Tag Archives: Codes & standards Committee

Today marks the 106th Anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of New York City

On March 25, 1911, mere minutes before closing time, a fire broke out in a garment factory, just off of Washington Square.

triangle shirtwaist factory image

While the building was equipped with two fire escapes, one only opened inward and the other was locked from the outside to prevent theft. Of the four elevators, only one was operational. Fire sprinkler systems were available, but the owners avoided their installation in order to continue the practice of secretly starting their own off-hours factory fires to commit insurance fraud. With corrupt and unscrupulous owners such as these, a long history of greedy and irresponsible behavior in their past, the underpaid, exploited workers, mostly desperate and undocumented immigrant young women, stood little chance of survival.

Of the 500 employees, 145 died tragically, trapped inside the inferno, many jumping to their death from the 9th floor, rather than being burned alive.

Despite public outrage, the owners got off virtually scot-free, eventually paying the victims’ families a mere $75 per life lost, and continuing most of their outrageous, life-threatening business practices for years to come.

The most horrifying of the realities surrounding this incident is how many of these atrocities still exist today. Garment factories, and many other industries, in CA and NY, especially, still employ many of the same terror tactics to keep their employees powerless to protect themselves. Undocumented immigrants still dominate America’s lowest level work force, permitting them to fall through the cracks of labor law protection. Large cities are frequently understaffed and too overworked to make the necessary inspections, ensuring that every workplace is properly constructed and maintained to meet regulations for the safety of their employees. And when it is possible, very often city government corruption allows for criminal business owners to find ways around the requirements. On top of all of that, we hear almost weekly of another fire ravaging a community, taking lives, robbing people of their homes, possessions, workplaces and loved ones.

The 2017 AIA Statement of Values includes standing for equity and human rights. It includes standing for architecture that strengthens our communities. It includes speaking up to policymakers to protect the Health, Safety and Welfare of the public.

AIA NJ continues to work, lending expertise and information, writing white papers and influencing legislation, to do our part to protect society from potential future tragedies. Look for upcoming reports on our current efforts and actions on behalf of all of our members, or better yet, join a committee and lend your voice to the call!  We invite you, we challenge you, to be a part of the solution.

For a complete record of this tragedy, click here.

The PBS documentary can be found by clicking here.

AIA New Jersey Creates Task Force on Lightweight Wood-Framed Construction

edgewater-fire-chopper-2

 

TRENTON, N.J. (March 2015) — In the aftermath of the Avalon Edgewater Building Fire, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) has announced the formation of a task force of member architects to review possible improvements to design practices and building codes and standards in order to enhance building safety in New Jersey.

The Task Force will examine various issues specific to lightweight wood-framed buildings and make recommendations that, if implemented, could reduce property damage, provide additional time for people to reach safety, and allow the fire service more time to effectively address these emergencies.

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Justin Mihalik, AIA

Chaired by Justin A. Mihalik, AIA New Jersey President-elect, the AIA New Jersey Task Force will build upon its standard code advisory processes and conduct these additional meetings to review lightweight wood framing design issues and formulate recommendations to assist New Jersey policymakers in promulgating regulations that will make buildings of this type safer.

“Improving building safety through smarter design has always been a priority of architects,” said Justin A. Mihalik, AIA. “AIA-NJ is prepared to further assist public safety officials in this shared goal with the creation of this task force.”

The Task Force will make advisory recommendations on containment methods and use of lightweight wood-framed construction materials. These recommendations will be formulated into a written report to be presented to official agencies with the intent of improving building safety in the Garden State and around the country. Task force members will include David Del Vecchio, AIA, Robert M. Longo, AIA, Jason Lutz, AIA, William J. Martin, AIA and Yogish Mistry, AIA. The Task force is expected to complete this work in the coming months.

AIA New Jersey Interviewed by WPIX TV Regarding Lightweight Wood Construction

edgewater-fire-chopper-2In the wake of the tragic events of the Avalon at Edgewater fire, Justin Mihalik, AIA, the newly elected President-Elect of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was recently interviewed by WPIX TV regarding the use of lightweight wood construction.  You can see the WPIX report here. The report is 5:26 in length.  Justin’s comments start at approximately the 1:59 mark and run through the 3:00 mark.

Granted, the conversation is far more complex than can be explained in one minute of TV time. And, the issue has received significant attention, including legislation proposing mandating fire sprinklers in all residential construction (Bill A1698) and a proposed two-year moratorium on all lightweight wood construction. Given the severity of the event and the public attention, it is more important than ever that architects and AIA New Jersey have a voice in this discussion.

This issue is being actively addressed by our Codes & Standards Committee, chaired by Robert Longo, AIA, our Legistative & Government Affairs Committee, chaired by David Del Vecchio, AIA, our Public Awareness Committee, chaired by Bruce Turner, AIA, our President, Kimberly Bunn, AIA, our Executive Director, Joe Simonetta, and the Executive Committee. Therefore, please make sure you share your opinions with your leaders of AIA New Jersey and your political representatives. Architects cannot stand on the sidelines while others determine the shape of the built environment.

Bruce Turner, AIA
Public Awareness Committee Chair