Heat Exposure From Apartment Furnace Causes Child Permanent Brain Damage

    Architect ExpertThis case involves a wall furnace that was installed in a unit of a high-rise residential apartment building in Chicago. The unit was not equipped with a thermostat. A 4-year-old child slept in the room. There were no safeguards or visible measurement devices on the furnace and the temperature rose to 110 degrees overnight. The room was very small in size, allegedly designed too small to be able to host a heating device of this magnitude. The child suffered permanent brain damage as a result of heat exposure. An expert in the architecture and design of high-altitude residential apartment buildings was sought to opine on whether the room was designed appropriately to host a wall furnace.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Please briefly describe your architectural experience with high-altitude residential apartment units.
    • 2. Can you speak to the necessary size and layout for bedrooms that employ a wall furnace or fireplace?

    Expert Witness Response E-006332

    I have experience with the design of residential dwelling units. I have experience with the selection and coordination of the installation of gas fired log look-alike fireplaces. I have worked on condo apartments and Ritz Carlton units across the country. This unit is able to provide 33,000 BTUs of heat when set on high. A typical master bedroom, even in a very cold climate, should be comfortable with no more than 16,000 BTUs of heat. The manufacturer clearly advises that this type of heater is to be considered supplemental to a primary heating system, so indeed this unit was way oversized for the intended use and occupancy. Moreover, my experience with this type of product is that a factory trained installation expert is typically a holder in due course (who buys the unit wholesale and sells and delivers and installs the unit on behalf of the homeowner or the builder). So there should have been ample checks and balances. I understand the pros and cons of this type of unit well and why a homeowner might want to add this type of unit to their home. However, I do not believe this size unit was suitable for a small bedroom, especially without the proper safety controls. I am wondering whether this unit was a standard feature or an add alternate feature in the sales contract and what the builder’s sales promotion literature had to say about the suitability of this particular unit for its intended use.

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