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How Technology Has Changed the Role of the Superintendent

Matthew Hall in Building Operations on June 8, 2015

Forest Hills, Queens

Steve Todorovich. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.
Steve Todorovich
June 8, 2015

Technology — especially since the arrival of the smartphone and tablets like the iPad — has changed how things get done.

"The job has become more sophisticated," explains Todorovich. "If you're computer illiterate you probably won't be able to keep your job or get a [new one]. You will either have to take some classes or learn how to operate a computer."

The leap in technology is not limited to newly constructed state-of-the-art buildings. Neither is technology just about remote-monitored boilers and air-conditioning systems. Whether it's an e-mailed work order or laundry room lighting that runs on a timer, all buildings now interact with some aspects of technology that aim to serve staff, residents, and management better.

Using a smartphone, Todorovich says he now receives 70 percent of his work orders via e-mail or text message. He also cites a security camera system and top-floor temperature sensors that regulate building heat as examples of how his prewar co-op — built around 1920 — uses technology.

"Phone calls are too time-consuming," says Todorovich, who says he gets up to thirty e-mails a day about issues relating to his building. "In a text message you get something in one or two sentences whereas you have to spend ten minutes on a phone call to say just one thing."

The Human Factor

Technology isn't a quick fix for everything, however. Some ever-present issues never go away. "No matter what temperature you set the heat on, people will still complain," Todorovich says, laughing. "They will complain it is too hot or it is too cold. That is the same for all technology. It doesn't account for the human factor."

Smartphones and automated boilers help with efficiency but an iPad can't fix leaks and many residents still want a human touch.

"The superintendent position cannot be outsourced," adds Todorovich. "You cannot do it remotely and you cannot have someone doing it from another country. You still need someone to deal with people day in and day out. You can have a machine running the building but you still need someone on site or to chat with in the elevator. I don't think you can have a building that is 100 percent self-sufficient. You are still going to need a person there. Whenever there is an incident in the building the first thing people say to me is: 'I am so glad you are here.' Even if I can't do anything about it. You need a human being on the premises — even if it is just to put someone at ease."


Check out the technology course outline offered by 32BJ, as well as additional photos in the latest Week By Week. Click either the App Store or Google play icons below to download the app!

Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

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