By: James Monahan
As building envelope consultants, we see many buildings that, neglected over time, are now in disrepair and in need of significant restoration. Adopting a cost cutting whenever possible mentality, as opposed to developing a maintenance program that prevents larger scale upkeep down the line, often causes present and future problems and costs building owners and property managers even more.
Maintaining a building can be compared to maintaining the human body. To remain physically fit, we need to develop positive routines. We develop maintenance programs such as practicing healthy eating, following an exercise program, and getting annual checkups at the doctor, which often include having certain tests periodically performed. These common practices help ensure your body is operating properly. Additionally, if we maintain our health and fitness at a young age, it often translates into a longer and more productive life. Similarly, with a proper maintenance program in place, building owners and managers can avoid future, and sometimes major, complications.
People schedule doctor’s appointments seeking their professional advice. Doctors ask a variety of questions to assess symptoms, perform tests to identify illness or disease, and provide treatment programs. It’s imperative that building owners and property managers schedule similar appointments with engineers or architects who can perform regular inspections and surveys to evaluate the overall fitness of a building, make repair recommendations, and assist them in developing a maintenance program to ensure the structure’s overall health. Similar to doctors, it is also wise to retain specialists for each component of a building, rather than a generalist. For example, we recommend having an expert in building envelope restoration review the conditions of the facade, roof, etc.
The first step is to have a building envelope consultant perform a building envelope survey. A repair and maintenance plan that addresses underlying issues can then be developed and put into action. The recommended repair program should be closely followed. Be wary of appealing less expensive shortcuts. A person that appears to be in good shape could be extremely unhealthy on the inside. Just relieving symptoms might seem great at first; however, determining and eliminating the root cause of the symptoms is the true goal to long-term health. Applying a skim coat to deteriorated masonry joints, rather than performing proper mortar repointing, is an example of simply masking the symptoms. While installing cover coats, paint, or stucco over masonry façades may visually address a building’s façade problems, in reality, it can compound water infiltration issues and cause further damage to the structure.
Spending money on building maintenance never sounds appealing. However, we all know that it’s much tougher to get in shape as we get older. So, don’t ignore problems, don’t delay periodic inspections, and don’t postpone developing a maintenance plan. Invest in your building’s physical fitness and its long healthy life, just as you would invest in your own.
Like several other municipalities, in NYC, buildings over 6 stories are required by law to follow the minimum maintenance program defined under the Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP). For more information about NYC FISP, please follow the link to an earlier newsletter edition.