Building Walkthroughs: How Thorough Are Yours?

Last tour, the engine went on a walkthrough of a new building in our second-due area: 2323 Pennsylvania Ave, SE. I humbly offer my writeup of our exploration of the building, and ask that readers contribute their thoughts. What questions would you have asked that I missed? Any other details you’d want to know, reading as an observer? What things would be useful should they put out a box alarm at this address?


The Grays on Pennsylvania is a 5-story, light-weight wood-frame (here’s a picture from the construction) apartment building. The ground floor is a combination of a market/retail space and apartments; floors 2-5 are apartments only. Beneath the building you’ll find two levels of parking, which are accessible from the Delta side of the building (right next to a loading dock for the retail space). From an overhead view, the building resembles a squared-off “U” shape, with each arm of the U terminating in a stairwell.

Upon initial entry (from the alpha/address side from Pennsylvania Avenue), you’ll approach an open octagonal space just past the alarm panel on your left side. From each side of this waiting area, you’ll find the leasing office, weight room, mail room, a bathroom, the elevator core, and a hallway leading to the ground floor apartments.

There are two elevators, which travel from both parking levels all the way to Floor 5 on electronic card access—a leasing office representative said they’d look into getting a card to the nearby companies. There are six apartments on the ground floor and 28 apartments on each of the upper floors, for a total of 118 units. Each of the upper floors are identically laid out; when exiting the elevators, apartments 01-07 are on the right and apartments 08-28 are on the left. Each unit has a full set of appliances (W/D, dishwasher, fridge, stove, etc.)

The two stairwells in the building, marked “A” and “B,” both reach from the lower parking deck all the way to the fifth floor. They are both standpiped on every level, and both offer access to the Charlie side via metal access doors. However, Stairwell B is the only one accessible from the Lobby. The hallway that leads to the six ground-floor units terminates in Stair B, offering immediate access to the rear of the building. Stairwell A is accessed from either the parking garage or the Charlie side.

The center of the “U” is a garden courtyard. After entering a locked gate (located midway between the two rear stairwell doors) and walking through the courtyard, you’ll encounter a door that leads to a a ground-floor maintenance hallway. Within this hallway, you’ll find a small electrical room, a back entrance to the market space, and access to the loading dock/trash area mentioned earlier. The two parking decks are identically laid out underground; one is for tenants, and the other is for patrons of the Yes! Market when it opens in late August. On the lower level—right next to the Stair A access door—you’ll find the main electrical room(s) for the entire building.

Thoughts: As far as laying out, the building is very accessible to hydrants. For first-due, there’s a hydrant located in front of the building. Second-due has a hydrant at Nicholson and Prout, a hydrant on L’Enfant Square directly in front of the car wash, and  back up at Nicholson and Minnesota if those are both OOS for whatever reason. Thinking about a box alarm, it seems like second-due pretty much has the run of the building. If you have an apartment number, then you know which of the rear doors would be wisest to enter. Example: You’re second due, approaching the building. You have fire reported in apartment 424. You’ll know that if you are facing the rear, you’ll find apartments 08-28 are closest to Stair A (on your left as you face the rear of the building). The FDC is near the A-D corner on the Alpha side; instead of running all the way around, or relying on first-due to supply water, the wagon driver could save time by supplying the Stair A standpipe himself via the parking garage/loading dock access while the crew makes entry with racks (it’s only a couple steps away from the C-D corner). So although the Alpha access is limited to the lobby, elevators, and one stairwell, the Charlie side can get you to anywhere in the building with what seems like the least amount of travel.


Thoughts? This is the first one of these I’ve actually written up, so I’m sure I’m missing a whole bunch of stuff. Help me out, and let me know what else I should be looking for!

My hastily scribbled notes while walking.


  • John says:

    Every dept has different conditions and ways of doing things, but here’s some things I would ask if this building were in my area:

    Is the building sprinklered? I don’t see a room behind the FDC on the plans, so probably not. What’s the longest stretch on the apt floors? Make sure you can make the door into the farthest bedroom of the last apt. Is it shorter than your standpipe load, or will you need another length? Any obstructions for the truck? Are there any roof/scuttle accesses and where are they? Roof construction? Is there aerial or ground ladder access to the rear? Is there a key box or another method of 24 hr access? Make sure the first due gets that key card for access. Any way to ventilate the end of the garage opposite the doors? Are there blowers down there? Are there garbage chutes, and if so, where are they and how can you get at them? Can you fit a stretcher in both elevators, or only one?

    • raisingladders says:

      All excellent questions! Good thing we’ll be going back today for the benefit of crew members who weren’t with us last tour, so I’ll see what we can find out. Thanks for the help!

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