Protecting Your High-Rise with a Preventative Maintenance Plan
Chances are that you don’t associate your high-rise building’s preventative maintenance plan with Benjamin Franklin. However, his well-known adage “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” couldn’t be more relevant, according to the Director of Project Services, Frank Fittipoldi, in the High-Rise Division at FirstService Residential in New Jersey. That’s why he recommends that every high-rise condo or co-op board put together a detailed preventative maintenance plan for their building.
The high cost of high-rise system failures.
Fittipoldi points out that one of the main reasons your high-rise association should have a preventative maintenance plan is to avoid the expense of replacing a system that fails unexpectedly. “The cost of replacement versus the cost of prevention is exponential,” he says. “Spending a little time and a few dollars on preventative maintenance can save countless thousands of dollars.”
Consider, for example, how far a good preventative maintenance plan could go in saving money for high-rise associations in Jersey City. The water in this northern New Jersey city is known for being “hard” – containing a lot of minerals – which can wreak havoc on a range of building systems, from domestic water pumps to heating and cooling systems.
“If these systems aren’t properly maintained, premature failure is very likely,” explains Executive Director, Andrew Batshaw, at FirstService Residential New Jersey’s High-Rise Division. “Periodically removing particulates from the impellers in the pumps and flushing the strainers can make a big difference in the life of these units.”
High-rise buildings along the Jersey Shore have their own maintenance concerns. “Salt and moisture in the air is a major issue, especially when that moisture freezes and expands,” says Fittipoldi. Façade windows, window caulks, sidewalks and rooftops are among the components that can be adversely affected.
Residents’ lives may (literally) depend on your maintenance plan.
Preventative maintenance isn’t just about saving money, however. Fittipoldi points out that health and safety concerns are also reasons that high-rise associations need to schedule regular maintenance. Regulations in many municipalities aim to protect residents and passersby by requiring inspections of specific equipment and materials. “But even if something is not yet required in your town, it’s still a good idea to follow best practices,” Fittipoldi stresses. “You just can’t put a price tag on safety.”
Batshaw cites one such example: inspection of a building’s façade. Requirements for high-rise façade inspections do exist, but they may not be adequate. Depending on the age of the building, he recommends having your façade inspected by a qualified professional at least every five years. “If loose pieces of façade fall off, it can be extremely dangerous to anyone below,” he explains.
Another safety-related maintenance measure that Batshaw now recommends was prompted by an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in the summer of 2015. The New York City outbreak, which never extended into New Jersey, was traced back to a rooftop cooling tower. Ever since then, he tells associations to include sanitization of their towers in their preventative maintenance plans.
Planning to succeed.
It’s never too early or too late to think about your preventative maintenance plan. Whether you’re a developer constructing one of the new high-rises cropping up along New Jersey’s “Gold Coast” or a board member at a building that has been around for a long time, it’s worth examining how you can make your systems more reliable.
If you’re a developer, look at the value of installing more efficient systems with a longer useful life. (In some municipalities, you may be required to do so.) Also, when you are installing equipment, be mindful of its accessibility when it comes time for future owners to perform maintenance. No one should have to break through walls to conduct inspections or maintenance, and they certainly should not have difficulty accessing emergency systems. Those premature failures, high energy costs or poor accessibility issues may not impact you directly, but a bad reputation will have a way of following you around.
If you’re on the board of an association that has owned your building for many years, a maintenance schedule most likely already exists. Nevertheless, you will want to review that schedule to see if it is continuing to address all of your current needs:
1. Begin by looking over your property with new eyes. Walk around and scan all of the spaces, surfaces and systems as if you are seeing them for the first time. Notice if anything looks especially old or worn out.
2. Review your equipment warranties and past maintenance records. Hopefully, they are in synch. Many warranties are voided if you don’t adhere to a specific maintenance schedule. You’ll also need to have the records to prove that you’ve been keeping up with the schedule.
3. Make a list of equipment and components that require regular maintenance and inspection. Base this list on your warranties, past records and visual inspection.
4. Compare your list to your existing maintenance plan. How do they compare? Are there items that are missing from your plan?
5. Organize your list by maintenance frequency. Some items need annual inspections, whereas others only need to be inspected every five years. Still others may require even more frequent maintenance: monthly, quarterly or semi-annually.
6. Follow your plan! This step may seem obvious, but the best-laid plans often go awry because no one has taken responsibility for keeping to the schedule. Use calendars and alerts to stay on track. Your professional management company may have some of these tools built into its community software.
7. Turn to the professionals. Being a board or committee member doesn’t automatically give you preventative maintenance know-how. And no one should expect you to have that level of knowledge either. That’s where trained experts come in.
In many cases, system manufacturers or vendors are willing to discuss the appropriate maintenance schedule to follow for their equipment. An experienced high-rise association management company can also be a great asset. The company should have qualified in-house professionals who can help you create and implement an actionable preventative maintenance plan. In addition, it should be able to provide you with a full-time maintenance staff to perform routine tasks.
Ideally, you want your management company to have an existing list of qualified, vetted vendors to handle more complex equipment maintenance. A good company will also have the buying power to negotiate the best prices for those vendors’ services.
The residents in your high-rise condominium depend on you to watch out for their safety as well as their pocket books. With an effective plan in place, you can be sure that you’ll be making your building a great place for them to call home.
Want to learn more about the benefits of working with an experienced condominium management company to protect your high-rise building? Contact FirstService Residential today – New Jersey’s leading property management company.