What to Know Before Making Home Improvements
Property owners often rent out their space out to others. While they are not the ones operating the space, it is their responsibility to provide upgrades to meet city standards. San Francisco, CA is prone to earthquakes and over half of the buildings were built over 50 years ago. There are water, electricity, and structural integrity standards to meet amongst a plethora of other planning and building codes. Here’s a helpful checklist of things that Massoudi Consulting Engineers looks at when doing tenant improvements.
- Soft Story Buildings
A soft story building is, by definition, a building where the first floor is structurally weaker than the floor(s) above it. Generally, if a first floor has a lot of open space, e.g. a garage or lobby, the lack of walls and frames leave the building vulnerable. San Francisco requires soft story buildings to be retrofitted so that the building is modified to withstand earthquakes.
- ADA Compliance
Property owners have to abide by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and make their space ADA compliant if they rent out to tenants. ADA compliance typically means providing accommodations to make a space accessible for people with disabilities. For example, hallways have to be wide enough for wheelchairs and ramps or elevators need to be installed if there is only stair access.
- Check if you have any ADUs
ADU stands for Accessory Dwelling Unit and refers to additional living quarters that is separate from the main building. For example, if a property owner converts a shed into a living space to rent, it is considered an ADU and has to follow the same guidelines mentioned in the previous points. New ADUs require permits to be built and any ADU built prior to 2013 can be legalized under the San Francisco’s Amnesty Program.
- Residential and Commercial Design
Coming up with a design that meets your ideal aesthetic and also complies with California laws can be tricky at times. All glass walls for a first floor might look cool, but if designed improperly, could be structurally weak and above floors could be susceptible to collapse during an earthquake. It is best to consult professional architects and designers before making any changes.
- All in one source
When making any sort of renovation, you could need a structural engineer and architectural designer and a civil engineer. It is hard to coordinate between three firms and hiring three different people is costly. It is better to find one firm that offers all services in one source – they handle all everything on their end for you. Doing so saves time, cost, and stress for clients.
- Plans go through the City Planning Department for the first review. Before finalizing the designs, it’s best to have the Planning Department do an initial review to expedite the permitting process otherwise, it can slow down your timeline and project.
- Make sure to have your plans reviewed by the Planning Department as soon as possible before any physical work can be done on your property, plans have to be reviewed and accepted by the city’s Planning Department first. If you spent a long time working on the plans and they get denied, then a considerable amount of time was lost. If there are any comments and revisions to be made, it is best to know earlier than later.
Here at Massoudi Consulting Engineers, we work with you every step of the way to design a space that meets your requirements while abiding by regulations and standards. We take on architectural design projects of all kinds and are an all-in-one source. We offer services from structural engineering, tenant improvements, architectural design, street improvements, civil engineering, and many more. Recently, we worked on a tenant building in the SoMa District to make tenant improvements, specifically re-designing and constructing the building to be ADA compliant. For example, take a look at this staircase. The handrails need to be able to withstand a load of 200 pounds applied in any direction on any point of the rail. These particular handrails are non-compliant as the gripping surface needs to be a max of 2¼ inches and they are too flat. The top and bottom of the staircase should have a colored strip marking to alert the visually impaired.
Small details like these are important when making tenant improvements. Massoudi Consulting Engineers carefully overlooks every detail and helps owners come up with a solution at an affordable price.