On May 29, 2014 lightning struck the Paddock Club Apartments in Gainesville, FL, destroying a sixteen unit apartment building and leaving residents displaced. The Paddock Club Apartments were originally built in 1998, when building codes did not require fire sprinkler systems. Even though the building was equipped with fire alarms and smoke detectors, the direct impact of the lightning caused them to malfunction, allowing the fire time to grow into a blaze that lasted for six hours. The fire demolished the roof and second story of the building and the ensuing water damage left all sixteen units uninhabitable.
Although fire damage from lightning strikes is common in the south, fire restoration still proves to be one of the most challenging areas of construction. When Live Oak Contracting came on the scene, it was immediately clear that the project would involve both renovation and redesign due to the evolution of building standards and codes between 1998 and 2014. Rehab projects that total more than 50% of a building’s value, require incorporation of current building and safety codes. In this particular situation redesign needed to include a NFPA 13R fire sprinkler system to be installed in order to comply with current code, but finding a location with adequate water supply was the bigger challenge. Working closely with the local public utility company was vital in making this project a success. The Paddock Club Apartment redesign and negotiations lasted until October and an aggressive six month building plan was implemented.
In order to meet code compliance a source of water had to be identified to support the new fire sprinkler system. Originally this source was a water main across the road from the damaged building. Tapping into the water main would involve digging up the street, tearing up the parking lot, closing roads, further inconveniencing the local residents, and costing the owner additional money. Live Oak felt that this was an unacceptable solution and began researching other options. Through collaboration with Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) Live Oak was able to obtain as-built documents for the area and in studying them found that the water line had already been brought across the street and was just fifteen feet from the back of the apartment building. Problem solved. Thanks to Live Oak’s due diligence the owner (Mid America Apartments) was spared the cost and time required to bring the water line across the street, through the parking lot, and around to the building.
Less than six months after starting construction, Building 8 of the Paddock Club Apartments was delivered on schedule, within budget, and up to Florida Building Code. Property Manager Austin Devore sent a note just after completion “Just had a corporate visit with CEO, COO and SVP of Construction. They LOVED building 8 and said it looked great! Thanks for the work on Building 8. It’s fully occupied and helping our occupancy! ”
Fire restoration is not easy work. Constantly changing building and safety codes require up-to-date management and leadership to overcome last-minute hidden issues. Hiring an experienced contractor will save you time and money.
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