Life Spans of Building Systems A Working Life

Even when living in a multi-family building, individual residents must handle some of the same responsibilities as those of a single-family homeowner. While board members will be more involved than other residents in helping to ensure proper maintenance of their community’s infrastructure, every resident of a co-op or condo community shares partial ownership of the community’s common property—and that should translate into awareness of the community’s common needs.

Being Aware

Part of that ownership sensibility means board members and other residents must keep an eye on the components of their building, including boilers, elevators, HVAC units, electrical systems, and other systems that must be maintained and occasionally replaced. Even the most sturdily built and well-maintained boiler or HVAC unit will eventually fail. And while it is impossible to pinpoint when a major piece of building equipment will finally give out, trained professionals can help boards and managers estimate when they will need to be replaced.

Such estimates can be helpful to board members and others concerned with the operation of residential buildings, by enabling them to plan their short-term and long-term budgets and capital improvement schedules. But even with professionals on call, building administrators have to stay vigilant, and they must know what to look for, and know when to ask their consultants for help.

The Life of the Boiler

Clearly, one of the most crucial systems in any residential building is the boiler. While everyone knows when the machine isn’t working on a cold day in January because they can see their breath and are burrowing under their blankets, fewer residents know what actually makes the boiler run. Even fewer know what must be done to ensure that the boiler continues working.

Regular checks of the boiler’s cold water use can reveal discrepancies in usage that could point to a leak or another problem with the system. Even more than a building’s other systems, the boiler must be regularly and properly maintained to get the most out of it and ensure its longevity, says Stewart Willis, a senior project manager and reserve specialist for The Falcon Group, an engineering and architectural firm based in Bridgewater, New Jersey.


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