Safety and Security in Multi-Family Property Construction: A Comprehensive Approach

Personal and property safety is an increasing concern for people across the United States. Residents of multi-family properties might have more concerns than others. When designing new developments or working on a remodel, ETI Construction works with property owners to consider resident safety and security for multi-family housing. 

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Safety Concerns with Multi-Family Housing

Residents and multi-family property owners need to be aware of some safety and security concerns. Unlike single-family properties, these units include communal spaces with more public access, and concerns typically fall into the hands of property management or contractors. Property owners and contractors must consider multi-family residential security during the initial design process of any new build or renovation. 

Common safety concerns for a multi-family property include the risk of fire; injury due to uneven walkways, poor lighting, or loose stairs; poor air quality and lack of proper ventilation; criminal behavior, including unauthorized building access and mail theft; and weather and natural disaster-related concerns.

Building Codes and Regulations 

Building codes are sets of regulations, standards, and guidelines established by building departments at the state and local levels, with unofficial guidelines from the International Code Council (ICC) and various professional organizations. These regulations include minimum requirements for building design, construction, and occupancy. Structural codes specify structural design and construction standards, including materials and framing requirements. Codes also include requirements for mechanical systems, such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, and electrical systems. Ensuring your multi-family investments are up to code is the first step in improving resident safety and lowering the risk of building damage and necessary future repairs.  

Accessibility codes relate to the ADA and FHA and detail the width of hallways and doorways, the slope of ramps, the steepness of staircases, and the necessity of handrailings. Contractors design nearly every aspect of a building around the requirements of building codes. As these codes change over time, property owners and investors must routinely inspect their multi-family property for any necessary upgrades. 

Fire Safety 

Ensuring all properties meet all building codes during initial construction, and any remodel or renovation already lowers the risk of fire or limits the damage and loss if a fire does break out. Exposed or faulty electric wiring, faulty heating systems, and poor ventilation are leading causes of residential fires that proper eclectic and HVAC system installation and maintenance can easily prevent. Other causes of fire, including cooking and smoking, are less preventable. However, fire alarm and suppression systems can drastically lower the amount of property damage or injury due to a fire. 

State and local authorities establish fire codes, often based on guidelines from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), that include requirements for smoke and carbon monoxide detector installation, sprinklers, accessible fire extinguishers, and building-wide fire alarms. When designing a multi-family property, contractors should account for fire alert and suppression systems and fire escape routes, including exterior fire escapes. Using fire-resistant materials during construction may cost more upfront but can pay off with increased safety and a lower risk of damage. 

multi-family residential security

Security Systems and Access 

Property access is a critical component of multi-family residential security. During the design process of any multi-family building, property owners and contractors should consider the security systems and access points for community spaces, walkways, and individual units. Some security measures, such as surveillance cameras in shared spaces and parking areas, can be installed after construction. However, contractors can include components such as flood, security, and motion-activated lighting covering walkways, parking lots, and hallways in a building plan. 

One critical consideration for multi-family investments is building access. How will residents access the building and their individual units? Are there keycards, fobs, or smart locks for general building access? Physical keys for individual units? Is there an intercom system to allow guests or delivery access? A publicly accessible lobby or vestibule still manages multi-family residential security but allows visitors to avoid waiting in the elements. No matter what locking mechanisms or technology are decided on and installed; they should be sturdy and feature a deadbolt or secondary lock. Property managers can also ensure safety by replacing locks after residents move or after any incidents and providing only a minimum number of people who have master keys or access (residents, property manager, on-call maintenance). 

Developers can often overlook windows as potential access points, but choosing windows during the construction process that only open from the inside and are easy to lock and even considering frosted glass panes increases security and comfort, especially for potential residents in a first-floor unit. 

Disaster Prevention 

While no one can prevent natural disasters and weather emergencies, including floods, tornadoes, and blizzards, they can design properties to withstand damage and create safe spaces. The most likely weather events or natural disasters in Chicago include severe storms with heavy rain, hurricane-strength winds, lightning, and hail. There are blizzards in the winter, floods due to rainfall, snowmelt, the overflowing Illinois River, and even tornadoes. Contractors need to consider an area’s climate and potential weather events when constructing multi-family properties. Even if legal requirements for disaster prevention do not apply due to the property’s location, contractors can still implement strategies to improve the safety of the building and the residents. 

Designing improved drainage systems within landscaping and pavement can assist in water runoff, and drainage can lower the risks of flood damage. Specific materials for foundations, supports, and even windows are designed to withstand high winds or minimize deformation during earthquakes. If incorporating a multi-purpose communal space is already part of the initial design, consider constructing it to withstand wind and debris during extreme winds or tornadoes and serve as a safe space. 

Maintenance and Renovation 

Property managers should work with contractors to develop a comprehensive plan to inspect the physical structure of a multi-family property regularly, even after initial construction or remodeling is complete. Inspecting electrical and plumbing systems can result in catching worn wires or slow leaks before they become more significant issues. Ensuring any maintenance or repairs are done correctly the first time is critical for multi-family investments. It’s cheaper in the long run to properly repair things the first time around. Professional contractors should complete a thorough inspection and any necessary restorations after a significant incident such as fire or water damage. Even a small kitchen fire can lead to hidden damage. ETI Construction’s expertise, experience, and process are ideal for restoration services

Property managers and owners can take additional steps to prevent weather-related damage, including ensuring walkways and driveways are clear of snow and ice. Removing heavy snow from roofs and other structures limits the amount of wear and extends a roof’s lifespan. Property owners and contractors can work together from the initial project design to create a safe and secure home. 

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ETI Construction

ETI Construction is the Chicago area expert in multi-family housing. We are known for quality, dependability, professional integrity, and exceptionally responsive service. Our team works with our clients to meet all their project goals, including enhancing the safety and security of their residents.