Altering Your Building It's Not Just an Ordinary Facelift

Replacing a boiler, renovating a lobby or repairing a façade, can create problems that one might not anticipate or expect. Embarking upon major building projects can turn into a major headache if not done properly and with the help of licensed professionals, a panel of engineers, architects and building officials told an overflow audience at The Cooperator's Annual Co-op and Condo Expo March 6th at the New York Hilton.

The seminar entitled "Does Your Building Stack Up? The Inside Scoop on Improvements and Alterations," examined the ramifications of contracting for routine capital improvement projects, what types of professionals would be needed to complete the job at hand, wading through the bureaucratic red tape of the city's permitting process and, even offered some tips for homeowners and boards to ward off common problems and dangers. Robert Grant, director of management at Manhattan-based Midboro Management, served as moderator for the panel, which also included Peter Varsalona, a professional engineer and principal with Rand Engineering; Charles DiSanto, a registered architect, and principal of Walter B. Melvin Architects; and Laura Osorio, a registered architect, who is the Manhattan Borough Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB).

The Devil is in the Details

Every project has its own unique requirements and must be monitored to ensure that everything goes smoothly, explains Grant. From a manager's perspective, hiring the right professional is not only economical but also common sense. An architect or an engineer will be able to provide the necessary oversight and ensure that the project is properly bid out and that all the work is done in a timely fashion and that all the contractors and sub-contractors get paid.

Varsalona detailed the role of the engineer in building projects and what typical upgrades to mechanical systems are necessary. "It's very important for building owners to assess what their priorities are. And how do you do that? Perhaps the best way to do that is to have an engineer or an architect experienced in properties to do a building-system survey of all of the systems," Varsalona says. "Look at every element, look at all the building components and prepare a report that's going to address what are the immediate requirements for a board; what are short-term requirements for long-term capital improvements; and what are things perhaps you could do to extend the life of many of those building systems."

Once a decision is made, according to Varsalona, the engineer or architect will prepare project specifications that can be sent out for competitive bidding to a list of contractors approved by the building owner and/or the board. To ensure that your bid is fairly priced, he says, make sure the engineer or architect does a walk-through inspection on-site with the contractors bidding the job. That way they get a good picture of the entire scope of the project, he says.


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