Raymond Dickey of AssociationHelpNow® interviews engineer Joseph Pompeo, PE SECB, F.SEI, F.ASCE from Structural Workshop, LLC.
What is an inspection report?
It addresses the structure and the building envelope — what condition is it in? What has to happen? Is there anything dangerous and what is it going to cost to maintain it going forward.
How often should an inspection report take place?
It really depends on the building — the age of the building and type of construction of the building. Meaning, the construction materials, and how the exterior walls are made. Also, the exposure, whether it’s coastal. So, we typically would like to do an initial investigation and report, then, as part of that report, we can give a timeline. So, a brand-new building with a modern curtain wall system that is not exposed to salt air or wind could probably go five to ten years. But an older concrete building that has spalling and damage and is on the coast, they might need it every six months, or a year.
Give me a basic idea of what is going to be included ?
(Video available https://youtu.be/NKnW7AZg7Gw)
We try to tailor what we’re doing to what the client needs, and the building, for a timeline of when they’re required to do what’s obvious, and also apply what the investigation entails and what we’re looking at. For a typical building, the primary thing is safety issues, and that’s both to save the building itself from a collapse. But, also safety of the occupants from stuff falling off the building, water infiltration causing indoor air quality issues and mold. Beyond that, it’s the maintenance and costs. The management or condo board want to know — what is it going to cost them to maintain this building over the next ten years, when do we need to fix things? What are the priorities?
So basically, you’re going to be hanging out the outside of the building?
Typically, we would visit the site and do an initial look at it and determine from there what the scope would be. That can be everything — from walking and looking at balconies and a couple units and using binoculars from the street level, to hanging scaffolding off the building and doing probing up close, and everything in-between.
The board is going to determine the scope?
Our recommendations to them, and obviously there are some scenarios where they wouldn’t have a choice — if I say “your building’s going to fall down if you don’t do this, and we’re going to have to tell the building department” — that’s very rare. Typically, we would tell them what we recommend, and if there are any options that are greater or lesser than that in terms of scope, and come up with a scope from there.
What should the board expect to receive in regard to the report?
I’ll try to err on the side or more rather than less, knowing we can always eliminate certain sections, but typically we would have a summary of what our scope was, summary of our limitations, of what we did and didn’t do essentially. Then we would have a description of the building, history of the building, review any prior plans or drawings that were made, repairs, maintenance reports. We sometimes will distribute resident surveys. If there’s a particular problem that a lot of residents are complaining about, we might distribute a survey to the entire building to see if there are people that are not complaining that are having the same problem. Then we would do representative sampling of interiors and exteriors of units and document the conditions. We have photos and potentially list the work, prioritized, then the potential cost estimates for that work.
So, you’re going to look at a lot of documentation, a lot of past reports?
If it’s available. There are a lot of buildings that don’t have any of that. The more they give us, the better job we can do. Many times, repairs that were made between 10 and 20 years ago, and that’s the best we’re going to get. Other times they hired an engineer and they did a full design and they have the records from the construction. That can be really helpful — it can save a lot of time and fees.
What are the misconceptions?
Some people don’t understand the cost-benefit calculus of it. Number one, they just see it as a cost that’s just going out the window, and number two, they might see it as a cost, that the only thing that will come out of it is finding problems that are going to cost more money. But the types of issues we generally look for, are ones that get worse over time — façade deterioration, water infiltration, parking garage deterioration. If you can catch them early, you may spend significantly less money on fixing them, paying the premium each year for the engineer to come out there to avoid the $4 million repair in ten years.