Residential buildings are complicated entities—their various operating systems require maintenance and occasional repairs to remain in good working order. Sometimes maintenance can be carried out by the super or handyperson—sometimes it can’t. In the latter situation, it’s necessary to call in the help of a professional. Either way, it falls to the building super or the manager to decide whether a particular problem can be dealt with in-house or needs the attention of a specialist. For this reason, building administration and management—not just the super—need to have a certain amount of knowledge about their building’s structure and systems in order to do their jobs most efficiently.
Knowing at least a little about their buildings’ various systems and mechanical components allows supers and property managers to do one of several things when it comes to systems maintenance and repair. They can troubleshoot and fix the problem; they can recognize when qualified staff members are needed fix the problem; or they can better explain the problem when consulting with an outside vendor.
Peter Grech is resident superintendent of a Manhattan co-op, and when a new piece of equipment is installed on the property, he says it’s part of the routine to educate staff members on its use.
“Most importantly, every staff member should know where to shut down equipment and when to do so,” says Grech, who is also president of the New York Superintendents Technical Association (STA). “If a pipe blows on a Saturday and the super is at the beach and there is a porter or handyman on the job, they should know how to shut down the equipment. This reduces the damage until someone can come in and repair it.”
Margie Russell, the executive director of the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM), agrees with Grech and explains that while learning about boilers and HVAC equipment might seem out of the realm of a manager or board president’s responsibility, it’s actually essential when dealing with the day-to-day operation of the building.