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Capital Repairs Are Not Amateur Hour

Anita Konfederak in Building Operations on August 24, 2018

New York City

Facade Experts

Get maximum use out of costly scaffolds and sidewalk sheds.

Aug. 24, 2018

Major building repairs are not the time for amateur hour. Co-op and condo boards should retain experienced professionals – engineers or architects – to assist them when dealing with mandatory facade inspections and repairs, as well as replacements of roofs and windows. Professionals’ advice can go a long way – wind up saving you a lot of money – when a board sets out to repair or replace these key components of a building. 

A lot of co-ops and condos are building roof decks these days, but they forget that these decks will limit access when the roof needs to be repaired or replaced. So it’s prudent to retain an experienced professional who doesn’t just think about the beautiful deck and planters but actually designs the deck in a way that it can be disassembled at a nominal cost in the future when roof repairs or replacement is needed. 

There has been a lot of discussion lately about new regulations pertaining to facade, or FISP, inspections. The Department of Buildings (DOB ) is emphasizing the need for structural inspections of railings on fire escapes, balconies, terraces, and rooftops. Engineers also have to state in their FISP reports if railings are code-compliant. That’s very challenging to do because some co-ops have original railings from when the building was built, maybe in the 1890s, when codes were vastly different. Figuring out when railings were installed – if they’re original or perhaps were installed at a later time – is a tedious task but very important when determining if a railing is code-compliant. 

When a facade project is completed, it is important to save records. Since some buildings go through a number of management companies over the years, it is best practice for the board to save these records. We sometimes work for clients over a 20-year period and become their “historian” in a sense, because we keep good records. I encourage boards that work with various engineering firms to keep records somewhere safe, perhaps with the super, as well as the manager. You can save a ton of money if you have copies of prior drawings of your elevations or roofs, as costly remeasuring and redrawing can be avoided. 

At the end of a project, it’s good to collect what’s called “as-built” drawings because inevitably there will be changes during construction and it is good to know where they were made. It’s also good to keep a copy of the original drawings that were filed with the DOB. If there are questions in the future, you will have the answers. 

Last but not least, get your money’s worth. When restoring a facade, you shouldn’t just do the bare minimum as listed in the FISP report. This is the time to do necessary maintenance work, getting maximum use out of the costly scaffolds and sidewalk shed already in place. 

Anita Konfederak is vice president of Merritt Engineering.

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