By: Adam McManus

Building owners often do not consider implementing a capital improvement plan upon the completion of construction or as part of their purchase of a new or newer building. However, since the aging clock begins ticking once a new building is constructed, itas prudent to establish a capital improvement plan upon the completion of construction. A proactive maintenance program is the best way to control the rate of decay. Additionally, new buildings that have inherent design deficiencies in proper waterproofing, structural integrity or other critical functions will require early unanticipated repair costs that can depreciate the financial worth of the building for many years.

How can building owners prepare a capital improvement plan for an older building?

Building owners should have a proper grasp of their buildingas maintenance history. As-built drawings and other construction documentation on file can help an owner retrace this maintenance history. A building envelope consultant or MEP engineer can be retained to research the documented maintenance. This professional can also perform a comprehensive inspection of the structure and provide a detailed report that will identify, prioritize and budget for immediate and long term repairs. The New York City Department of Buildings requires a FISP (formerly known as Local Law 11/98) report be filed every 5 years for buildings that are 6 or more stories. This FISP report requires a thorough inspection of the facade to identify causes of active water infiltration related to the exterior envelope, as well as deteriorated conditions that are categorized as aSafe with repair or maintenance programa (SWARMP) or aUnsafea. Owners of smaller buildings that do not require a FISP type program report to be filed, can still follow the same logical steps for inspection and due diligence to help them plan for capital improvements.

How often should capital improvements be performed?

Based on particular climate conditions, material lifespan, and other factors that impact a structureas lifecycle, decades-old buildings should have undergone several major capital improvement cycles.

Though new buildings may take out insurance policies and rely on the contractor guarantees and system warranties, there is no substitute for a comprehensive plan. Proactively starting with a repair and maintenance program for a new building will help ensure its longevity.

What are the potential financial effects of neglecting repairs?

When maintenance and repair programs are not proactively performed, frequent water infiltration or unsafe conditions are more likely. These issues motivate owners to react. When a structure is not properly maintained over the course of many years, longterm repair costs will compound, especially when associated with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) infrastructure and the building envelope. Emergency repairs often result from small maintenance items that grow into large uncontrollable systemic failures. These reactive repair costs can far exceed the costs of the regular maintenance that could have been performed to mitigate them. Building owners are often frustrated or overwhelmed by the realization that there is not enough capital reserve to cover the costs of necessary immediate repairs to address water infiltration or significant structural deterioration.

What are ways to avoid decision gridlock?

Consulting with a team of experienced and objective advisors is key to making sound decisions. By providing comprehensive reports/surveys that include short and long term budget forecasts, industry experts can help building owners determine repair and maintenance priorities and the necessary funding. This team of advisors which might include a licensed property manager, a specialized engineer/architect and a financial consultant can assist a building owner or board make clear informed decisions.

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