Emergency!

There have been a few…my daughter laughed when a few years ago after I received a call and had to leave in the middle of dinner to suddenly go to a clients house- “Dad, c’mon really what is an architectural emergency?” …”I’ll fill you in later”.

The water was already ankle deep in the basement and rapidly approaching the newly installed mechanical equipment of the house I was designing. Luckily, the shut-off valve was easy to find and turn off….But we as architects are to a limited degree, part of the construction team, and despite many contractors opinion- not always a pain in the ass.  I lived closest to the project-as the owners were on vacation and received a frantic call from their neighbors. The contractors were not responding to phone calls at that moment, and the owners did not know who else to turn to.  We made arrangements with a local plumber to pump out the water quickly and the contractor quickly washed down affected surfaces with fungicide to prevent possible mold development.

Far more dangerous was coming into a shell of a burnt-out house in Hastings on Hudson, NY which smelled putrid -one could still feel the warmth of the smoldering charred wood. I met with the insurance rep , the public adjuster and the owners – toured the wreckage and between muffled cries I could hear Rina explain “Nobody knew what happened” and continued  “Our house burned down to the ground and we did not know where to begin”….I can tell you this -nobody plans on a fire. The cause was determined to be a frayed lamp cord. Watching my client shudder in disbelief is an image I’ll never forget.  This project was one of redemption and getting this circa 1910 house rebuilt from old photos, scant records and a foundation.  The town was helpful and efficient in processing the application and issuing a building permit to get the ball rolling. Also, I gained a better appreciation for smoke detectors and other basic code regulations.

Hurricane Sandy posed a few problems with windborn debris on another project site, and while we as architects we have no authority to actually intervene and cannot authorize any “means or methods” for construction or related safety, we care and can still help to some degree.

Repairs stemming from disasters or acts of God often do require permits, but not always. So it is good policy to ask at the local building department for their requirements….and keep those smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, flashlights, generators and flood monitors in good working order!

Full house reconstruction (front), Hastings on Hudson, NY

Full house reconstruction (front), Hastings on Hudson, NY