Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How It's Made: High Rise Residential Buildings

Today I ventured outside the office with the Sales Manager, Rodrigo, to see two of the projects that Tecno Logys is currently working on. Unfortunately I do not have the insight into the entire construction project like yesterday's post of How its made: Ceramic Blocks. The design of the buildings and the creation of the buildings structure was already completed (which takes many weeks to create), but I was going to get to see how the exterior and interior walls were constructed.

Before leaving the office it was suggested that I wear boots to the construction site and there was immediately a pause. "What size shoe do you wear" was asked to me and I immediately thought, I have no idea what size I would wear here in Brazil since they use a different measure system. In the U.S., I wear a size 14 which is obviously a bit larger than the average foot size in America, let alone here in Brazil. There was a quick scramble to look at a sizing chart by Mariana, one of the HR Analysts who handles the supplies for the workers. The chart went up to a U.S. men's size 9 1/2. Again, somewhat of a language barrier here, but I said I wear a 14 in the U.S. which translated to 40 in Brazil sizes, but that seemed small. I quickly ran back to my computer to do a quick Internet "g" search (remember I cannot mention any of E&Y's clients by name in my posts) and found a size conversion. If you wear a size 14 in the US size chart, you wear a size 46 shoe in Brazil. I pulled up another chart just to make sure and it was in deed a size 46. Emerging from a supply room, Mariana brought back a large pair of boots that Rodrigo and I were both surprised they had in stock. I put the boots on and they fit like a charm. Out the door we went, but not before grabbing a helmet, or what we refer to as a hard hat!

We arrived at the first building site which was in the Brooklin area where the corporate office is also located. Upon arriving, Rodrigo knocked on the contractors entrance to let the security guard know we were there. I had always envisioned that there would be a secret knock for contractors. You know, one that was in a certain pattern on perhaps made a musical tune when the knock was completed in the perfect order. However it was just a knock, knock, knock followed by a hello, Tecno Logys. Standing at the security entrance, I looked up at the high rise residential building I was about to enter and this is what it looked like.

The view from the security entrance looking up to the high rise tower
Upon entering, we were greeted by the security guard and the site foreman from Tecno Logys. We walked past the area where workers were creating mortar to be mixed with the blocks to create the permanent adhesion. There was another area where a worker was creating concrete header and footers for framing windows and doors with a mold. Each piece was being customized to fit a specific room and was inscribed with the length of the item. It was now time to enter the building via the service elevator attached to the side of the building (or at least I was hoping it was attached!). We took the elevator up to the top floor to see the progress. Again, because I value your readership, (Im not sure that "readership" is a real word but I think it's a perfect fit for this purpose) I took a short video for you to enjoy the ride with me.

Starting at the top seemed logical, as this was were the Tecno Logys workers were just getting started on the exterior walls. As I exited the elevator, my eyes were affixed on the people walking out of the elevator in front of me and I walked straight into the elevator frame (which was approximately 6'4" high). Thank God for that hard hat right? I'm sure my mom just shed a tear that her youngest child could have been hurt. Actually, on second thought, I'm pretty sure she is laughing at me. My dad is just happy that I have my own health insurance. Back to the story, as you can imagine, if there are no exterior walls in the building, it can be rather windy several stories high in the air. I was able to see first hand, how the workers were organizing their work flow and closing off the building to the external elements. I've never been fifteen stories in the air without any walls, railings, or glass between me and the ground so it was quite the experience. (I think its time for me to try skydiving when I get home) We headed down one floor, using what would be the emergency exit stairs, where workers were just finishing off the external walls.

We stopped and talked to the workers for a bit and then we were on our way. Down one more floor, the walls were fully completed except for the elevator side. Workers were mixing and finishing a portion of the concrete floor which goes over the base structure of the building. In these luxury apartments, the owner finishes many of the inside specifications to their own preferences. Continuing down the next couple of floors I was able to see workers laying out the apartment layouts by putting the first block down on the floor throughout the apartment to outline where the walls would be built.

Rodrigo explaining the floor plan

Once again heading down the stairway in the middle of the building, workers were building the interior walls where I could see the apartment taking its final shape. The workers were very efficient in using their tools to apply a generous layer of the mortar mixture to the bottom of each block before affixing it in its place. Each row of blocks were also leveled using some original technology, a roll of string!  Throughout the rest of the building, each floor was one step closer to being completed. The lower level floors even had begun to have kitchen and bathroom tiles installed as well as electrical work. Back down to the ground level where were started, were the same workers mixing the mortar. Other workesr were transporting the ceramic blocks I saw produced yesterday at the plant. Similar to the creation of the ceramic blocks, the process of building a building is what I expected, but it is still very cool to see first hand in a high rise residential building.

I need to get one of these for my Halloween Costume!

After a quick lunch (in terms of Brazilian culture), we headed to building site #2. This was a much larger building than the first and despite the process being the same, there a few stories from this building I must share. The first, being that this building site had a lot more personality. Workers were singing and making a lot of jokes with each other, perhaps because it was just after lunchtime. It was a lively atmosphere as we headed to the service elevator. This elevator was larger than the one we were on before, and it was full. As we stepped on and the foreman started to close the gate, a man decided he was going to get off. Me and my sarcastic mind immediately thought he was probably nervous that it was a full elevator and a man my size just hopped on. I had a laugh and away we headed to the 20th floor. About floor ten, three men got off of the elevator and I noticed one man was standing in front of the elevator capacity size. It said the capacity was 12 people or 1000KG. I did a quick count of the men left on board, and realized there were 10. That means there was 13 on at the ground floor. No big deal, I'm sure we were under the weight limit because they usually error on the small side for number of people. Let's check the weight. I know from weightlifting for athletics that 1KG equals 2.2LBS. That means as long as we were within 2200LBS, we would have been fine. I weigh 250LBS so that means that the rest of the crew had 1950LBS to spread amongst them, for an average of 162.5LBS or 73KG each. If this were America I might be concerned, but there was a good chance that the rest of the men in the elevator were about 160-165LBS. There was also a slight chance they were not, so I don't blame that man that decided he would take a less crowded flight. Mom any tears on that one? Again my dad is probably checking his insurance deductible out of habit despite being on my own insurance for nearly 7 years.

The second story was while winding down the staircase in this building. The apartments in this building were much smaller and so was the emergency staircase. We went floor by floor inspecting the work of the Tecno Logys building system, which was impressive to see. Each wall pattern and structure was designed specifically according to the designs made by the architects in the office that I had met. There were a lot of floors to go down (started on the 20th floor) so that meant a lot of stairs as well. On the stairs between the 7th and 6th floor, a worker, not from Tecno Logys, was putting on the wall covering in the stairway which is similar to a plaster. To make his job easier, he had mounted boards across the stairs so he could use them as a ramp. I said it made his job easier, not our job of walking down the stairs. We started down the ramp slowly like one of those Mountain Goats you see on the National Geographic Channel going down the mountains. Hands on both walls on the sides of the staircase to balance us, Rodrigo made it down just before me and I took my last step and was safely on the lower level. I stood up to turn right into the room and cracked my head on the top of the staircase. Again, Thank God I had that helmet. My mom is now laughing hysterically, and I bet she has shed at least one tear from laughing so hard. At this point, my dad would now gladly pay my insurance premium to have a video of me walking into another pole or ceiling. However, that was my last run in with vertically challenged poles or ceilings. After leaving this site it was back to the office to continue to work on the stuff I know, accounting and finances.

The above events are real events, they are a documentary of sorts and not a knock off "Based on a true story" or "Inspired by a true story". They are real, and I even had a couple marks on my helmet and dirt on my boots to prove it.

Since there were no crazy taxi stories today, The End.

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