Back in 2019, we were working on a building that required a lot of terrace replacements and a roof replacement. Due to the pandemic, things were put on hold, and then there was kind of a slow restart because of the challenges of ordering materials. By that time, the ninth cycle of the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP) started getting close, so we had a conversation about how to tackle those repairs. We asked, “Should we hold off on the roof project so that we can do the facade, and then come back and finish the roof and terraces? Or do we overlap them?”
We decided to do both projects at the same time. We looked at the calendar, and we started to work backwards. If we have to file a FISP report by this date, we really should do the exterior repairs by that date. And it really saves a client money in terms of mobilization — sidewalk sheds, scaffolding, permitting, and engineering in some cases — if we can do the facade repairs in conjunction with the roof program. You want to find a way to intertwine the two using the same contractor and not having to re-deploy the sidewalk sheds and get a separate permit. Instead, amend the current permit to try to do it all at once.
Now the downside of that, of course, is that there’s a bigger price tag for a board to manage all at once. So that was definitely a consideration. Another issue was the bidding, because in a different world we might have gone through a competitive bidding process. But in this case, we were trying to use the same contractor.
Bad News, Good News
Our hearts went out to the terrace owners. First, we said the terrace replacement was going to take a year, but that time extended because of the pandemic. And now we were saying, “We need to have scaffolding set up on your terrace in order to do the exterior facade work, so it’s going to be even longer.” The terrace owners bore the brunt. But we also tried to get them to look at the big picture. As part of that, we said, “Look, this prevents us from coming back again. This prevents us from disrupting you twice. This prevents us from having to give you a week of use of your terraces only to take it back down the road. Hopefully, if we do it all at once, we can be out of everyone’s way sooner.”
One More Complication
The Climate Mobilization Act, which will require many buildings to cut their carbon emissions beginning in 2024, also came into play. With a lot of terrace and roof projects lately, insulation has been a big concern. An older building might not have had any insulation at all, or if it did, it was modest. And now, because we want better energy efficiency, that means more, or thicker and more expensive, insulation. Figuring this out is like solving a domino problem. What do we do with the terrace doors? Do they, or the railings, need to be raised? What do we do with the drains, and how do we accommodate a thicker set of insulation and drainage mats around them?
The lesson here for co-op and condo boards is that they need to develop a capital plan far in advance. There are hurdles with the Department of Buildings on the application process, then there’s the contractor negotiation process, and then you have to raise the money to do the job. Another hurdle is getting clearance from adjoining buildings to work over them or beside them. This city has become a lot more difficult. The maze you have to go through is a lot more complex. So a typical capital plan should look from five years up to 10 years into the future.