Commercial buildings aren’t just large houses. And when it
comes to water damage, there are major differences in the techniques used to
Most houses are built for a single purpose – for people to
live in. Commercial, industrial, institutional and complex residential
buildings, however, have many purposes and applications. They may be
constructed for retail sales outlets; nursing homes, medical offices and
hospitals; funeral homes; conference and convention centers; office complexes;
private or public schools; city, county, state or federal governmental offices;
sports facilities and numerous other institutions.
Commercial, industrial and complex residential buildings also
vary greatly in size, from a 1,000-square-foot beauty salon to a
1-million-plus-square-foot convention center.
Size and Intricacy of Building Systems
Restorers should be certain that they understand HVAC zones
and realize that positive outside air makeup systems require re-thinking of
dehumidification needs. Other building systems to be aware of include sprinkler
and other fire-suppression systems; computer systems, networks and clean rooms;
complex HVAC systems with multiple zones for air distribution; elevator shafts
and systems; stairs and stairwells (consider stack effect), and hard-wired
telephone and computer systems.
The electrical distribution systems in industrial,
institutional, commercial or complex residential buildings range in complexity,
in the amount of voltage and amperage, and in the training and licensing
required to qualify technicians for work on this equipment.
Residential power is typically 115-volt (15 to 20 amp),
single-phase 60 hertz or 220-volt, single phase 60 hertz. Most commercial
buildings, in addition to the lower voltages (higher amperage) circuits, will
have 230-volt, 3-phase 60 hertz or 460-volt, 3-phase, 60 hertz.
Low-voltage and special wiring systems – e.g. alarm and
security systems, central video and audio communications, lighting and
hard-wired computer networks – can be particularly sensitive to contamination
and corrosion. Sophisticated energy management systems (EMS) require special
understanding. Restorers should not assume that they can change an EMS to
reduce or increase outside air makeup requirements, they may even need to be
managed off-site. Coordination with building engineers to adjust or over-ride
these systems may be necessary.
There are many challenges related to public access and
security that can easily increase the time required to mobilize equipment, move
equipment around and for monitoring a job:
- on-site security must be handled
- security clearances may be required
- personnel and equipment logs are essential
There are usually multiple stakeholders or materially
interested parties (MIPs) on a restoration project, leading to more complicated
levels of project management or administration. Restorers must be aware that MIPs have their own agendas and
think their area of need is critical and more important than anyone else’s;
proper paperwork systems and communication are essential to increase
understanding on the part of all MIPs, and to avoid future litigation.
Establishing a chain of command can be important. There can
be multiple reporting requirements (owners, managers, insurance professionals,
municipal or state regulatory authorities, or licensing bureaus). Conducting
site-specific safety meetings is essential and appointing safety officers is
mandatory. Scheduled daily (often morning and evening) meetings with MIPs and
stakeholders should be the norm.
Construction Types and Practices
Commercial construction practices, materials and codes are
complex, and they vary from one jurisdiction to another. Restorers should be aware that the
construction system you do not research, inspect and understand will be the one
that sinks you! Consider:
- old vs. new construction practices.
- multiple renovations often introduce unexpected
- building codes change over the years, but many
retrofits are never done.
- neglected routine maintenance over time may lead
to significant building deterioration.
- microbial contamination due to deficient
construction (leakage) may be pre-existing.
- previous work by unqualified or unlicensed
contractors may cause significant safety hazards to exist.
Job Site Safety and OSHA Compliance
In residential structures, safety hazards usually are
limited to asbestos, mold, bacteria, common ladder safety, or the usual
slip-and-fall hazards. In commercial structures, in addition to multiple
physical accident and injury hazards, HAZMAT can include, but is not limited
- polybicarbonated biphenols (PCB)
- fuels or other dry solvents
- microbial contamination
- bloodborne or infectious pathogens
There may be all of the above plus hazardous chemicals
present, energized machinery requiring lock-out/tag-out, confined spaces,
scaffolding needs, larger equipment to move requiring forklifts and higher
Restorers must discuss the facility’s safety program to help
understand identified hazards and controls in place. The contractor must
consider environmental hazards resulting from the loss, hazards that may be
present as the result of the normal business operations of the client, and
hazards that may arise in the course of making repairs, e.g. scaffolding,
confined space, use of lifts/special equipment.
Bottom line: the challenges present in residential structure
drying are multiplied and compounded in complexity in the commercial,
industrial, and complex residential segment. Therefore, it behooves serious
drying technicians to investigate and advance their education on these
challenges before they jump from the frying pan into the fire.
these challenges, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration
Certification (IICRC) has created a new certification category, Commercial
Drying Specialist (CDS). The IICRC website, www.iicrc.org has a listing of CDS
classes that will be taught in the near future.