HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

Architects and Engineers Are Valuable Sets of Eyes

Eric Cowley in Building Operations on August 6, 2018

New York City

Professional Scrutiny
Aug. 6, 2018

Something I say repeatedly to boards is, “Keep your problems small, and keep them out in front of you.” Now, how do you do that? One way is to make sure that you have a licensed professional – either an architect or a professional engineer – giving guidance about property maintenance and upgrades.

The reason you want a licensed person there is because of the training. To become an architect or a professional engineer involves a lot of schooling, as well as post-graduate practical experience. You also have to pass a rigorous state examination. You have an ethical responsibility that comes with the licensure, and you are required to participate in continuing-education programs to stay up to date on codes and changes in the industry.

There are consultants out there who can get away with portraying themselves as engineers or architects, because the words “engineer” or “architect” are not protected titles. Consultants can call themselves that. And without doing a little bit of research, you wouldn’t really know the difference. But if a construction project is going on in your building and something were to go wrong and litigation occurred, it would be enormously helpful to a have a licensed professional as your representative. The consultants may not have the standing in court that you’re going to need.

Another thing I like to talk about is alterations. When people are doing interior renovations, some boards write into the alteration agreement that, while the work is being done, the shareholder or unit-owner also has to upgrade some of the building systems. For example, if an extensive renovation is going on in an apartment, the agreement might require that the waste stack be replaced. That way, as renovations occur, an entirely new waste stack can be installed in the building.

When alterations are occurring to setback terraces or balconies – or even when they’re not – boards need to issue rules about what can be put on terraces and balconies. There’s a lot of focus these days on items falling or flying off terraces during high winds, or terraces becoming overloaded. People put a bush on their terrace that’s 2 feet tall, and 10 years later it’s 20 feet tall. These issues can become problematic. Boards should head these potential problems off and issue a rule that applies to everybody regarding terraces.

If your board is attentive and has good guidance from a licensed professional, you can keep your problems small and out in front of you. That way, you can avoid litigation and expensive repairs – and the annoyance that comes with them.

Eric Cowley is president of Cowley Engineering.

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