Bill Morris in Bricks & Bucks on January 18, 2023
The leaks were driving Bobby Hodge nuts. As resident manager at the Bay Club Condominium, two 22-story towers in Bayside, Queens, Hodge was vexed by persistent leaks in the mechanical rooms and boiler rooms at the sprawling property.
One day Hodge was watching the podcast Building Talk as the hosts were interviewing Jerry Kestenbaum, the founder of BuildingLink, who was talking about leak sensors developed by his spinoff company, Aware Buildings. Upon detecting water, the sensors send immediate notifications to the client’s mobile device. Intrigued, Hodge got in touch with David Zilenziger, director of business development at Aware Buildings, who promptly came out to Bay Club to demonstrate the sensors.
“On a Friday shortly before Christmas,” Zilenziger recalls, “Bobby set up some test sensors where he wanted to monitor leak detection. It took less than an hour to set up. The next morning, we received a text from him with a picture of his mechanical room where he had just averted a major leak thanks to a text alert the sensor had triggered. He was thrilled. We were thrilled.”
The culprit was an 8-foot section of overhead pipe that ran to the condo’s domestic hot water tank. Hodge promptly had the faulty pipe replaced. Problem solved, disaster averted.
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Hodge knew he’d dodged a bullet. “It could have been a lot worse if I hadn’t gotten the notification about the leak,” he says. “I was thinking that these things are amazing — and I could deploy them in our three boiler rooms, our mechanical room, 44 laundry rooms and two elevator mechanical rooms.”
When Hodge took the idea to the condo’s property manager, Michael Brennan of Douglas Elliman, he got an enthusiastic response. “There’s quite a potential for water problems on this property,” Brennan says. “We have the largest indoor private pool in Queens, plus two elevator mechanical rooms in bulkheads on the roof, two water storage tanks, a domestic hot water tank. If there’s one major leak without detectors, it could easily cost more than the cost of the detectors.”
The condo’s insurance policy has a $25,000 deductible for leaks. And in today’s hard insurance market, any claim will likely trigger a rise in premiums and deductibles at renewal time. The name of the game is to prevent claims.
At Brennan’s urging, Hodge made a pitch to the condo board on Jan. 9. Hodge explained to the board that the sensors would send alerts to him, the assistant super and the five handymen, virtually guaranteeing a prompt response to any leak at any hour of the day or night. The next day the board approved the purchase of 84 Aware Buildings sensors, which Hodge has deployed throughout the property in potential trouble spots. In addition to leak sensors, the purchase included door monitors that send an alert when someone enters or exits a secure area. The cost for the hardware was $15,360, and Aware Building’s annual monitoring fee was $8,662 (about $2 per month per sensor) — totaling less than the condo’s insurance deductible. The money, according to Brennan, came out of the operating budget.
He believes it’s money well spent. “The proof is in the pudding,” he says. “It worked the way it was supposed to work on that leak in the domestic hot water pipe. It’s preventive maintenance. And it’s such a great tool for peace of mind.”
PRINCIPAL PLAYERS — CONTRACTOR: Aware Buildings. PROPERTY MANAGER: Douglas Elliman.
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