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The Value of Peer Review

The Problem. A 100-year-old building on West 87th Street had a Local Law 11 facade project progressing when work was directed to the upper corner of the structure where some cracks were observed. The building’s engineer at the time probed into the corner and uncovered sections of the steel column that were pretty significantly corroded. So the engineer came up with a scope-of-work description that went to the contractor the building had on the job for pricing. The quote the board received from the contractor made the members pretty uneasy. It seemed a little open-ended, and they did not feel confident that the new scope of work made sense to them in a way that they would be comfortable with signing it.

The Epiphany. The board turned to the property manager and asked if there was somebody else who could look at this with a track record of structural expertise. That’s when the property manager reached out to our firm to come take a look.

This building is nine stories tall, and when we got there we found that there had been probes at two locations on two separate floors. When I looked inside, there was so much steel corrosion it looked like a caterpillar had come and chewed pieces out of this column. Because the probes were so limited, they didn’t really give us a good idea of the extent of the issue. So I advised the board to open up the entire corner to expose the steel and see what we were dealing with.

The Execution. We ended up opening the corner from the top of the eighth floor all the way down to just about the first floor in order to confirm the full extent of the corrosion. Then we were tasked with having to re-establish the steel sections that had been lost to corrosion in a way that would ensure the stability of the column between the sections we were comfortable had not been adversely affected. We came up with a plan that was well defined and easy for the contractor to implement, locking in pricing and accounting for contingencies that made the building comfortable with moving forward.

The Result. When you’re dealing with repairs to buildings of this age, you really want to make sure that you’re defining the scope of the work and understanding the building as a whole, taking into consideration the condition from top to bottom. That way, there aren’t any surprises that can throw a wrench into things in terms of pricing and project duration.

There are many types of professional consultants, and buildings should take care to match the appropriate consultant with right scope of work, especially when project scopes creep into different areas of expertise. A structural engineer oftentimes won’t know how to diagnose mechanical equipment, someone who specializes in façade restoration might not understand major structural repairs, and an electrical engineer likely won’t be able to provide guidance on a lobby’s accessibility compliance requirements. So when a project starts to delve into different disciplines, it’s worthwhile to bring in someone as a third-party peer to review the new scope of work related to their area of expertise. That way, you can have the best set of consultants on that particular item so that the new scope is appropriately defined and you’re getting the most efficient solution to the issue at hand.

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