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A Second Opinion

As more and more buildings face the dual threat of deteriorating facades and increasing costs, many boards are now seeking second opinions on their architect’s original plans. Michael Berenson, president of AKAM Associates, a management company, and Carl Borenstein, president of Veritas Property Management, say this happens 10 to 20 percent of the time. “It’s always a good thing to get a second opinion,” notes Berenson, “especially if it’s a large-scale project and they want to get another set of eyes on it to see that the scope is in line with what needs to be done.”

“When you have severe doubts about the quality that is being put in front of you, and the board goes into a panic, it’s time for a peer review,” says Osvaldo Bertolini, principal in Bertolini Architectural Works.

If that happens, the building’s primary architect will draw plans and prepare specifications. Then the board will hire a second architect, usually suggested by the manager, to review the drawings and the specs. “We’re basically doing maybe 40 percent of the work that the first group of engineers did,” says Bertolini. “We pore over the documents prepared by [the primary firm], examine the quality of the drawings, and essentially investigate the building all over again and tell them whether we agree with the need for the repairs being proposed.”

The second opinion can be as simple or as complex as a board desires. Christa Waring, a principal at CTA Architects, notes that such a review could cost as much as $10,000. “If it’s an exterior project,” she says, “we might have to do scaffold drops and would probably want to open a probe and do our own building survey, and then write a second opinion.” But Bertolini says it can be more informal. “I can do a walk-through, taking a quick look to see if we’re on the right track or not,” he says. “Do you need to fix this now? How urgent is it, and are they addressing everything properly?”

“If it’s a significant project,” concludes Waring, “you know, a few million dollars, and it takes the board by surprise, then a second opinion is a good idea.”

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