Plywood Pop-up in 1700 Block of New Jersey Ave NW

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Topic: Plywood Pop-up in 1700 Block of New Jersey Ave NW

PoPville May 25, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Plywood Pop-up in 1700 Block of New Jersey Ave NW

I know that pop-up discussions are not novel here. They are the bane of many DC residents and the delight of the many contractors and realtors, who are undoubted overrepresented in these blogs. Nevertheless, this recent pop-up in the 1700 block of New Jersey Ave NW is just not troublesome because of its proposed height. It is disturbing because of the material the contractors are using in the immediate proximity of the Valero Gas station on the corner of New Jersey Ave NW and Rhode Island Ave NW.

I have averred on several occasions that the reason we have blocks of brick rowhouses and not blocks of wooden structures is because the wooden buildings were deemed too ease to catch fire and too prone to spread fires, once engulfed in flames. We had several fires in the 1700’s and 1800’s, including the Great Fire of London, that prompted people, like Ben Franklin, to support the creation of the modern fire department and better building codes. Indeed, building codes required buildings to be built with three course of brick party walls which greatly reduced the chance of fires spreading quickly.

This current structure under construction, which hovers above the Valero gas station, evidences how quickly we forget the lessons of the past and are willing to brush aside safety concerns. We should not allow cheapness, laziness, and greed to trump safety concerns, lest we repeat that past.

This green wood structure, abutting a gasoline station does not have a setback on the side wall, i.e., the gasoline station side. Its construction suggests that the builders have no intention of including anything type of masonry-separation wall between this five-level structure and the gasoline station directly below it.

While the modern code ‘allows’ construction using such materials because fire-rated drywall and similar materials can be used, fire-rated drywall is not brick. Put simply, we don’t have enough faith in it to construct fireplaces out of it. Fire-rated drywall and aluminum siding are not cinder block, brick or concrete.

I cannot believe that D.C. inspectors are blind to the very serious danger that the height and construction materials of this particular building pose given its location. In short, any building abutting a gasoline station should be required to use material with a much higher level of fire protection that that of fire-rated drywall and aluminum siding.


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