As we feel the effects of the summer season, it is important for building owner’s and managers to ensure that proper precautions are taken in anticipation of the extreme summer heat. In addition to the employee safety hazards presented by excessive heat, many building materials and components do not fair well in the harsh summer heat. The following are a few suggestions for owners and managers to consider at the onset of summer. Personal safety is always of utmost importance; below are a few comments on this topic. For more on this topic, please check out OSHA’s webpage. Before venturing out on to a rooftop it is important to be aware that the temperature of a roof’s surface may be as much as 60 to 70 degrees higher than the ambient temperature. Dehydration can set in quickly under these conditions. During days of excessive heat, rooftop visits should be limited to brief time increments. Any personnel that must be out on the roof should be well prepared including wearing proper protective clothing and, having plenty of drinking water available. Dehydration does not only effect workers on the roof, but can also be a threat to those performing other outdoor tasks. When performing work from a suspended scaffold, regularly scheduled breaks should be allocated to allow workers time to cool off in the shade and replenish fluids. An ample supply of water or sports drinks should be provided to workers on suspended scaffolds, as it is not easy for them to get water from the job site water cooler as needed. Along with the heat of summer, we also experience fast moving thunderstorms; therefore, weather forecasts should be monitored regularly. Thunderstorms often bring wind and lightning, which poses great risk to personnel on the exterior of a building. In addition to suspending work activities prior to the onset of thunderstorms, all loose material should be secured from wind uplift. Lightweight insulation boards should be of particular concern. Many building components are also at increased exposure to risk in the summer heat. The following are just a few comments with regards to the protection of these components: Many buildings, particularly older residential buildings, require the use of window mounted air conditioners to cool interior spaces in the summer months. These units must be installed properly, using brackets approved for use with the individual unit. At a minimum, improperly installed air conditioners may damage the window frame; however, a greater risk is posed by a unit falling from a window. In New York City, improperly installed window air conditioning units are considered unsafe conditions under the guidelines of Local Law 11\98 and must be reported as such to the Deptartment of Buildings. To avoid any unnecessary risks, a comprehensive a/c unit installation and\or inspection plan should commence at the start of the summer. For more on this topic, please see our previous article on this topic. If any exterior restoration is to be performed in the vicinity of air conditioning intakes, properly designed filters should be installed and replaced regularly throughout the duration of the work. It is important to note that the intent of these filters is to restrict dust from entering the a/c unit; the filters do this by restricting air flow. Air conditioner units that are operated while filters are in place, should be monitored, as they can present some issues. The filters do not stop all dust from being pulled in, and therefore, dust can quickly build up within the units internal filter, or at times, actually pass through the unit and blow into the interior space. Additionally, the restricted airflow can cause unusually hard working motors to burn up. Residents should listen to their units to see if their motor appears to be struggling, periodically feel the units for unusual heat, and, monitor the conditioned air to make sure that it is cooling the air with the same consistency as when the exterior filters are not in place.
Another issue that effects many residential buildings in the summer, is the increased use of balconies and terraces. As we are all aware, several tragedies involving failed balcony railings have recently occurred in New York City. With the combination of the degrading effects that the harsh winter weather has on railing connections, posts, balusters and infills, and, the increased stress on railings in the summer, proper inspections of railings and connections should be performed at the start of every summer. For more information on balcony inspections, please see our previous article on this topic.
Many materials used in building envelope restoration are negatively effected by extreme heat, including mortar, sealants, paints, coatings and roofing & waterproofing adhesives. Particular attention should be paid to the manufacturer’s and the engineer’s requirements for temperature restrictions on the installation of these materials. It is not only the temperature at the time of installation, but, the anticipated temperature during the curing time of these materials, that is of concern.