New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

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Spending Solutions

Reserve studies are a mainstay of your engineering consultancy’s business. Can you explain what these studies do?

For example, we'll go out, and we'll look at the building to see which parts of the common elements will require replacement, when they’ll require replacement and how much it will cost to do the replacement. We’ll make recommendations on how much money the board should be setting aside each year, so that when it comes time to replace something like a roof or a facade, there will be enough money to do it.

 

How does a capital-needs assessment differ from a reserve study?

A capital-needs assessment is very similar to a reserve study. The primary difference is that when you do a reserve study, you're doing a projection that goes out 30 years. So it's really more of a budgetary tool. The capital-needs assessment goes out about five years, and it's based on capital-improvement plans, which are based on the actual pricing of projects that are getting done. And it can be used with much more integrity in terms of the replacement costs rather than a budgetary tool.

 

Don’t your staff people need to visit the buildings to do these studies?

With a reserve study or a capital-needs assessment, the majority of the work can be done through the office. For example, if we need to figure out the dimensions of the roof, we can do that a couple of different ways. We can use the actual architectural or engineering plans of the buildings, or we can use the awesome technology that’s available these days. For example, we'll zoom in to a Google Earth shot of the building, and we'll be able to measure the roof. So a lot of it in terms of the quantity of materials and the replacement cost and these types of things are actually done in the office. But there's no question that in order to determine what the remaining useful life is you do have to go and take a look at the condition.

 

With social distancing, is it going to be a problem having people onsite?

We do have to be very careful, making sure when we go to the site to do the inspection that nobody's around. We use whatever protective gear we need, and we do it in a very safe manner. But again, it's not a big part of the project, although it is a critical part of getting the project done correctly.

 

So the technology is helpful, but there comes a time when you have to physically be there to see it and touch it?

Absolutely. And depending on the type of community, we also use drone technology a huge amount. We’ll spend half a day sitting out in a corner of the community, nobody's near us, and we'll Zoom the entire property. Then we'll take that drone photography – videos and pictures – back to the office, and we can do our inspections sitting at a desk rather than walking around in the community. And that keeps the amount of time at the community to a minimum. But again, it depends on the type of community. Also, there are a lot of regulations in regards to using drones, so in some cases we can't use them. But in other cases we use them as much as we can.

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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