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How to Build the Perfect Lake Home: An Interview with Dan Weinstein of The Kachele Group

By Dan Weinstein

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

The Kachele Group is a structural engineering firm with offices in Philadelphia, PA; Berwyn, PA; and Voorhees, NJ. We provide structural engineering service to many types of clients, such as architects, builders, owners, insurers, lawyers, etc. We provide structural engineering services on a wide array of project types, such as single-family residences, multi-family housing, commercial, institutional (education, religious, and healthcare), and light industrial. We also provide specialty engineering to contractors (steel stud framing, temporary shoring, underpinning, excavation bracing, etc.), manufacturers (certification for seismic and wind loading of curbs and equipment), and others. Having engineering licenses in over 40 states, The Kachele Group is positioned to design structures in most of the USA.

What are some of the biggest decisions that a homeowner will need to make about the design of a new waterfront or lake home?

The flood zone may be such that the lowest level of the building must be uninhabited and whatever is stored there would be subject to floods. In some locations, the codes require that foundations include breakaway panels or louvers to allow the passage of water through the structure so that it does not experience excessive lateral forces that could damage the structural system. Open structures tend to experience greater wind pressures than closed structures, so the designs should include means of securing openings before storms.

Can you briefly explain what a builder likes to know about the future homeowners to create the perfect house for them?

As engineers, it's important for us to understand the types of finishes the owner wants. Depending on the owner's selection, the finishes could elevate the dead weight of the building beyond the norm. For instance, thick ceramic floor tiles are heavy, so they require strong and stiff floors to support the weight without excessive deflection. Excessive deflection could cause the tiles to crack. Another unrelated issue is having a geotechnical report for the site that describes the soils at the site and recommends design parameters for foundations.

What are a few of the most in-demand features for waterfront homes in New Jersey?

The trends I've noticed in design of homes at the NJ shore is for relatively open floor plans and an abundance of windows. Both of those trends tend to elevate the cost of the structural systems of homes. First, open floor plans limit the availability of interior load bearing walls so floor beams have to span long distances. Often the floor plans do not have interior walls that align one level with the next, which requires transfers of loads with beams and posts that are larger than normal. Second, window and door openings in exterior walls limit the solid areas available as shear walls to resist the lateral forces of the wind. Sometimes, the exterior designs of houses provide so little opportunities for shear walls that the structural design requires expensive structural steel frames.

What advice would you give a client who wants a lake home that combines progressive design and comfort?

If cost of the structural system is a concern, then have the designer provide modestly spaced bearing locations that align level to level and sufficient extent of exterior walls that could serve as shear walls (braced walls).

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About The Author

The Kachele Group is a structural engineering firm with offices in Philadelphia, PA;...

Phone: 610-644-8577

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