July 10, 2013 on 12:58 am | In Fascinating Information, Green, Investment Opportunities, New Developments, Problem Solving, Uncategorized, WOW | 2 Comments

by Jodi Summers

Amsterdam has been meeting a pressing need for student and other low-income housing by using ubiquitous steel shipping containers. After years at sea, the containers were rusted and dented but ready for reuse to house people instead of products. Can we do the same in Los Angeles?

Shipping container architecture has evolved as a form of architecture using steel intermodal containers (shipping containers) as structural element, because of their inherent strength, wide availability and relatively low expense. A container is often referred to as a TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit. A standard TEU is approximately 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. The most common height is 8 feet 6 inches, an ample ceiling height.

Currently, an estimated 21,000 shipping containers arrive in the United States every day. Retired shipping containers are abundant in the United States. Port authorities estimate that over 700,000 used shipping containers are stockpiled on prime waterfront real estate without a significant use, purpose, or typical method for disposal, making them ideal construction modules.

Made of steel and wood, this product is stronger than conventional framing, stackable for creating levels and is readily available. Cargo containers are a rather perfect sized box for building.

Shipping containers have been called an ideal building material as they are designed to carry heavy loads and to be stacked in high columns. They are also designed to resist harsh environments – such as on ocean-going vessels or sprayed with road salt while transported on roads.  As all shipping containers are made to standard measurements and as such they provide modular elements that can be combined into larger structures. Construction involves very little labor.  As they are already designed to interlock for ease of mobility during transportation, structural construction is as easy as stacking more containers.  Containers can be stacked up to 12 high when empty. They also keep building costs way down. Containers may be purchased from major transport companies for as little as US $1,200 each. Even when purchased brand new they are seldom more than US $6000.

Many apartment buildings and other structures based on shipping containers have already been constructed, and their uses, sizes, locations and appearances vary widely. In 2000, the firm Urban Space Management completed the project called Container City I in the Trinity Buoy Wharf area of London.  The London docklands development is composed of environmentally friendly work studios and live/work lofts stacked on top of each other to create a 5-story building.

Architect Nicholas Lacey and Buro Happold created a flexible design system that relies on component pieces instead of units. Instead of using a 1 container = 1 unit approach, their system relies on components in various permutations to create very livable, adaptable spaces. Aside from this Container City residential project, the system has been used in projects as diverse as classrooms, office spaces, residential units, retail spaces and even youth centers.

“Containers as architecture are just one of the ways in which we can look at objects and find new uses to them. The modular nature of the containers, their adaptability, and the fact that they can be found in industrial surplus make them an ideal prefab material,” noted Urban Space Management.



June 10, 2013 on 12:59 pm | In Experts Say, Lenders + Vendors, Problem Solving, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

by Bob Pace

edited by Jodi Summers

Electricity is one of the most complex and misunderstood aspects of construction. It is also one of the most potentially dangerous, as well.

There are various aspects to consider when evaluating the condition and remaining useful life of electrical systems: moving parts and unmoving parts, whether the equipment is kept outside or inside the building as well as the age and type of wiring and fixtures just to name a few. The quality of the parts used as well as the quality of the workmanship also has an impact on the useful life.

Then there are the distribution parts, such as subpanels, breakers and the parts within the subpanel. Good quality equipment properly installed will usually last 50-70 years.

If the equipment is kept outside it needs to be resealed and painted every 20 years. If not done it will rust and not last at which point you can be faced with tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs. Indoor equipment lasts longer because it’s protected from the elements and requires less upkeep.

Moving parts generally wear out more quickly than unmoving parts. An example is switches which wear out in 20-30 years depending on the quality and type used.

Unmoving parts, such as wiring, can last 40-70 years depending on the type. If the building contains cloth covered wire, which was used up until the 1950’s, it is at or past its useful life. Knob and tube, which we see in much older buildings, would be well past its useful life.

Outdoor fixtures generally last 10-15 years. Indoor fixtures vary wildly but rarely last over 20 years because of changes in technology.

When you hire an experienced inspector with a solid background in the construction fields he is more likely to notice important indicators that go beyond a familiarity of industry standards and the type of equipment that was installed.

For example, a recently inspected building had indoor fixtures that were installed outdoors; these will have virtually no life. They quickly rust and become “electrocution magnets”.

Another example is a recently inspected vacant cabinet shop. The electrical looked good and properly installed.  From past experience the inspector knew to pull apart one of the sub panels and saw sawdust inside at the connections.  Although overall serviceable, the system needs to be serviced, cleaned and all connections checked for safety.  A spark inside could short out the main panel and cost tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and lost time.  All of which could be prevented by under a $1000 in repairs.

Bob Pace, Co-Owner

Contractor License #461030

Commercial Real Estate Inspectors




November 20, 2012 on 10:47 pm | In Experts Say, Fascinating Information, Historic Properties, Problem Solving, Recycling | 2 Comments

Edited by Jodi Summers

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines rehabilitate as: “To repair a structure and make it usable again while preserving those portions or features of the property that are historically and culturally significant.”

To successfully rehabilitate a historic building, they are offering us 10 basic principles to keep in mind when undertaking a rehabilitation project.

Of course, every project is different and will have different needs and solutions. But this handy reference guide is a great way to get you started.




September 9, 2012 on 7:15 pm | In Curious, Fascinating Information, Problem Solving, Uncategorized, WOW | 2 Comments

by Jodi Summers

There’s a big tree in the front yard of a 4-plex clients are buying in Mar Vista. Our savvy inspector suggested we do a film of sewer line to make sure there was no damage from root intrusion. Lucky for us, the seller had taken a film of the sewer line back in 2010, and shared it with us.

Thought you might enjoy this video documentary of the sewer line of a Wes Los Angeles multiunit property.

There are some great investment properties currently available. Let us help you buy or exchange into one or more. We’re here to help you with your real estate needs. Please contact Jodi Summers and the SoCal Investment Real Estate Group @ Sotheby’s International Realty – -   or 310.392.1211, and let us move forward together.


July 10, 2012 on 12:36 am | In Fascinating Information, Green, Lenders + Vendors, Of Local Importance, Problem Solving, Recycling, Trends, Uncategorized, WOW | 2 Comments

by Jodi Summers

Los Angeles will soon become the largest city in the country to approve a ban on plastic bags. The decision came down in May, as a standing-room-only crowd packed City Hall as the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-1 to approve a ban on plastic bags and impose a 10-cent charge on paper bags at convenience stores and supermarkets in the nation’s second-largest city.

With the council’s action, Los Angeles and our 3.8 million residents become the largest group in the United States to formally endorse a sweeping ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

“The Los Angeles City Council took a prudent step to protect our environment and bolster our economy,” said Kirsten James, director of water quality for the Santa Monica-based nonprofit group Heal the Bay. “The vote further emphasizes the fact that the days are numbered for single-use bags in California.”

Nearly 50 other municipalities in California have adopted ordinances in the state banning single-use plastic bags and most also ban or impose fees for paper bags. Cal cities that have passed single-use plastic bag bans include San Francisco, Santa Monica, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Calabasas, Long Beach and Carpinteria. Environmentalists hope the move by the Los Angeles City Council will provide momentum for a statewide ban.

“I’m deliriously excited about the passage of this measure. Ever since I first heard about the floating plastic island in the Pacific, while I was still in the state legislature, I have been trying to move the ball forward on banning plastic bags in this state,” said Councilman Paul  Koretz, a chief sponsor of the measure, in a statement.

It is estimated that 1.2 to 2.3 billion single-use plastic carryout bags and 400 million single-use paper bags are used annually in Los Angeles. A report by the Board of Public Works cited studies showing that single-use paper bags have greater greenhouse gas emissions through their production and use tan a single-use plastic bag, prompting paper bags to also be targeted.

This concept became too much too soon, and then the bill stalled until City Councilman Eric Garcetti co-introduced a motion that imposed a 10-cent fee on paper bags instead of an outright ban. The proposal is very similar to what has been working effectively in Santa Monica for the past year. Impressed by the model, Los Angeles City Council voted nearly unanimously to endorse the substitute motion.

The new ordinance will likely be approved before the end of the year. Large retailers can anticipate a six-month phase-out of single-use plastic bags. There will be a one-year grace period for smaller retailers. All retailers would be required to charge 10 cents for a paper bag as an incentive for shoppers to bring reusable bags to the market beginning one year after the program’s enactment.

“City Council approved a motion that will move us one step closer to making Los Angeles a greener, cleaner, more sustainable city,” noted Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “The little things matter—removing plastic bags that clutter our streets and damage our waterways will go a long way towards protecting Angelenos and Los Angeles wildlife for generations.”

Cathy Browne, general manager of plastic bag maker Crown Poly in Huntington Park, said the council shouldn’t be mandating consumer behavior and should let the market dictate consumer choice.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 2010 approved a plastic bag ban in unincorporated areas that went into effect July 1, 2011, at large stores and on Jan. 1, 2012, at smaller retailers. A lawsuit claimed the 10-cent fee on paper bags imposed by the county was an illegal tax under Proposition 26, but Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant in March rejected the argument in a tentative ruling.



June 10, 2012 on 8:50 pm | In Fascinating Information, fUNNY...mONEY, Green, Money Saving Opportunities, Problem Solving, Uncategorized, Utilities, WOW | 1 Comment

By Jodi Summers

The White House issued a challenge to the nation’s utilities > to allow customers more access to their own energy data. California utilities are the first to step up. Welcome the Green Button. This online tool from Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric will allow consumers and businesses to see how much electricity they’re using and to download the data so that we can figure out how to use less.

The Green Button allows customers to download of personalized energy usage data through its secure website, My Energy. Developers and third parties will be able receive energy usage data from customers in machine-readable form

The utilities’ goal is for customers to better understand how their consumption changes over the day, week and seasons. This data, in conjunction with smart meters, which transmit energy usage information in real time, should give .customers the tools to control usage, cut costs and conserve energy…

The Green Button project “is one of many initiatives designed to offer our customers choice, convenience and control,” Ted Reguly, SDG&E’s director of customer programs and assistance, said in a statement.

Here’s how it works: After logging in, customers can click on the Green Button and download up to 13 months of their detailed electricity usage data, which can be segmented down to 15-minute intervals. The three utilities are the first in the nation to adopt the technology, which uses a cloud platform developed by Tendril, a Boulder, Colo.-based company.

“Green Button marks the beginning of a new era of consumer control over energy use, and local empowerment to cut waste and save money,” observes Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer. “With the benefits of open data standards, American app developers and other innovators can apply their creativity to bring the smart grid to life for families—not only in California but in communities all across the Nation.”

The Green Button may be the first step in a grand plan to take energy data and standardize a national energy the format open and make it readily available to consumers.

Standardizing and freeing the data can create an ecosystem for developers to use that data to create apps that can deliver new services and products. The line of thinking is > the internet has thrived because of open data and standardized information systems. Delivering that energy data directly back to consumers is expected to lead to energy-efficiency measures that may change a consumers’ energy-consumption behavior.

The Green Button project “is one of many initiatives designed to offer our customers choice, convenience and control,” notes Ted Reguly, SDG&E’s director of customer programs and assistance.

The three utilities are the first in the nation to adopt the technology, which uses a cloud platform developed by Tendril, a Boulder, Colo.-based company. The Green Button was inspired by the government’s success with its Blue Button initiative, which allows veterans instant access to their health care data.”



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