler; one of the largest architecture, design, and consulting firms in the real estate industry.

Architects working Together

Antonio Citterio Discusses Resilience And Sustainability In The Architecture Industry

Antonio Citterio’s aim as a designer and architect has always been to create spaces that evoke a sense of quality. Spaces that are useful for the individuals daily life while being creative enough to embody a sense of the client’s personality.

Bikes on Bridge

Europe’s Longest Cycling Bridge Begins Construction In The Netherlands

Construction on what is projected to be Europe’s longest bridge for cyclists and pedestrians has begun in the Netherlands. The Blauwe Loper, or Blue Carpet Bridge, will be over 2600 feet long, basically half of a mile, and stretch over a lake, nature reserve, canal, and motorway. The purpose of the bridge is to connect a new town in the Netherlands to the closest city for easy access. 

The plan is to eventually extend the bridge to be over 3,000 feet in length but construction is being done by phases, the first of which is predicted to be completed by December of 2020. The bridge itself will cost approximately six million American dollars and will connect Winschoten, located in the Groningen province in the Netherlands, to Blauwestad, which as previously mentioned is a brand new village that is also currently being constructed on reclaimed land in the Netherlands. 

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The Blue Carpet Bridge is being constructed with three demographics in mind; cyclists, pedestrians, and oddly enough, bats. As previously stated, the bridge itself will stretch over a nature preserve and a lake, more specifically Oldambtmeer lake, both of which are safe habitats for the Netherlands extensive bat population. 

Not only will the bridge be painted a “bat-friendly” green, studies show that bats are attracted to green hues at night, but it also will be lined with LED lighting to assist the creatures in finding their way from the nature preserve to the lake, or vice versa. 

Reinder Lanting, one of the main project leaders for the project, told a regional publication the main goals for the bridge in the long term, stating: “We think we can stretch it to a kilometre by connecting it to the main street in Blauwestad. This bridge is not going to rot. That is because it is technically well designed. The wood is not pressed together but has a sort of venting system.”

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The wood that Lanting is referring to is being sourced from Gabon in Central Africa. Gabon in general is known for their okoumé, which can be converted into plywood, in fact the country supplies it to over 90% of the world. With this wood Lanting and his team expect that the bridge will last for at least 80 years before it needs any major upgrades/renovations. 

The Dutch cycling embassy, a government-funded agency, tweeted: “The province of Groningen has started construction on the €6.5m, 800-metre Blauwe Loper … When completed in late 2020, it will be the longest bicycle bridge in Europe.”

The Netherlands in general have been making major systematic changes to their industrial geography to accommodate cyclists more. In general the efforts are to benefit the environment and combat the devastating effects of climate change. 

Currently, the longest cycling bridge in Europe is located in Sölvesborg, southern Sweden. THat bridge is around 2,400 feet, about 200 feet smaller than what the Blauwe Loper is projected to be when fully constructed. The largest cycling bridge in the world, however, is the Xiamen Bicycle Skyway in China. The Skyway is about 4.7 miles long, and weaves throughout China’s buildings like an extended High Line.


Mexican Community Being Built Using 3D Printer

A neighborhood in Mexico is being built for families who are currently living on $3 per day, thanks to a 3D printer. Two houses have already been created using an enormous 3D printer in a poverty stricken area of Mexico, making them the first houses in the new neighborhood. However, developers are saying the houses are not prototypes and that they are planning on replacing the current, rickety structures that residents had previously used to build their homes – such as wood or metal – within the next twelve months.

Tabasco in Mexico is a seismic zone, prone to flooding and earthquakes and therefore need structures that can stay upright during an earthquake, and dry during the torrential rains.The community is being built by New Story and their co-founder and CEO Brett Hagler, who told CNN:

“These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income … and they’re living on about an average of $3 a day. They’re living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for months.”

A non-profit whose aim is to help families in need of a home, New Story has already built over 2,700 dwellings in Mexico and South America since Hagler co-founded the company in 2014. However, this is the first project they have opted to use 3D printing for all the properties.

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Partnering with ICON and ÉCHALE has enabled them to work on the ambitious project. The project is using 3D printing robotics that were developed by construction technology company ICON. Mexican non-profit ÉCHALE have been working to locate the families who will eventually live in the properties and therefore have taken their input to help the design of the building.

The printer is a staggering 33-foot and “prints” a concrete mix to build the walls, layer by layer. As the mix hardens while it’s drying it can take around 24 hours – over a couple of days – for two homes to be built. This is nearly twice as fast as a New Story home is built using normal techniques. New Story says that since the mix is stronger than concrete, the foundations are reinforced, helping the properties to stand up to any seismic activity.

Each 500-square-foot home will have a flat roof and curved walls, with a living room, kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. However, the two homes already built are still empty as it would not be safe for residents to live in the construction area. It is unclear as yet how much each house will cost however New Story is keen to work with families, potentially charging them around 20-30 per cent of their income. Many residents in Tabasco just want the opportunity to own something in their own community.

Austin based company ICON took over three years to create a printer that would be able to sustain this type of project, and this printer – named Vulcan II – is perfect for the job. Although in this project the printer is concentrating on two 500-square-foot homes simultaneously, it has the capacity to build one 2,000 square foot house. It can also build walls that are 28 feet wide and nearly 9 feet tall.

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In the last year alone the speed in which the printer works has become a lot faster. In March 2018 ICON announced they had built a three bedroom house in 48 hours. Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON explained:

“It’s 10 times better than where we were a year ago. I am so proud. It is so rare that the most in need of our sisters and brothers globally get first access to advanced technologies and breakthroughs in materials science. We think part of what 3D printing allows us to do is to deliver a much higher-quality product to the housing market at a speed and price that’s typically not available for people in low-income housing. It is a house that anyone would be proud to live in.”

However getting the printer away from the lab and actually getting it into the construction site was a hard task thanks to some harsh weather conditions. Although the company used a standard shipping container to move the printer to site, border authorities asked many questions when they say it.

Ballard confirmed that the printer had arrived at the height of summer, at the beginning of the rainy season, therefore creating even more logistical issues for the company. With muddy roads, floods and high humidity Ballard says he realized how lucky we are in America.


How Chicago Is Changing The Way You Sell Your Home

When you think of a top tier real estate agent, you think of someone honest, compassionate, and driven to give you the best deal on a new home while getting you the most money by selling your own. The process of selling your property can definitely be tricky, especially if certain areas of your home are run down, outdated, or just generally not what the current market is looking for. Many well-rounded and established agents will help you budget your money for the best and easiest renovations that can make your property more appealing for buyers. However, there are plenty of sellers who can barely afford their move, and adding in extra space in their budgets for renovations on a property they’re leaving is just not realistic.  Three major agencies in Chicago are testing a way to challenge this issue that’s been affecting so many sellers, and fronting the money to their clients to pay for the renovations.  

Coldwell Banker and a partner, HomeAdvisor, are launching RealVitalize, while Baird & Warner and Berkshire Hathaway Home Services both have deals to hook its clients up with renovation firm Curbio, according to Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine. The different groups have different roles and means of providing these amazing service for its clients, but all essentially have the same goal of providing money for renovations. When they say “renovations” they also mean more cosmetic updates, nothing that’s structural, their main focus is making the homes visually appealing for buyers. Basically it’s an extreme way of “staging” a home for sale. 

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“Buyers typically don’t want to do a lot of work. They want turnkey, move-in ready. But sellers sometimes haven’t redone the home in a decade or more. Maybe it has outdated brown carpeting, or wallpaper on the walls, the sorts of finishes that may turn off shoppers as they click through online listings. Our brokerage’s new offer is a bridge for seller between what the house looks like and what it should look like to get it sold,” said Laura Ellis, president of residential sales at Baird & Warner to Crain’s Magazine

Separating from the cost, so many sellers are unaware of what renovations actually need to get done to make their property more attractive to potential buyers. The process of selling a home also already takes up so much time, that scheduling three different contractors to come in and give you estimates just isn’t ideal, however, the process of rehabilitating your old home is often necessary if you want to sell. Just like you would want to move into an already furnished newly renovated home, so will the buyer of your property. So these agencies are using their contractor connections, and expertise to help their clients not only financially, but advice wise as well. They offer all the necessary changes they believe will help sell the house faster, and you know they’re going to offer the bare minimum because they’re the ones initially paying for it!

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“The program removes those obstacles to getting the maximum price and shortening the selling time. While some sellers might enjoy doing the design and material selection themselves and others might use a firm, the brokerages’ programs offer one stop for value and convenience. The key to all the brokerages’ rehab programs is that the seller gets what amounts to an interest-free loan. The cost of the upgrades is paid out of the seller’s proceeds from the eventual sale,” said Ayoub Rabah, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to Crain’s Magazine. 

Clients aren’t paying any hidden interest, additional fees, or extreme labor rates, and rehabbers make their money from the process by selling their materials to clients in bulk. You’re not only paying the bare minimum for a home face-lift, but you’re also being guaranteed the expertise of these agencies to sell your house for the most amount of money, while costing you the least, making the process nearly impossible to pass up. This type of process is gaining a lot of media attention for its potentially positive impact on the housing market. If these agencies prove over time that this interest-free renovation “loan” type system works, the US is likely to see a large expansion of this method of real estate marketing.

Museum Paintings

Museum Of Modern Art Gets A Total Makeover

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is the countries most visited modern art museum, but for the last four months, art lovers and experts alike had to put their contemporary art desires aside while the MoMA underwent an extensive renovation and expansion. According to CBS News, the museum is anticipated to re-open on October 21st, which has been the set date since the beginning, so the huge project has been moving smoothly and right on schedule. The entire renovation is set to cost $450 million when all is said and done; that price will cover the cost of an entire new wing in the museum, expanding the current gallery space by 30%! Glenn Lowry, MoMA’s director projects that the museum will be able to hold almost one thousand pieces of additional art with the new space. 

“For me, what’s so exciting is that there were two museums when I arrived here 25 years ago. There was the museum that was on display, and there was the museum that was in storage. And they were unrelated. And now what we’ve done is bring those two museums together, so the museum on display much better reflects that museum that was in storage,” said Lowry to CBS

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Lowry also went on to explain the purpose behind the massive renovation that left the museum with months of no business. Previously, the MoMA was built up of individual departments, according to Lowry. Those departments were mainly representative of different art mediums, artists, and time periods. Each department had its own individual section, making each one disconnected from the other. While logically it seems to make sense that you would organize every room in a museum to contain one specific department, it ended up becoming very restrictive to how many pieces of one specific type of art they could have on display at a time; hence, Lowry’s “two museum” explanation. 

Now, architect Liz Giller and her team at Diller Scofidio + Renfro worked tirelessly to open up the museum and expand it to reach its full potential for displaying modern art. She wanted to open up the general entry space and make the entire museum seem more inviting. In addition, she moved the gift shop down a level, also in an effort to open up the general entry space of the museum. 

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“This will be just full of natural light coming in, and the store is actually bigger. So, even though it’s below the ground, it takes advantage of all this natural light – we have this fantastic visibility between the street and the lobby. Attention was paid to every detail, even the stairwell,” she said

The intensive process also involved a complete reorganization of the gallery space, which included the cleaning and refurbishing of a lot of longtime MoMA displays that needed some sprucing up. The renovation isn’t just to give the museum an updated look, but to re-brand the entire Modern Art experience. CBS reports that the museum will now contain five times the amount of pieces made by female artists, and the space will be updating the artwork held in the museum much more frequently. Specifically, every six months a third of the current art collections hanging in the museum will be swapped for new ones, or ones that haven’t been on display in a while. While the museum will have to close again during these transitional periods, and it adds a lot more work to all the staff, it’s all a part of the “New MoMA” project and experience, to keep them at the top of their game, and keep frequent art aficionados interested.