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Got Rust? Peer Review Is a Must

Vincent Nicoletti in Building Operations on July 29, 2019


Peer Review
July 29, 2019

A Local Law 11 facade project was under way at a 100-year-old building on West 87th Street when workers noticed some cracks on an upper corner of the structure. The building’s engineer at the time probed into the corner and uncovered sections of the steel column that were pretty significantly corroded. So the engineer came up with a scope-of-work description that went to the contractor the building had on the job. The price quote from the contractor made the board uneasy. It seemed a little open-ended, and the board members did not feel confident that the new scope of work made sense. They balked at signing it. 

The board turned to its property manager and asked if there was somebody else with a track record of structural expertise who could look at this. That's when the property manager reached out to our firm to come take a look. 

This building is nine stories tall, and when we got there, we found that there had been probes at two locations on two separate floors. When I looked inside, there was so much steel corrosion it looked like a caterpillar had come and chewed pieces out of this column. Because the probes were so limited, they didn't really give us a good idea of the extent of the corrosion. So I advised the board to open up the entire corner to expose the steel and see what we were dealing with. 

We ended up opening the corner from the top of the eighth floor all the way down to just about the first floor in order to confirm the full extent of the corrosion. Then we were tasked with having to re-establish the steel sections that had been lost to corrosion in a way that would ensure the stability of the column between the sections that had not been adversely affected. We came up with a plan that was well defined and easy for the contractor to implement, locking in pricing and accounting for contingencies that made the board comfortable.

When you’re dealing with repairs to buildings of this age, you really want to make sure that you're defining the scope of the work and understanding the building as a whole, taking into consideration the condition from top to bottom. That way, there aren't any surprises that can throw a wrench into things in terms of pricing and project duration. 

There are many types of professional consultants, and boards should take care to match the appropriate consultant with the right scope of work, especially when project creeps into different areas of expertise. For instance, a structural engineer oftentimes won’t know how to diagnose mechanical equipment, someone who specializes in facade restoration might not understand major structural repairs, and an electrical engineer likely won’t be able to provide guidance on a lobby’s accessibility-compliance requirements. So when a project starts to delve into different disciplines, it's worthwhile to bring in someone as a third-party peer to review the new scope of work related to their area of expertise. That way, you can have the best set of consultants on that particular item so that the new scope is appropriately defined and you're getting the most efficient solution to the issue at hand. 

Vincent Nicoletti is a project manager at PVE Engineering.

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