TOH drawings lack details and warn of quality issues

The Flaherty & Collins (F&C) Top of the Hill (TOH) drawings (dated 6/21/19) available for citizen scrutiny at Cleveland Heights libraries are schematic design drawings, not construction documents.

What is missing is a construction document called “outline specifications” (outline specs), which will call out the quality of the major building materials in the project.

In order to make a value judgment on what's being proposed, the CH Architectural Board of Review (ABR) must insist that the architects provide outline specs along with their schematic drawings.

Construction documents are what everyone else is required to provide for the ABR. One wonders what kind of arrangement F&C has made with the city that allows the firm to submit incomplete schematic drawings, and no construction documents, and ask for final approval, as F&C did on July 9 at the ABR meeting.

If the ABR approves TOH based only on schematic drawings, the decisions on quality of construction would then be shunted to the CH Building Department, which the city “farmed out” for supposed cost-saving reasons in 2016.

There are different codes a building official could use: city, state, or federal. The state code, the one most commonly used here, will control for safety but not for quality.

The only place we get a clue about quality of construction in the TOH drawings currently available to us is for the five-story garage. Drawings note it is pre-cast, not poured-in-place. The Macy's/Target garage in University Heights is pre-cast and its problems are well known—you might say legendary.

Cleveland Heights’ Lennox-Surrey garage at Cedar Fairmount is also pre-cast. Water leaks through the upper deck, deteriorating the structure, which requires frequent maintenance. It "rains" in there.

The more recent city-built garages in Coventry and Cedar Lee ARE poured-in-place; they were built for more substantial quality, for longevity, for the long term.

The city's building official should specify and require poured-in-place construction [for the TOH garage], rather than pre-cast.

As for the garage deck design, I would recommend a single helix parking structure. This gives one-half of each floor a flat deck, which could later be reconfigured to building uses other than automobile storage.

Why are we allowing quality standards to slip for the TOH garage? The economical vs. quality garage construction is an ominous warning of what the eventual working drawings will show for TOH Buildings 1 and 2, the proposed luxury apartment units.

Steve Rajki

Steve Rajki is project architect for Cleveland Clinic's Crile Building, and is a retired Case Western Reserve University architect.

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Volume 12, Issue 8, Posted 11:07 AM, 08.01.2019