Habitat spoke recently with Sami Najjar, a co-partner at Sandra Greer Real Estate.
Elevators must have door-lock monitoring installed by the end of the year. Has that got co-op and condo boards scrambling?
Yes, definitely. This is a new requirement based on an unfortunate incident that happened several years ago. They're trying to prevent this from happening again.
You manage a building where this issue is much larger than door-lock monitoring.
I sure do. In this building the elevator equipment is more than 50 years old. The controller is in serious need of replacement, ASAP.
So this goes beyond the regulation on the door lock?
Yes, and therefore it makes sense to take care of this major work while you’re dealing with the new regulations. The board summarized what it had done before I began managing the building, and then gave me a proposal from the previous management company that said, “The board reviewed this proposal, they're ready to execute, and you need to execute this proposal." So I began digging into the paperwork and reading the proposal they gave me.
It didn’t feel right, so I started asking questions. I contacted the company that issued the proposal. I got some information from it, including the name of a consulting company, and I reached out to the consultants. I discovered that an evaluation was done, but specs were not provided to secure bids. To perform an elevator project like this you need a scope of work, you need a plan to execute.
And the board members didn't have that?
They didn't have that, no. The consulting company was very clear. It said: "I wasn't hired to do specs. I was hired to do an evaluation, and I presented the evaluation report." So it appears that someone took that evaluation report and sent it out to several vendors. The proposal the board chose called for replacing the controller and keeping the old motor. Putting new equipment on old components and trying to match them together can sometimes work, or it can create more problems.
So this was not a well-conceived fix.
No, it wasn’t, because of many reasons: time, money, and lack of planning. I reached out to another consulting company, and it said the same thing: "You're adding new stuff to the old stuff, and you're taking a chance." I held conference calls with board representatives and the new consulting company, and we got two proposals. One is to do a full scope of work; the other is to implement the proposal we have. Because of the time crunch, we have to execute what we have, and we began doing all the required legwork for this project.
I get a call from one of the principals at the elevator company: “We are stretched very thin by the new rule and by people deciding to do a modernization at the same time. Since we are still in the review level with your building, not yet in contract, we are not going to be able to attend to you until next year."
So the elevator company backed out?
It backed out. So I reached out to my elevator consultant, and he said, “You are starting from scratch right now, and you have to go ahead with a full modernization. We’ll have to take the elevator out of service the first week of January 2020 so we can be in compliance with the city code.
What’s the No. 1 thing boards can do to avoid having this happen in their building?
No. 1 is proper planning. You can't do an elevator project – especially with all the rules and regulations and safety features, and the service you have to provide to your residents – without proper planning. You need to hire a consultant who can give you a scope of work and specs that you can send out to multiple bidders. Our consulting company is in the process of developing the specs as we speak.
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