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By: Jimmy Monahan

April 28, 2021

If you’ve been following our newsletter over the last decade, you’ll know that we’ve written about the challenges that individual buildings may face throughout a project. Now, we will be issuing a series of articles highlighting the challenges that complexes and campuses with multiple buildings might face during each phase of their design and repair life cycles.

These pieces will cover the challenges of project planning, budgeting multiple repair projects that occur in the same construction year, managing multiple contractors, maintaining multiple project schedules, DOB filing, design and bidding, and performing FISP inspections and submitting compliance reports to the DOB by their respective deadlines.

Navigating hiccups are difficult enough when managing one building; now imagine amplifying these tasks over multiple projects. This means that the Design Professional, Property Manager and building Owner must work together to complete the financing, design, filing, oversight, and completion of these projects. Sometimes, this might require engaging multiple contractors to ensure that all projects are completed by a certain date. Bringing in multiple contractors alone presents its own challenges, such as managing multiple inspections, issuing additional field reports, conducting multiple weekly meetings with each contractor, increased complexity in communications between all parties, and more payment applications to review. All of these tasks individually are manageable, but when coupled with multiple projects and contractors, these tasks can feel daunting to the Design Professional, Contractor, Property Manager and Owner. Ensuring that these projects run smoothly and that all necessary tasks for the projects are completed requires a company with not only experience in managing multiple projects and contractors, but also requires a support team and infrastructure that can accommodate the workload and maintain an organized workflow.

One of the greatest challenges to managing large complexes and campuses is project planning. This skillset is particularly important in regions with periodic compliance laws, such as Local Law 11/FISP in New York City or Boston and Philadelphia’s Façade Ordinances. It is important that these compliance reports and repairs are completed in a timely manner to avoid violations and fees, but also to stay in good standing with the public and their local ordinances. In order to achieve this, the design professional is responsible for developing a property or campus repair program to address all exterior related repairs to the façade, roof, sidewalks, parking garages, etc.

The first step in developing a project plan is to retain the right design professional with this. Once an architect or engineer is on board, they must review all of the property information and historical records available; this includes previous FISP/compliance reports, leak investigations, roof surveys, building envelope surveys, and any repair drawings that are available. The next step is to survey each building, identify deficiencies, build a preliminary repair budget for each building, and develop an order of magnitude of which buildings must be addressed first. The compliance report due dates, locations of active leaks, and the funding available for capital improvements for each given year will ultimately affect the prioritization of these buildings.

Since identifying funding for repair projects is one of the greatest challenges and concerns for building owners, these types of large scale and ongoing repairs must be performed over multiple years during each repair cycle. The climate that the building is located in may also limit how many months out of the year that these projects can be performed. In New York City, it is common for work to slow down or stop between December and March due to the low temperatures, snow, and ice. This type of climate minimizes the construction schedule for each year and puts additional stress on all parties to complete the projects within a certain seasonal timeframe.

The design professional on board must be organized and stay up to date on all of the project planning activities, as work can be delayed for various reasons. Projects can be postponed to the next construction year due to limited capital, existing projects that are unable to meet unrealistic schedules, delayed permitting, or even a shutdown from a global pandemic. Interruptions such as these must be maintained by frequently reviewing and updating the project plan. Our office typically develops a 5-year forecast for project plans, as this allows us to prioritize our repair projects. Five years is an adequate repair range because existing surveys or condition assessments will typically still be useful and relevant, and it also coincides with NYC FISP repair cycles.

After the funding is in place and the buildings requiring repairs are identified, the Design Professional must then develop the repair drawings. This task alone requires in depth planning in order to perform the field inspections, develop the drawings, draft the specifications, and bring the project to bidding. It is typical for building owners to have bylaws that require multiple bids on each project. It is also likely that multiple contractors must be retained in order to perform and complete each project in the desired construction year. The challenges of these tasks will be addressed later on in this series, but these additional layers intensify the depth to the ongoing project plan.

Aside from the repair schedules and drawings, additional planning is required to address the potential ongoing leak investigations and to ensure compliance reporting. As stated previously, several façade ordinances mandate that Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWIs) and design professionals perform hands-on inspections of the buildings’ facades and submit compliance reports on a periodic basis.  Each building will require its own compliance inspection, report, and follow-up to ensure that it is submitted and accepted by the Department of Buildings by the appropriate deadline.

The last requirement in project planning for large complexes and campuses is to regularly review and update the plans with the building Owner and Property Manager in order to maintain that 5-year repair plan. This is an ongoing process that requires the Design Professionals to look ahead and prepare for the upcoming year. Design is often performed in the spring or early summer of the prior year; this allows projects to be bid out and awarded by early fall and filed before the end of the year. This approach requires forward thinking and consistent reviews and updates to the project plan.

Although the tasks and challenges that come with multiple buildings projects may seem lengthy, they are more than achievable with a great team. It is essential that all parties are on the same page, tactical, and have the same end goal in mind. If you retain a design professional who has experience in managing or juggling multiple projects at the same time, the ride to project completion will be that much smoother.

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