Have you ever tightened a bolt?  How tight is tight enough?  Is it possible to tighten it too much?  Whereas these questions might not matter as much when you assemble an IKEA side table for your living room, they sure do matter when you are tightening bolts in a member connection for a steel building. One convention is to follow the “snug-tight” method where bolts are tightened until first sign of resistance and then given another quarter turn.

Another convention is to use direct tension indicators.  Direct tension indicators are washers that have small protrusions on them.  When the bolt is tightened, the gap between the unturned element and the washer decreases.  The size of the gap is then measured and when it reaches the desired size, the bolt is pronounced tightened.  It is often required to have all the connections in a building inspected to ensure tightened adequacy.  But to go and climb up to every connection and hand check each bolt is both extremely time consuming and still subject to human error, especially when there are a lot of connections and thus a lot of bolts to inspect.


Then a special machine is used to tighten the nut without turning the bolt.  But here is where the ingenious part of the design comes in.  When it has been tightened to the required torque, the small spline pops off!  So that is when you know that the bolt is tightened just right and, as an added bonus, it makes for a very quick, easy, and thus efficient connection inspection, you just have to look for all the bolts to have their splines popped off.

Snug-tight conditions and direct tension indicators are still widely used today, so tension control bolts are just another option to use in construction, but a pretty innovative option!





So you have something valuable in your building that you want to protect, like children at a daycare or the entrance to a federal building, yet you want to be able to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and views of the outdoors, what do you do? Thankfully, there are decades of research and many manufactures out there that are able to provide you with products that can provide you a security solution for such a case.

Figure 1: 3M put money inside a bus stop partition in Vancouver, Canada to prove their security glass could withstand nearly any attack by an unarmed person. If anyone could break the glass, they got the money. No one broke the glass.

To tackle this problem, the first real question you have to ask is “what am I protecting against?” Are you trying to protect against a guy with a hammer breaking through your window, an active shooter, falling ice. The gamut is nearly limitless but needs to be defined early on in the decisions making process. Until you narrow that down, the options, and cost, are boundless. If you are trying to stop a burglar, that can be accomplished without too much trouble. If you are trying to stop an active shooter, or are looking for “blast protection”, things get complicated quickly.

The chart below lays out the major categories of protected glazing and potential materials that will accomplish that:Now if that table with all of those options looks confusing, it is. The worst part is that depending on manufacturer, one might make a glass-clad polycarbonate that is UL 752 level 3 rated that is ½” thick, where another might make the same apparent product that is ¾” thick. So how do you choose? It all comes down to what you are trying to protect against, and how important the aesthetic is. Even though many products pass the specific UL or ASTM testing requirements, they often vary in thickness, color, and physical make up and thus may not be suitable depending on the application.

Once a decision is made on what level of security you want and what type of material you want, you then have to struggle with how to secure this very expensive, but very dependable piece of glazing into place. Depending on the material and the manufacturer, you can use a captured system like a storefront or curtainwall system, you can use a custom designed steel framing system with glazing channels, or you might even be able to use mechanical fasteners to anchor through the material depending on its composition. The real factor in choosing the right framing system is the frame’s ability to withstand the kinetic energy distributed to it by the burglar / bullet / blast. Selecting the right frame typically requires engineering calculations and/or consulting a specific manufacturer to select a pre-engineered system.

If all of this sounds rather complicated, it’s because it is. NKB has done multiple projects where the design necessitated that some form of transparent security be provided, and each time we go through answering all of these questions in order to choose the right solution. Transparent security is a building component that requires special attention to detail and to ensure the right outcome. Do not just pick a product off the shelf when dealing with such complex problems, consult a design professional; broken glass in this case is a lot more dangerous than just a sharp edge.


nkb-office-progress-2016-1We have all experienced it, you look at the place you live and realize it just isn’t working for you anymore. The layout isn’t conducive to the way you process, you don’t have enough room for yourself, this other room you never use has excess space, and really it all just needs a face lift. Well N.K. BHANDARI has been feeling the same way. So after searching and searching and then analyzing different locations we have finally found our new home; but we aren’t going very far. How close may you ask? Well we are currently listening to them renovating our space as I type this. That’s right we are sticking to our roots here at Rockwest Center and moving one floor up.

So now what we get to do for our clients every day is exactly what we get to do for ourselves. Our team has worked for many months to come up with the best solution for ourselves that will help us create in a more effective work environment. We analyzed the way we work, questioned processes, looked at different trends, questioned the “norm” of office design, listened to our employee’s needs and wants, did A LOT of different layouts, selected a layout, changed that layout, and came up with a design to meet our needs! Now I won’t say we revolutionized the way offices are designed but ultimately we came up with what works best for us. It’s what we do every day for our clients too. Finding solutions to meet their needs.

Here are some pictures of our process and even some of our space before, and the current construction. Final pictures will come hopefully in the New Year once we have moved and settled into our new home!



-Lauren Zacher, NCIDQ


Being aProfessionalismcountable means being able to answer for your actions, but not necessarily being responsible for them. Similarly, accountability is something you hold a person to only AFTER a task is or isn’t done. Responsibility occurs before and/or after a task, and is ongoing. Responsibility can also be shared while accountability cannot. The many experiences throughout my career continue to influence my ability to respond to and account for my actions and allow me to integrate both concepts of responsibility and accountability.

The success of my job depends on my ability to merge both accountability and responsibility, to shape and establish a firm confidence and understanding of the expectations of my profession, and to deliver exceptional service to those that need it.  The following are some thoughts about how and why this came to be.


My Work: In my profession, we are consistently asking for people to “take ownership” of their work. As a design professional, this prescribes significant commitment to and cultivation of our work product. You become accountable for every line that’s drawn, every word that written. Thus, you must know exactly what it means and why you did it.

My Actions: Accountability can most precisely be defined as answerability. Being accountable is an expectation to explain one’s actions for whatever they are. An easy way to think about being accountable is – literally, whatever the results of my actions, I must be able to give an account of what happened, why it happened, and how.

My Process: I can do a fantastic job or a terrible job, allow good or bad things to happen, and make smart or terrible decisions and not actually be responsible – but I am accountable by being able to explain what happened, how it happened, and why. Accountability, doesn’t lay blame for or pin success on me, it only describes me as being able to explain my actions or the actions of a group or business.

The Distinction: So why is it important to be both responsible and accountable? In order for me to develop, grow, and thrive as a professional, I need to know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and how I can get it done. I may do it myself, or enlist the aid of my colleagues. But for this thing I’m doing to have any value I need to be fully engaged in the making of it. That means knowing what the heck is going on AND making sure it’s successful.

The Results: Can you imagine being completely in charge of something – the root cause behind whether that thing succeeds or fails – but not able to explain how or why? In contradistinction, can you imagine being accountable for how or why something is fantastically prosperous but not being responsible for it?

These two concepts being separate or distinctly different make for a terrible work environment and just don’t sound good at all. When I was first introduced to “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Dr. Stephen Covey, I was deeply impressed with his definition of “responsible” as being “able to respond” or my ability to respond to things around me. I have better things to do than claim someone else is responsible for my actions or success, or living the hollow role of being responsible for actions that are out of my control or understanding. Having the combined knowledge of doing a task well and being the ultimate owner of it – merging accountability with responsibility – has heightened my sense of how to do things better, and also answers why I should be doing better things.

Check out part one of this series on professionalism here.


gsa_logoN.K. BHANDARI is pleased to announce that it was recently awarded a five year term contract to provide Architecture & Engineering design services to the Federal Government’s General Services Administration Special Programs Division (GSA SPD) throughout the northeastern United States.  Projects for the GSA SPD involve complex design challenges that need to be delivered with an expedited schedule.  Project assignments anticipated for this contract will be located at Federal installations  including: Federal Buildings, Federal Courthouses, Land Ports of Entry, Border Crossings, and other Federal assets throughout the states of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Over 90% of N.K. BHANDARI’s GSA SPD design team is located in Central New York, with the potential to support almost 100 full time design team personnel.  The contract has the capacity to generate $100,000,000 in construction projects per year throughout the northeastern United States.

The N.K. BHANDARI team for the GSA SPD contract includes seven subconsultant firms from Central New York  (C&S Engineers; Holmes-King-Kallquist; CNY Elevator Engineering; Dwyer Architectural; Environmental Design & Research; Thew Associates), and three firms located outside Central New York (Faithful+Gould (New York, NY); Shen-Milsom-Wilke (New York, NY); Karagozian & Case (Glendale, CA)).

N.K. BHANDARI is proud to continue its longstanding tradition of providing service to the Federal government through the GSA SPD contract.  In the firm’s 36 year history, N.K. BHANDARI has provided services to the Federal government on 16 Indefinite Quantity / Indefinite Delivery (IDIQ) Term Contracts for seven different agencies on 455 projects at 145 locations throughout the United States.  As a firm, we could not be more proud to provide Unrivaled Service and Unique Results for the United States of America.

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Aerial Image taken with NKB’s UAV

Documenting existing conditions can often times be difficult for Architects & Engineers, because the conditions are concealed, too high, out of reach, or outright unsafe to get to.  The question is, how can you see things that you cannot ordinarily see?  Technology.  Using technology to your advantage is the way you get the job done.

When posed with performing a condition assessment and preparing the design for the restoration of the steeple on the historic St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Liverpool, NY, NKB offered the use of our unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with an onboard high definition digital camera to document the conditions that were otherwise unobservable from the ground.  The conditions were too high and unsafe to try to get to with a ladder or lift.  By using our UAV, NKB could provide high definition still or video imagery of conditions on the steeple that the owner, design professional, and contractor could not otherwise see.  Having this visual documentation of an otherwise obscured condition is allowing the design team and the contractor to proceed with the design and construction activities on the steeple in an orderly manner.

The next big thing in Architecture and Engineering is not necessarily some earth-shaking new approach to re-invent the built environment.  The next big thing is how we as design professionals can use technology in creative ways to provide unparalleled service for our clients.

Using technology in creative ways to work for you.

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Aerial Image taken with NKB’s UAV

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Up close on a hard to reach spot using NKB’s UAV


Recently, NKB was called by an existing client to assist them with a problem they began experiencing with ice falling from window sills several stories above the ground.  In mid-January, Old Man Winter comes to Upstate New York and dropped 14 inches of snow in about 36 hours.  Temperatures ranged from 15ºF to 25ºF and wind speeds were consistently between 5 and 15 mph with occasional gusts of up to 35-40mph.  Over the two days which followed the completion of the storm there were reports of ice buildup and falling to grade below.  The client called us in to examine what might be causing the ice build-up.  What we found when we walked the perimeter of the building and looked out on various façades of the building from facing windows was very telling.

Melting at Window Sills

Melting at Window Sills

Each window sill showed some snow and ice still in place near the edge of the sill.  The 6-8 inches nearest to the window was clear in all locations.  Every – Single – Window.  All 245 instances, showed the same clear area adjacent to the windows with ice buildup at the edge.  Our client admitted that they did not recall if this was a problem prior to the façade renovation project.  It had been several years since pedestrians were allowed anywhere near the building so there was no institutional memory of occurrences like this happening previously.

We began running through the list of things that could possibly cause this melting condition:

1. The windows are known to be headaches to the building management.  Infiltration problems are known to exist so could we be getting warm air leakage at the windows causing snow melt?  Well, warm air leakage would likely be a less uniform condition.  Coupled with the fact that the façade renovation project that was just completed included the resealing of the entire perimeter of each of the windows, we decided that this was not a major contributor.

2. Since this is a horizontal surface, it could be that the sun was causing the snow melt, right?  When we noticed that the condition existed at all faces, regardless of orientation (including the north facing façade which gets essentially zero sun at this time of year), we ruled out solar melting as a primary contributor to the problem.

3. Upon a closer inspection of the window sills and a reexamination of the original construction documents from the 1970’s, we realized that this pre-cast concrete window sill was likely acting as a thermal short.  It extended, unbroken, from the exterior to the interior of the building.

A thermal short is a condition in which thermal energy is allowed to flow along a path of least resistance from a heat source to a colder region on the other side of the barrier.  Consider an electrical short circuit.  An electrical short is one in which the electricity is allowed to flow along a shorter path than intended and in doing so damages components and ceases to work properly (hopefully without killing anyone in the process).  A thermal short is a similar phenomenon.  In most homes the walls contain some form of insulation to provide greater resistance to heat loss in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.  In a commercial building, a thermal short is most often exterior panels supported by metal clips and brackets which are tied to metal structural components.  This string of metal tied to metal creates an easy path along which thermal energy can flow.  This building did not have an unbroken string of metal from exterior to interior making identification of a thermal short in this case particularly difficult.  However, the uninsulated concrete still served the function of a thermal short by acting as a path of least resistance for the thermal energy in the building to escape.

Most people consider concrete to be of sufficient thermal mass and to be a relatively capable thermal insulator.   Compared to metal window frames and door frames or z-channel, this understanding is exactly right.  Compared to air gaps and closed-cell insulation, this is an error in judgement.  In an effort to better explain what was causing the observed conditions and to predict a likely solution we put together, a Finite Element Analysis (FEA) thermal model of the window sill conditions.  We created 50 different runs with a varying set of boundary conditions and thermal loads.  These runs examined the following conditions:


Variable Values
Insulation in PTAC cavity Yes/No
PTAC operational Yes/No
Exterior Temperature 30º/15º/0º F
Wind Speed Across Face of Building 5/10/15 mph

What came out of the simulations was both expected and surprising at the same time. The results of the model with the existing conditions as inputs produced outputs which would predict the melting and refreezing conditions exactly as observed.

Existing condition

Proposed condition

We then created a series of simulations in which we insulated the interior faces of the concrete so as to attempt to create the thermal break required to prevent the wholesale loss of building heat through the concrete sill.  The results of these simulations predict that 1 inch of polyisocyanurate insulation on the interior face of the concrete sill will prevent melting on the sill in all conditions except those which also do not allow the snow melt to refreeze on the concrete.

run key

Over the remaining winter months, we have found that this condition seemed to be limited to larger snow events.  We had several smaller snow falls (less than 4 inches at a time) and it seems that there is a critical mass of snow which is required to create the pieces of ice that are large enough to separate from the building.  This critical mass has not been reached since that snow storm in mid-January but considering that we, in Syracuse, routinely win the Golden Snowball award for largest snowfall total during the winter months, we can be assured that we will typically get at least one storm capable of creating the conditions to cause this occurrence each year.  The implementation of the findings of this analysis is yet to be completed and will be the topic of ongoing discussion with the client.

So what is the moral of this story?  Thermal energy is a slippery devil.  It finds unexpected paths and causes unexpected consequences.  Thermal shorts in all of their forms can be a significant building performance and energy consumption issue.  These issues impact not only the long term performance of the building itself, but the people who use the building day-in-and-day-out.  This case study serves to highlight the usefulness of a relatively straight-forward Finite Element Analysis steady state thermal model in helping to determine the causes of a given condition as well as helping to identify what recommendations we can make in order to best address them.


N.K. BHANDARI is pleased to announce it has recently received the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) and a Section 333 Grant of Exemption allowing the firm complete use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) for commercial use.  This added capability allows NKB to provide an expanded set of services to our clients while also ensuring greater safety for the public, our clients, and our employees.


Through the use of our UAV technology, we are able to perform visual inspections of various types for structures including building facades, roofs, towers, bridges in both high definition still images, and 4K video in both the visual and infrared spectrums.  Utilizing our DJI Phantom quad-copter UAV and automatic waypoint navigation, we are also able to provide terrain mapping services through photogrammetry.  These technologies provide us with a set of files which can be utilized in our design platform software to create existing condition drawings and to obtain a topographical representation of any property with greater ease than was previously possible.


At N.K. BHANDARI, we embrace the use of technology to deliver a higher level of service as Architects and Engineers.  By welcoming this technology, we are positioning ourselves at the leading edge of the design community.  Through compliance with current FAA regulations relating to the usage of UAV’s we are able to provide a heightened level of peace of mind for our clients.  All of our clients know that NKB not only works within the existing regulatory framework, but we also maintain all required insurances and operator training to ensure the highest level of client, employee, operator, and most importantly, public safety during our UAV operations.

NKB is excited to continue to lead by example by embracing and utilizing leading edge technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles with visual and infrared sensors to deliver unique results through unrivaled service.


N.K. BHANDARI is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of the 2016 Small Business Administration Excellence Award as nominated by the Onondaga Small Business Development Center.  All of us at NKB are both humbled and honored by this recognition from the SBA.  Honored because of who we are as a firm and what we have accomplished.  At the same time we are humbled, because there are so many who should receive this honor with us.

There are so many we are fortunate enough to work with day-in-and-day-out that should be recognized more than us.  These team members include every one of our clients, our design team sub-consultants, our business partners, the Small Business Development Center, the Small Business Administration, the former leadership of the firm (Narindar Bhandari and Jim Resig), and every employee of N.K. BHANDARI.

To all of the organizations and individuals who we are fortunate enough to call part of the NKB team, we extend our heart-felt thanks and expression of gratitude for honoring us with your gift, talents, and abilities in support of the firm.  Thank you.

Photo from the Small Business Excellence Awards luncheon on May 6, 2016. From left to right: Patrick MacKrell, NYBDC President & CEO | Karen Livingston, SBDC Onondaga Business Counselor | Christopher Resig, N.K. BHANDARI, President | B.J. Paprocki, SBA Syracuse, District Director

Photo from the Small Business Excellence Awards luncheon on May 6, 2016. From left to right: James Conroy, NYBDC | Karen Livingston, NY SBDC Onondaga | Chris Resig, N.K. BHANDARI, Architecture & Engineering, P.C. | Bernard J. Paprocki, SBA