New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




All Shook Up: Protecting Your Building

Diane Reid in Building Operations on December 8, 2015

Upper East Side

Subway Cosntruction
Dec. 8, 2015

Access Agreement
Before any work begins, your co-op’s legal counsel, with input from your engineer, should review the MTA’s access agreement. This agreement identifies the extent of the easement rights the MTA will possess regarding your property during and/or after construction. 


Structural Evaluation
It is critical to monitor the building throughout all stages of construction. The first step is for an engineer to conduct a pre-construction survey to document existing building conditions. This survey can be used as evidence if any damage results from the construction.


Monitoring Techniques
Monitoring the effect that construction work has on adjacent buildings is critical in avoiding or minimizing damage. Movement tolerances should be established and carefully reviewed by structural and geotechnical engineers.


Abatement and Demolition
Before construction, an abatement inspection must be conducted to test for any hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead. Older buildings will typically need to be subjected to abatement.


Load Transfer
Underground construction often involves removing, replacing, or demolishing such structural elements as beams or columns. In a process known as shoring, temporary supports are installed until permanent structures are in place.


Deep Foundations
If the soil or geological conditions below your building are poor, deep foundations may be needed for support during nearby excavation work. These support structures extend well below the surface soil to more stable earth or bedrock. The most common type are piles (poles), which require drilling to install.


Utility Shutdowns
Utility shutdowns require efficient coordination between the building and construction teams. The MTA often requires temporary water-related bypasses to accommodate underground construction.  Expect utility interruptions across a wide range of systems, such as those for sewage lines, domestic water lines, steam lines, HVAC setups, and electric and telecommunication operations.


Noise and Dust Protection
The MTA’s work will probably involve limited demolition of such areas as walls, floor slabs, and foundations. The access agreement should limit demolition noise to a specific time period (ideally daytime), with specific decibel levels. Noise measuring devices should be installed in the building.  To limit dust infiltration into apartments, it is recommended that approved manufacturing filters be installed on air-conditioning units.


Inspections and Warranties
Annual inspections and tests are still required for mechanical and plumbing equipment, including backflow preventers, sprinklers and standpipes, fire pumps, and emergency generators. The building owner will be subject to fines and penalties if inspections are not conducted on time.


Blasting and Boring
Many buildings along the Second Avenue subway line have been subject to underground blasting and/or boring. Blasting, in which explosives are detonated underground, creates loud noises and can cause buildings to shake.  Tunnel boring is sometimes used as a less disruptive alternative to blasting.  Residents should be notified well in advance whenever blasting is scheduled. 


Diane Reid is a senior project manager with RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC, and an adjunct professor of civil engineering at the City University of New York. She oversees projects for RAND’s clients affected by the Second Avenue subway construction.

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