Oct. 1, 2007

NIST experiments with portable fans for smoke control. McGraw-Hill Construction reports that the healthcare industry is behind in the green movement. A survey by the National Association of Realtors reveals the top real estate legal issues. And more.

NIST Experiments with Portable Fans for Smoke Control
After conducting 160 experiments last year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD, reports that high-pressure fans that direct airflow up the stairways of burning high-rise buildings can increase the effectiveness of firefighters and survivability of occupants by ridding stairwells of smoke and toxic gases.

Analysis of the experiments shows that the positive pressure ventilation (PPV) techniques used in small homes also work in tall structures. NIST engineers found that portable PPV fans, when used correctly, can both limit the amount of smoke and heat entering a stairway, and push smoke and deadly gases out of the structure. Data were collected with smoke and pressure measurement devices, and both large and small fans were used in the experiments, which were conducted in vacant high-rise buildings in Toledo, OH, and Chicago.

Controlled fires in Chicago were used to gather information on the effectiveness of using fans to control smoke. Once the fires were under way, a variety of ventilation tests were conducted. For example, in one test, a large fan was placed at the front door to force cool air up through the building. In another test, two smaller fans - one on the first floor and one two floors below the fire floor, both forcing air into the stairwell - were used to achieve the same PPV effect. Results from both scenarios show that PPV significantly reduced the temperature and amount of smoke in the corridors and stairwells outside the burn rooms. In one case, the temperature quickly dropped from 600 degrees F. to 60 degrees F.

Since the 1970s, pressurization smoke-control systems (usually consisting of mounted wall fans) have been incorporated into high-rise buildings. The NIST experiments, however, are the first scientific evaluation of positive pressure ventilation technology using portable fans for buildings without built-in systems. The researchers developed several guidelines for the most effective use and positioning of the portable PPV fans. Also noted was the fact that the noise level near the working fans can go as high as 110 decibels (comparable to the level of a chainsaw), making communication difficult during operation.

The NIST is continuing to study the use of PPV and says that further experimentation is necessary to update current fan airflow performance standards for PPV needs. More testing is slated for later this year.

Gateway Center Planned at Bronx Terminal Market
The $500 million Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market in New York City is scheduled to open to the public in the fall of 2009. The retail designer for the complex is Atlanta-based architectural, engineering, and development firm GreenbergFarrow. The firm designed the center to resemble a suburban shopping destination formatted in a vertically stacked layout.

Because of the unique layout, the project achieves an unusually efficient level of land use by providing 1 million square feet of retail space within a 16.8-acre parcel, an area that would commonly deliver only 160,000 square feet of such space. "The design of the Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market demonstrates how today's American retail experience can be form-fitted to work in a densely populated urban setting," says Navid Maqami, principal of architecture at GreenbergFarrow.

Tenants will in­-clude Target, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, and a number of community retailers. By offering a mix of national and local retailers and restaurants, the center will serve as a destination for Bronx residents who shop outside the borough.

Annual EcoMarket Summary Released 
Reading, PA-based TerraChoice recently released its EcoMarkets 2007 Summary Report. The annual research initiative monitors the patterns of green procurement and supply chain management in business-to-business and business-to-government contexts. Some of the study's key findings include:

  • Nearly half of the surveyed organizations now have paper reuse/recycle programs; however, only about one-third of the organizations have implemented paper-reduction programs and about 25 percent have green-paper purchasing programs in place.
  • More than 80 percent believe that the term "environmentally preferable paper" means that the paper has been made from recycled materials; 30 percent think it means that non-toxic chemicals have been used.
  • Fifty-six (56) percent believe that green-cleaning products are those that have no harmful byproducts or ingredients, 31 percent believe it means the products are biodegradable, and 22 percent say that green-cleaning products are eco-friendly, not harmful to the environment or people.
  • Although only 28 percent of janitorial contracts require the use of green-cleaning products, a full 30 percent of those surveyed said they didn't know whether or not their organization required the use of such products.

Scott McDougall, president and CEO of TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, states that there is little doubt that green purchasing on the institutional level is at an all-time high. "In other words," says McDougall, "green markets are larger than ever before, and this is very good news for the makers and marketers of environmentally preferable products." The full report is available free of charge at (

Report Finds Healthcare Industry Behind in Green Movement
The recently released Healthcare Green Building SmartMarket ReportTM features the results of a survey of healthcare executives conducted by New York City-based McGraw-Hill Construction. The report outlines a number of significant findings regarding the advantages and obstacles of going green in the healthcare sector. Some of the findings include:

  • Ninety-one (91) percent cite "enhanced staff and patient health and well-being" as a reason for building green healthcare facilities.
  • Seventy-six (76) percent agree with or are neutral about "green building creates an unjustifiable cost premium" as a statement.

This discrepancy is attributed to 57 percent of respondents weighing in on their "lack of knowledge about green techniques." The report was sponsored by New York City-based Turner Construction Co. and the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council.

Can Ceiling Height Alter How You Think?
A recent study at the University of Minnesota suggests that ceiling height affects problem-solving skills and behavior by priming concepts that encourage certain kinds of brain processing. "Priming," says researcher Joan Meyers-Levy, "means [that] a concept gets activated in a person's head. When people are in a room with a high ceiling, they activate the idea of freedom. In a low-ceilinged room, they activate more constrained, confined concepts."

The study consisted of three tests, ranging from anagram puzzles to product evaluation. In every tested situation, a 10-foot ceiling correlated with the subject activity that the researchers interpreted as "freer, more abstract thinking," whereas subjects in a room with an 8-foot ceiling were more likely to focus on specifics. According to the findings from this study, upper management may prefer higher ceilings to facilitate brainstorming; surgeons, however, may want lower ceilings to encourage item-specific processing.

Report on Top Real Estate Legal Issues
The most press­ing legal issues involving real estate today and in the future are reported in "2007 NAR Legal Scan: Legal Issues Facing the Real Estate Management Profession." The most significant problems currently facing real estate managers, according to the report, are those relating to the daily business activity of managing properties. The top five issues are: Slip and fall accidents.Debt collection.Frivolous lawsuits.Events on the property other than slip and fall accidents.Tenant's property conditions other than slip and fall accidents.

The top four issues likely to gain importance in the next 2 years include the following, in order of importance: frivolous lawsuits, events on the property other than slip and fall accidents, debt collection, and common areas.

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