As long as there have been residential buildings, there have been superintendents charged with the all-important task of ensuring that operations run smoothly. Whether it’s an underperforming HVAC system, a maintenance emergency, or simply changing a light bulb, the responsibilities can run the gamut on a daily basis. And over the years, the super's job description has changed along with expectations from managing agents, board members, and residents.
“Over the last few decades the job description has changed tremendously,” says Peter Grech, director of educational services at the Superintendents Technical Association of New York City. “We need to keep abreast of changing technologies such as email and cell phones, and also with building system controls such as boilers and other automated systems.”
FirstService Residential New York President Dan Wurtzel says he's seen the role of a super go through myriad changes—even down to personal appearance. “If you go back to 40 or 50 years ago, a superintendent was considered more of a blue-collar type of employee, with a tool belt who was able to fix things; he didn’t have good customer service skills, but knew how to deal with the heart of the house issues,” Wurtzel continues. “The role has evolved. Today, a superintendent, some of whom wear suits and ties, has to have knowledge of building systems. They also have to be an excellent manager and a communicator who oversees a staff.”
Grech, who also serves as a resident manager himself, adds that in many cases, including his own, the title of superintendent has evolved to “resident manager.” “Some of these changes I mentioned have been around for about 10 years, but this industry is forever changing,” says Grech. “The older you are the harder the transition. It’s not impossible, but some people are used to doing things the old fashioned way.”
Most superintendents have between five to 15 years of experience, and as such are well-versed in new building operating systems, communication advancements in social media, and the like, but Grech says some of the more seasoned industry vets are a little slower to adapt to a new business model. “Today supers are more hands-off and have more a supervisory role as well as are more people-orientated,” says Grech. “Our challenges are shifting to becoming more on the technology side and less on the hands-on side of the business. This is just how things are going, due in part to the green, efficient movement. But, there are still some buildings left where you will see a more hands-on approach.”