Habitat spoke recently with Gustavo Rusconi, director of management operations at Argo Real Estate.
Can a building’s staff maintain the mechanicals on cooling towers?
These air-conditioning systems require quite a bit of maintenance, and the building staff needs to be adequately trained to maintain these systems. We recommend a third-party HVAC vendor to provide a maintenance contract on the cooling tower.
Now this is the mechanicals that run the tower, not the inspection of the water inside the tower?
Correct. This is the mechanical workings of the tower. Additionally, though, a building needs a chemical-treatment company to make sure that the water has the proper chemicals.
Have you ever had a problem with the mechanicals in a cooling tower?
Unfortunately, yes. We had a building where the cooling tower was improperly shut down in the winter months. The staff did not properly air out the lines, leaving water in the system. When we went to turn on the cooling tower in the summer months, we found multiple cracked pipes – and we quickly found ourselves on Channel 7 news because we couldn't provide air-conditioning. This was a loft-like building with a very demanding clientele.
That cannot be good publicity.
Absolutely not. So we hired an engineering company, and we brought in a contractor and worked around the clock to repair the cooling tower. Fortunately, the contractor was doing a similar project for a hospital here in New York City and had the equipment readily available. Otherwise we would have had to wait 14 weeks – and go through the summer without AC.
So that was dumb luck?
Yes, it was. Sometimes that's better than planning.
As a management company, what would you advise co-op and condo boards to do to prevent this kind of thing from happening?
What I would typically suggest is that the co-op or condo boards hire a third-party HVAC company to do a proper shut down at the end of the cooling season. This company should work alongside the building staff to prevent the system from being improperly shut down by leaving water in the system.
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