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underground garages, bldgs across the US

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Sometimes I get very jealous of you California/western engineers. WOrking on
a four level custum house cut into the side of the mountain. Forensic
analysis of not a single story underground parking structure on a
residential application, but TWO story. I am assuming the latter is for an
apartment. I have not seen that but in other countries and maybe in a
magazine. Living and working mainly in FL does not lead to much subterranean
work, unless doing forensic analysis on a sinkhole, which IS quite
interesting, but I digress....

In FL and the SE US, in my limited experience, the architect and engineer,
along with input from the owner, usually determine building type. That
differs in a design-build where the GC may have lots of input. If an owner
already has a GC or has done several bldgs, they may already have a system
in mind.

Almost every building I have worked on, 3 story and less, has contained CMU,
except for pre-fab metal buildings. Even then, they have used it as
cladding. It is used for a mix of bearing walls and almost always shear
walls. Then for retail, or even office and mixed commercial, the interior is
TS columns with steel beams and joists w/ metal deck. I don't know if steel
cost is that much of an issue anymore since we have to have huge tariffs
just to protect the market from foreign steel, but I am sure Charlie or some
expert like that would be the one to ask. Steel is not made down here, but
there are fabricators all over FL and the SE, so I don't think cost of steel
makes a big difference. I am not sure about why CMU is so popular, but we do
sit on a giant mine of sand and limestone known as Florida. Also, CMU is
great for this climate, weather, and all the bugs we have. Good R value for
running the AC for 6-8 months. Great flexural and shear props for high
winds. Only weather problem is rain and heat (and humidity), and that is why
in the summer they start at 6 or earlier. They pour concrete at 2 or 3 am
sometimes to avoid the heat. Labor- lots of cheap and unskilled with no
unions, many immigrants also. BUT, this does not mean quality. I think CMU
labor quality and workmanship could not be much worse then here. I don't
know if that is related to lack of union or poor tech schools or poor
training in general. Maybe we do not have enough qualifications for masons.
It is not an art or craft anymore, it is just slapping up brick and mortar.

Wood is used mostly in trusses, but also for special applications that we do
not usually do like churches and specialty offices or park structures, or in
residential. In my town they recently built a 4 story office building out of
wood, which I was very surprised to see. All other bldgs in this area of
that type are steel. Must be contractor driven. Turned out nice, but long
term durability in our humidity is why I like CMU or steel more then wood.
The steel bldgs are usually glass and metal cladding types.  Lots of 2-3
story apts are made out of wood, but I think this is a mistake. I think the
quality of construction and materials is poor. You here of moisture or pest
problems on these all the time. They usually look like crap in 10 years. I
have read/heard it is because a developer will build an apt complex, manage
it for 10 years, then sell with a nice fat profit. They don't care if the
bldgs look like crap.

Residential in S. FL almost all block, but up here in Orlando area a mix of
block and wood frame. I see many 2 story houses with CMU first story, wood
frame up top. I hate that. Residential is totally controlled by builders and
developers, some of them huge. They usually cram as many houses on tiny lots
as they can. I really hate the style of development down here, but that is a
seperate issue.

When we work with concrete it is usually for slab on deck, slab on grade,
and spread and cont. ftgs. Almost all parking structures on concrete, I
think a mix of pre-cast and CIP. They use CIP concrete in high rise, and
tilt up panel for low rise commercial stuff from big retail to restaurant to
office, but we have not got into that yet.

Steel is used on all types of projects, but the only 2 buildings over 4
stories I have seen being built in FL have been CIP concrete. I do remember
seeing a CMU building near the beach in West Palm being built, a condo, and
it had to be 15+ stories out of CMU. It looked like full bearing and shear
walls. That is pushing it for CMU, which I think is great. Condo
construction lends itself to CMU or CIP I think because the floor plan is so
simple, a bunch of boxes that need fire and sound proofing. You have shear
walls at 20-30ft OC that way. The same type of construction is used for 5
story and less hotels. BTW, is the tallest CMU bldg still some hotel in Las

But, like the other guy who worked for a small firm, as I do, we kind of do
it all: CMU, brick cladding, wood, steel, concrete, metal stud, even

Bottom line for me in FL, when I design and build my own house, CMU all the
way! Maybe even a flat concrete roof with a patio, so my wife will be
reminded of Spain!

Andrew Kester, EI
Longwood, FL

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