Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on March 16, 2022
Every co-op and condo board undertaking a major capital project in New York City can expect surprises, usually of the unpleasant and costly variety. It’s how the team deals with those inevitable surprises that determines if the job winds up a failure or a success.
Consider the rocky start at Cadman Towers, a 241-unit Mitchell-Lama co-op in Brooklyn Heights, when the board decided to draw more than a quarter of a million dollars from its reserve fund to replace the fading, 22-year-old domestic hot-water system.
“We were doing $33 million worth of work on the garages, the roofs and a plaza reconstruction,” says Mary Egrie of Tudor Realty Services, the co-op’s property manager. “We wanted to do the domestic hot water project, but we got sidetracked by COVID. Then we had a breakdown so we had to use a temporary steam-to-hot-water heat exchanger while we got the project together. We had to put things on hold because it was too much all at once.”
Having overcome Surprise #1 — a pandemic and an equipment failure — the board hired RAND Engineering & Architecture to plan and execute the hot-water project, which entailed reviewing the system, designing a compatible system and overseeing the installation. “We installed three new heat exchangers, replaced all the piping that’s near the exchangers, plus the hot water and cold water lines leading into each unit,” says Ray Locicero, a senior mechanical engineer with RAND who served as project manager.
“RAND gave us a solid scope of work,” Egrie says. “We sent out requests for bids last October, and we got good bids from contractors, with very little back and forth.”
After the board hired Dual Fuel Corp. to install a system manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Patterson-Kelley, it was time for Surprise #2. On the day the old system was shut down and the new system was fired up for the first time, there was a twin disaster.
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“I’ve neer seen two pumps fail at once,” Locicero says. “But on start-up day, a circulating pump, which pushes cold water through the steam bundles, and a condensate pump, which returns water to the boiler — both failed.”
Surprise #2, according to Egrie, constituted “a rough start.”
Now came the test. The authorized installers of the Patterson-Kelley equipment worked alongside the Dual Fuel crew nonstop for 10 days, modifying and tweaking the system. There was some head scratching.
“The pump failures were the easy things to figure out,” Locicero says. “But we had a difficult time getting the water temperature to stay steady at 140 degrees. It had to do with harmonizing the motors for the pumps, the variable frequency drive and the pressure-regulating valve. It took them 10 days to get it right. That’s very unusual, but they worked tirelessly until they were confident the system worked.”
Egrie is philosophical. “With every project you’re going to have hiccups,” she says. “It’s a question of how the team deals with it. In this case, we’re happy that everyone stood up and made it right.”
With nearly audible relief, she adds, “So far, the water temperature is holding steady.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — ENGINEER: RAND Engineering & Architecture. PROPERTY MANAGER: Tudor Realty Services. MANUFACTURER: Patterson-Kelley. CONTRACTOR: Dual Fuel Corp.
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