HABITAT

BRICKS & BUCKS

Lax Oversight Leads to a Facade Fiasco

Adam Janos in Bricks & Bucks on October 10, 2018

Mt. Vernon, Westchester County

Facade Fiasco

Workers repairing the leaky facade of the Mt. Vernon co-op (image courtesy of RAND Engineering & Architecture.

Oct. 10, 2018

When it rains, it pours.

That’s what the co-op board at 60 West Broad Street in Mt. Vernon learned when it tried to fix the building's leaky facade. They’d long been aware of their water-infiltration problems, so in 2008, they forked over $758,000 for an overhaul of the facade of their six-story building, says board member Maria Duarte. They hired an architect to draw up specs and a contractor to perform the work.

After extensive repairs, the facade continued to leak, damaging interior walls. So the co-op board took legal action. “This is our home,” says Duarte. “We were not going to take it lying down.” The board sued the architect and initiated arbitration with the contractor.

In 2017, the parties settled, with the contractor agreeing to continue working at a slightly discounted rate. Meanwhile the co-op board replaced the original architect with RAND Engineering & Architecture, which began working on a new round of facade repairs in April 2018. 

RAND architect Sara Tsiropinas has worked closely with the board. While the lawsuit was still pending, she helped the board locate the shortcomings of the initial project. She’s now project manager on the replacement work, and she believes one of the issues in the previous work may have been an insufficient role by the previous architect. 

In the current repairs, wood is being refurbished and replaced, and stucco and cast stone are being patched and replaced. Waterproofing is being added between the inner and outer courses of brick. And to better prevent leaks, crews have inserted drainage planes to help trapped water escape.

The lesson for boards, Tsiropinas adds, “is probably a tale of keeping your architect or engineer more involved with the construction process and diligently reporting findings. The board might be tempted to say, ‘We don’t want to pay for two site visits a week. How much would it be for just one?’” 

That’s one place boards shouldn’t pinch pennies, Tsiropinas says. “So much work can happen in a week, it’s difficult to confirm all of the work is being done accurately from the drawings with only one site visit. When you hire an architect or engineer, it’s equally important – and sometimes even more important – for us to be heavily involved and see the project through the construction phase as it is for us to design it. More extensive detailing during in the design and better oversight of construction would have prevented the situation.” 

Duarte believes that she and her fellow co-op board members now have a better understanding of the web of relationships in a major capital project – between the board, management, the architect, the contractor, and subcontractors. “You really have to look at your manager,” Duarte says, “and how the relationship from management connects with the brought-in people. Request the best – and don’t just take management’s word for everything. You have to check it yourself.” 

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – ARCHITECT: RAND Engineering & Architecture.

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