General Business

Well – it has happened. The lead paint that we used in building, so many years ago, has now come back to haunt us. It has been the subject of the EPA’s attention for a long time, but now new laws are in place that need to be known and followed by any who are in the renovation or repair business – and this includes owners of such properties.

Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP)

Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children. On March 31, 2008, EPA issued a new rule aimed at protecting children from lead-based paint hazards (79 pp, 847K). The rule requires contractors and construction professionals that work in pre-1978 housing or child-occupied facilities to follow lead-safe work practice standards to reduce potential exposure to dangerous levels of lead for children in places they frequent. To protect against this risk, on April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Under the rule, beginning April 22, 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.

This also affects Property Owners

Property owners who engage in renovating, repairing, or preparing surfaces for painting in pre-1978 rental housing or in space rented by child-care facilities must, before beginning work, provide tenants with a copy of EPA's lead hazard information pamphlet Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools (PDF) (11 pp, 1.1MB). en español (PDF) (20 pp, 3.2MB). It is the responsibility of the owners of rental properties to document compliance with this requirement; here is a sample of EPA's  pre-renovation disclosure form (PDF) (1 pp, 53K) which can be used to fulfill this requirement. More importantly, after April 22, 2010 (THAT IS NOW FOLKS!) property owners who are going to perform any of the aforementioned actions in any rental housing built before 1978 rental housing or in any space rented by child-care facilities must be certified and must follow the lead-safe work practices required by EPA's Renovation, Repair and Remodeling (RRP) rule. So this does not only apply the Contractors. If you are an owner, doing your own work, you need to be aware of an comply with these fules. As I understand it, a property owner can become certified using the application for firm certification (PDF) (9 pp, 642K) plus (of course) a fee payment to EPA. The Agency has up to 90 days after receiving a complete request for certification to approve or disapprove the application. Property owners who perform renovation, repairs, and painting jobs themselves (and in today’s economy more and more owners are doing their own repairs) should also consider:
  • doing some training on how to work with lead paint safely.
  • Maintain records of what you are doing (to cover yourselves). You want to show that you and your helpers have been properly trained and are doing what you need to do. Here is a  sample recordkeeping checklist (PDF) that might help. It was developed for the contractors but is great for owners as well.
  • And ready a few other guides (Read about how to comply with EPA's rules  Guide 1 and Guide 2
Of course when you get your training you will become familiar with all the important issues. Bottom line, this is might important to know. Ignoring the new rules can lead to fines of up to $37,500 per day!!! I am facing, as are all Certified Contractors, my continuing education requirements in the upcoming month or two. I need to do this one. Though as the Engineer Designer I don’t need to worry about this (even when I design for older buildings), I want to make sure my contractors and owners know about it. I also have a Daycare center (an older building) and I need to make sure that our managers know about this Oh my gosh – I just remembered that I was the contractor for the renovation of a pre-1950’s in Central Florida within the last couple of years. I better get cracking. Hope this article helps.

Get Your Construction Plans Reviewed and Sealed

by Engineer Designer on July 3, 2010

In Florida, currently, most construction projects require stamped drawings to obtain the building permit. This includes residential projects. "Stamped plans" are plans bearing the seal of a Registered Engineer or Architect. If you have attempted to get a permit and been informed of this, this article explains the seal (or stamp) and what is needed. The words Engineer and Architect are capitalized because they designate licensed professions. Many people call themselves engineers, but none may call himself or herself an "Engineer" without being duly licensed.   This is also true with Architects. Architects are more protective of the word than are Engineers.  A Professional Engineer carries the designation "PE" following his or her name.
Each profession has a seal. Either of these seals will suffice in Florida in most building departments.Professionals who can seal are mostly self-regulating as to what they may or may not seal. Basically one should be skilled in an area of design before he or she affixes a seal to the project.
Engineers and Architects come in all shades of ability, as do all people. The thing to do, in hunting for a professional, is to find one competent in the field encompassing  what you need.In seeking a design, it is best to hire one who is a skilled designer AND can seal the plans so you can get the permit.If you have a set of plans that you like, or have purchased, which, itself, needs a seal, then you may look for someone to stamp them. But this is something you should be very careful doing. Professionals will not simply seal plans without putting much attention and effort into the design, plans, details, etc. (though this was a rather common practice in the past and may still have some hangers-on). But beware. You want a professional on your team. Not just someone who has a seal.The professional, if he or she considers reviewing your plans, will have to add his or her own data to the plans, and carefully go over every elements to assure that the key structural points are met. It is best to get a licensed professional to do the entire service for you.

Getting Plans Sealed (buyer beware)

by Engineer Designer on July 3, 2010

Beware when purchasing a set of plans from a website. These plans can look very nice, actually have elements that you would like to have in your own custom home. But these plans are designed generically for as broad an application as they can. Many states do not require these plans to be sealed by an Engineer or Architect. The plans also have options for basements and other foundation systems and engineering systems that are not applicable in all states.

Florida has specially stringent guidelines. Plans, in most permit areas in Florida, require a stamp. This can be quite an ordeal when one discovers that most Engineers and Architects will not place their stamp on another's work.

The governing principles are both ethical and legal.

Taken from the Engineering Statutes 471.033 (Disciplinary proceedings):

(1) The following acts constitute grounds for which the disciplinary actions in subsection (3) may be taken:

(j) Affixing or permitting to be affixed his or her seal, name, or digital signature to any final drawings, specifications, plans, reports, or documents that were not prepared by him or her or under his or her responsible supervision, direction, or control.

If you find an Engineer or Architect who will place their seal upon another's drawing you should be fully aware of this provision. That he or she is willing to compromise this issue may be an indication of other points of unprofessional tendancies.

We can help in such instances but must follow certain protocol.

It is best to have your project designed in Florida by a duly licensed and qualified individual. This is your best ticket to a smooth construction project and a happy ownership and use.

You can check with the Engineer Designer to help you through this maze.