I often find instances where it would appear that designers have lost their thinking caps or never had one to begin with.
Take this 6 story building for example. There are probably a hundred condo units in this building and every unit has a dryer. All these dryers have to terminate at the exterior of the building somewhere. The top units can likely pretty satisfactorily be vented through the roof for ease of maintenance/inspection (they were not however). Even the second floor vents can likely be fairly easily and safely maintained by ladder from the ground.
But what about the floor levels in between? These vents are going to be 30, 40, 50 or 60 feet off the ground! It some areas they are even further off the ground due to the slope of the site. While it is common for Condo Associations to have a maintenance schedule for maintaining these termination points, one has to wonder just how cleaning and maintenance gets done. Even renting a cherry picker a couple of times a year would get expensive on a building this size. It is amazing to me that building codes would even allow the vents to terminate where maintenance would be so difficult.
In this next picture I have circled some of the dryer vent locations that would be extremely difficult to maintain.
To add insult to injury all of the dryer vent terminations on this building had screens installed over the vents. Even if this was a good idea (It is not and is in fact not allowed) it would only increase the number of times they would need to be inspected/cleaned due to the presence of the screens.
As you can see in the following picture some of the screens—this one 40 feet off the ground—is partially blocked with lint consistent with inadequate maintenance.
So all of this begs the question, “Why weren’t the vents terminated at locations where they could be easily maintained at virtually not cost?” This could have been easily accomplished by terminating the vents at all the deck locations around the building—as some of them were.
Given that dryer fires are one of the most common types of fires in residential construction, it makes sense to have more sense as to where these vents terminate.
This stuff is not rocket science and yet we try to make it so at times.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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