Illinois winters can take a bite out of buildings. From air handling issues to insulating pipes, there are many condo building winterizing tasks for engineers, porters and door staff. Don’t let “Old Man Winter” get the best of your community! FirstService Residential associate Michael Sullivan, Corporate Engineer, reviews the following winter maintenance task list with his professionals to help them prepare their properties for winter:

Maintaining Public Areas

  • Signage: Direct people to where you want them to go with signs and indicators signaling wet floors, falling ice, and other hazards.
  • Day porters/day matrons: Consider adding or changing their schedule to be available in the lobby during bad weather.
  • Schedule deeper cleans. “Schedule your heavy-duty floor work around the inclement weather season: just before the severe weather event to protect, and just after to correct,” says Sullivan. “Typically, many of these costs are built into a community association's housekeeping program.”
  • Walk your property often. Keeping a watchful eye over your condo association structures throughout the season will allow you to catch a building maintenance problem before it becomes catastrophic.

Mechanical Maintenance

  • Check freeze stat operation on all air handling units to make sure they're working properly to prevent heat exchanger coils from freezing. A little preventative maintenance can mean the difference between heated hallways and happy residents, or several thousand in new coil replacement costs.
  • Ensure any exposed piping is properly insulated or otherwise protected from freezing. Once pipes freeze, the damage has been done. Freeze prevention is the key.
  • Tune up your furnaces / boilers and change your filters. Sullivan adds, “Keeping your building's furnaces and boilers running as efficiently as possible not only conserves energy and resources, but also ensures a smooth heating season.”
  • Ensure all parking garage and back of house heaters are operational. You can’t protect the area if the equipment you’re using isn’t working.

Other Winter Precautions

  • Check your supplies of salt, snow shovels, plow equipment, gas, etc. There’s nothing worse than trying to tackle that snowstorm with no salt or gas for the snowplow.
  • Ensure the building envelope doesn’t have significant air leaks or areas of cold air infiltration.
  • Clean the gutters. In townhomes and low-rise buildings, clogged gutters can lead to costly roof repairs and ice dams. Clear them out ahead of the snow and ice.
  • Verify all unoccupied units and spaces are properly heated. Some of us are lucky enough to escape these harsh winters. Let’s be sure those snowbirds left their heat on so the pipes in their residential units don’t cause a problem for other units.
  • Prepare less experienced staff. Go over building emergency procedures, equipment shut-off locations, contact lists, and emergency vendor lists. Make sure they are readily available when needed.
  • Have a plan for addressing any property emergencies. Let’s face it, sometimes things happen. The speed at which you can stop the flow of water after a pipe bursts will mean the difference between minimal damage and tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. Know where your shut-offs are located!

Freeze protection and property winterization are an essential part of any building’s survival. Frozen pipes are preventable. WInterization education and due diligence are crucial; this is why FirstService Residential provides quarterly training to its engineering professionals to stay ahead of seasonal problems. Make sure your staff is prepared - your associations will thank you!
Friday November 06, 2020