Roof Decks Become Even More Valuable During COVID – Seeking Safe Outdoor Spaces

Outdoor space has always been an important amenity for house hunters in New York. While patios, balconies, and private gardens are also high on the list, larger outdoor spaces such as rooftop terraces and community gardens continue to be popular with both current and potential residents – all the more so as the COVID-19 pandemic has made public spaces unattractive has too many.

If you are not one of those lucky enough to already have a rooftop terrace in your building, it may be worth installing one – depending on your structure, your budget and the added value that such a company would add. We spoke to a practicing architect to find out how feasible it is to add a rooftop terrace to an existing condominium or cooperative building, as well as the administrative and security concerns that come with it.

What does it take to convert your roof?

Giulia Alimonti is an architect at DeSimone Consulting Engineers, a national full-service engineering firm based in New York City and with offices in the She is also a member of the National Women in Roofing (NWiR) and Chair of the organization’s NYC Council. In her view, the basic requirements New York City has to determine if your roof is suitable for a rooftop include the following: “First, there are structural requirements,” she says, “due to the variety of roofs and load-bearing decks that are I recommend that you first evaluate and check the structural composition of your roof. whether it is a concrete, metal or wooden deck and its ability to handle both “living” loads – such as B. human occupants – as well as “dead” loads – such as the roof structure itself – to carry safely. “

Alimonti adds that keeping a qualified structural engineer as part of the design team as early as possible has a huge impact on the decisions that need to be made later. For example, the structure of the roof terrace indicates how many people are allowed to be on the roof at a given time. Depending on the occupancy limit, the deck can be classified as an “installation site” and may therefore have to meet the stricter requirements of the building regulations that apply to such spaces. This can include the length of the exit, the width of the stairs and the sanitary facilities.

“It is important that all future occupants can safely access and leave the roof terrace in normal times and in an emergency,” says Alimonti. “The residents – residents of the building and their guests, maintenance personnel and firefighters – must use the stairs. The building code requires two flights of stairs to the roof, and the width of the stairs also gives information about the number of occupants. “

A third important consideration is accessibility. The roof terrace must be accessible to tenants and their guests who may not be able to simply walk up and down the stairs. “Accessibility for people with disabilities is required by law,” emphasizes Alimonti. “To do this, there almost always has to be a lift to the roof. Parapet heights and draft shields must also be considered, including minimum heights of at least 42 inches, and additional requirements that may be desired by the building owner, such as: B. a glass railing should be considered when evaluating the existing structure. ”

Last but not least, the view should be taken into account when designing a new roof terrace. Is there a preferred or desirable view that residents would enjoy? If you can build your deck wherever you want, but one side of the roof overlooks a busy freeway and the other overlooks a scenic skyline view, this should definitely be one of the top design considerations. The orientation of the sun can also influence the layout and type of roof shading to be installed. “We live in a visually rich urban environment,” notes Alimonti, “and it’s nice to be able to capture the stimulation that comes from it both during the day and at night.”

Working with existing functions

“Each building has different accessories and different equipment on the roof that need to be assessed,” says Alimonti. “A typical high-rise will usually have a partition with staircases and elevator machine room and possibly a water tank over the partition. In some cases, pre-existing structural constraints can make it difficult to modify and expand any of the elevator shafts to allow access to the roof. Here the design team performs an assessment of the building layout to review possible solutions for access. This may include identifying an area on the top floor of the building just below the roof where a restricted use elevator may be installed that is separate from the building elevator and reaches the rooftop terrace. ”

Ultimately, says Alimonti, the structural capacity of the deck is the deciding factor in whether your particular building is a candidate for a rooftop social space. After a structural assessment is complete, strategies may be in place to reinforce the deck or redistribute the loads by adding structural elements on the roof and incorporating them into the new roof deck design.

Other outdoor alternatives

If the maps do not contain a roof terrace for your building, a common outdoor area for the residents may still be created. “Many buildings have backyards or setbacks that could be converted into open space tenants’ convenience with excellent results,” says Alimonti, adding that most of the same general considerations would apply – particularly structural reviews and exit studies. “I would recommend the design team and structural engineer to do a review of the existing conditions and provide an assessment of possible options for the building,” she says.

Whether an outdoor common room is high above street level or hidden between buildings, it is likely to be a popular feature for residents and an attractive draw for potential buyers – and not just in these unusual circumstances. Building a rooftop requires a great deal of financial and administrative commitment, but the rewards can be very real and permanent.

National Women in Roofing (NWiR) is a voluntary national organization composed primarily of women in the roofing industry. They support and promote the careers of roofers, offer networking, mentoring, training and recruitment opportunities from the roof to the boardroom for the young specialist at the beginning of their career for the experienced manager in the Executive Suite. Through their commitment to connecting and empowering women in roofing, they contribute to the general improvement and professionalism of the roofing industry. You can find them under:

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