We all know it's a good idea to keep tabs on the everyday supplies needed to keep our household clean and running smoothly: simple things like light bulbs, cleaning products, and perhaps, the odd spare roll of duct tape. The same is true for co-op and condo buildings, though the scale is obviously much larger and therefore a little more complicated.
While you can simply go to the hardware store or the drugstore to get cleanser and light bulbs for your living space, the quantity of supplies needed for an entire building usually require a wholesale or specialty supplier in order to be cost-effective, and a lot of thought is put into the organization of an ordering system. Who orders what? How much? What should every building have on hand, and what might be just collecting dust in the storeroom?
It's important to first understand that there are two categories of maintenance in any building: the kind that requires a professional contractor (usually anything involving major plumbing repairs, electricity, or structural issues) and the kind that doesn't (blown fuses, flooded toilets, floor waxing, and so forth). When the tenants in the unit above yours start sharing their bathwater with you via the ceiling, it's time to call a plumber.
According to Peter Grech, the president of the Superintendents Technical Association (STA) in New York, a building operations consultant, and former superintendent himself, no owner (or super) should attempt to fix such a problem on their own unless they themselves are a professional in that particular field and all parties agree to use their services.
But when you've got plants in the lobby that need watering, there's certainly no need to call a professional plant-waterer. What you do need, however, is a watering can - and where do you get one of those? A watering can for lobby plants might seem trivial, but you can imagine the annoyance that would occur if the can weren't there when you needed it. These kinds of smaller tools and supplies for little jobs are usually the responsibility of the building's superintendent.