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Congrats to Our Client Connecticut River Capital

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Fri, 06/21/2019 - 12:33

Congratulations to our clients at Connecticut River Capital for their recent purchase of 465 Congress Street and their plans to get Portland’s first skyscraper ‘back to where it should be,’ as mentioned in the Portland Press Herald.

Criterium Engineers was engaged to perform a Property Condition Assessment, which was conducted by Campbell Grant, P.E., prior to Connecticut River Capital’s purchase of this iconic building. A PCA is the gold standard for building inspections, conforming with national standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and Standard and Poor’s.

Portland’s first high-rise—at ten stories tall—was built in 1910 and is historically known as the Fidelity Trust Building, but more recently called the People’s United Bank Building. It is located in the center of downtown Portland, Maine, at Congress and Preble Streets, near Monument Square. Criterium Engineer’s corporate headquarters was once located across from this property.

We look forward to seeing the work Connecticut River Capital will do to create the next rendition of this historic Portland property. .

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

How to Sell the Results of a Reserve Study Without a Revolt

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 06/03/2019 - 11:31

While the importance of associations building a strong reserve fund is no mystery to you, raising fees or assessments is often a sensitive subject with homeowners. Every association needs a long-term planning goal, and a reserve study creates an accurate timetable for all major improvements. Learn how to address those sensitivities and sell the results of a reserve study with a revolt.

FIDUCIARY DUTY

One of the primary business duties of community associations is maintaining and preserving property values of the associations’ common property. To do this properly, associations must develop funding plans for future repair or replacement of major common-area components.

A reserve study is a budget-planning tool that identifies the current status of the reserve fund and establishes a stable and equitable funding plan to offset the anticipated future major common-area expenditures. Being prepared for non-annual expenses allows your association to change the unexpected to the expected. Reserve studies are one of the best strategies for financial and physical health at the association’s disposal. In order to keep the replacement costs current, the reserve study should be updated (with a site visit) every three to four years.

COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIPS

It is our belief that fundamental to the accomplishment of any of these objectives is two basic premises: communication and relationships. Communication is multi-faceted – between the board and the owners, between the board (and/or subcommittee) and the consultant, and between the consultant and the owners. To ignore these opportunities for effective communication will result in diluting the effectiveness and ultimate success of the implementation of any reserve study on the books for your association.

Relationship nurtures trust and confidence. Through effective communication, greater trust and confidence can be developed between the various parties involved. As a result, it is more likely (although certainly not guaranteed) that the recommendations of a reserve fund study can be effectively implemented.

AN OUTLINE FOR SUCCESS

It is imperative that the scope of a reserve study be clearly defined before even seeking proposals from consultants. The following are a variety of options to be included in the scope of any Request for Proposals:

  • Define the project – From the table above, define exactly what is expected of the consultant. This should be as a result of discussion by the board and/or building subcommittee to determine what is needed. It is particularly important to decide whether the reserve study is to be based on simply replacing existing components or if upgrades and improvements should be considered.
  • Interview the consultant – The RFP should include a paragraph such as follows below. Getting to know the consultant, the people involved on your project and their approach to the project is imperative to a successful relationship.
    The board will select two to three consultants it believes to be qualified for the work and then conduct interviews. The objective of the interview is to meet the people who will be specifically working on our project, discuss a variety of questions, and generally understand the procedures the consultant intends to use for the project. A final choice will be made within one week following the interviews.
    A reserve provider’s objectives are threefold: to provide a broader perspective on reserve studies; to assist property managers with a successful presentation of reserve fund studies; and to create opportunities for more meaningful reserve studies and effective implementation of recommendations.
  • Pre-project meeting – The board (or building subcommittee) should meet with the consultant before actual work starts. The objective is to refine and finalize the scope of the project. This is also an opportunity to determine what will be expected of the association (or management company) and what will be expected of the consultant throughout the project. Suggested language for the RFP is as follows:
    The first step after selection is a meeting with the board (building subcommittee) to review, refine, and finalize the scope of this project. At that time, the items to be covered, the procedures involved, the on-site protocol to be used by the consultant, and any special concerns of the board (building subcommittee) will be discussed.
  • Conduct an owner survey – The intent is to give all of the owners the opportunity to express any particular concerns they might have about the project. While this may seem risky, it has been our experience that it is actually quite effective. Such a survey would be accompanied by a letter from the association providing all of the owners with the scope and limitations of the reserve study to be conducted and encouraging them to respond to the survey. It has been our experience that there is a very high percentage of response. Often the response to these surveys will reveal patterns that relate to association responsibilities as well as giving owners the opportunity to note areas of concern. The following is text for the RFP relative to this point:
    The consultant is expected to participate in at least one meeting with the board (building subcommittee) prior to commencement of the project.
    The consultant is expected to distribute a survey for use by all unit owners and compile the results of that survey as a part of the reserve fund study.
    The content of the survey should be reviewed and modified for each specific project. Also, a letter should be distributed to the unit owners, along with the survey, explaining the purpose and logistics of the reserve study and the survey. That letter should be on the association stationery. The survey would be on the consultant’s stationery.
    The final report would include a summary of the survey findings as well as any specific recommendations or observations related to the survey.
  • Follow-up meetings – It is important that the consultant be willing to discuss the findings of the study with the directors, building subcommittee, and unit owners. This is especially important if the study includes an evaluation of upgrades and improvements. Ideally, there will have been ongoing communication with the directors (building subcommittee) throughout the study process. A meeting with the unit owners will be a logical extension of that process. The following is language to be used in an RFP for that purpose:
    The consultant is expected to attend at least one meeting to which all of the unit owners are invited. This will occur after submittal and acceptance of the final report. The consultant will be expected to provide an overview of their findings and to respond to questions from the unit owners.
  • Report format – Effective communication means effective distribution of information. In larger associations (more than thirty to fifty unit owners), distributing the complete report is impractical, cumbersome, and usually unnecessary. However, a condensed “owners’ report” is a valuable tool to distribute information. Typically, the owners’ report would include an executive summary and the financial projections that are part of the master report. To achieve this purpose, the following language is suggested for the RFP:
    The consultant will provide (enough for the board or building subcommittee) copies of the complete final report. This will include photographs highlighting areas of concern and/or special interest. In addition, the consultant will provide a single reproducible copy of an owners’ report which will include a brief (two to three pages) overview of the findings of the study and the reserve fund projections.
  • Review draft report – For the association, directors, and building subcommittee to be comfortable with the work of the consultant, it is important that there be interaction throughout the process. Generally, we recommend that the consultants meet with the directors/building subcommittee regularly throughout the process of developing the study and submit a draft report for review and comment by the directors/building subcommittee. Recommended RFP language is as follows:
    The consultant will provide a draft report for review by the board (building subcommittee). The board (building subcommittee) will provide comments within two weeks of receipt of the draft report. Following that, the consultant will provide its final report.
Now That You Have the Results, Where Do You Go From Here?

In the first half of this article, we discussed reserve studies and selling the results of the report to your association (without a revolt!). Now that you have the association on board with the report, how do you go about implementing the actual findings?

Click here to download the full article and a complete look at next steps…

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This article was written by H. Alan Mooney, P.E., R.S., Criterium Engineers

To download a PDF version, click here.

The post How to Sell the Results of a Reserve Study Without a Revolt appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready?

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Fri, 05/31/2019 - 14:56

The engineers at Criterium encourage residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to prepare for the hurricane season which begins each year on the first of June.

This year’s seasonal forecast was recently announced by NOAA’s Climate Prediction. They predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a range of 9 to 15 named storms. Dr. Gerry Bell, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA, provides this season’s outlook.

Now is a good time to prepare your home or business for such an event. FEMA provides a wide array of hurricane tips—including what to do before, during and after a hurricane at READY.gov.

It’s also a good time to take photos of your residence or commercial property in its current state. That way, if your property is involved in a hurricane—you have photos to use as a basis of comparison. When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better for documenting any hurricane damage. That way you will have “before” and “after” photos to document your property’s situation.

The post Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready?

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Fri, 05/31/2019 - 14:56

The engineers at Criterium encourage residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to prepare for the hurricane season which begins each year on the first of June.

This year’s seasonal forecast was recently announced by NOAA’s Climate Prediction. They predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a range of 9 to 15 named storms. Dr. Gerry Bell, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA, provides this season’s outlook.

Now is a good time to prepare your home or business for such an event. FEMA provides a wide array of hurricane tips—including what to do before, during and after a hurricane at READY.gov.

It’s also a good time to take photos of your residence or commercial property in its current state. That way, if your property is involved in a hurricane—you have photos to use as a basis of comparison. When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better for documenting any hurricane damage. That way you will have “before” and “after” photos to document your property’s situation.

The post Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready?

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 05/31/2019 - 14:56

The engineers at Criterium encourage residents, homeowners, condo/apartment owners, and commercial property owners to prepare for the hurricane season which begins each year on the first of June.

This year’s seasonal forecast was recently announced by NOAA’s Climate Prediction. They predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with a range of 9 to 15 named storms. Dr. Gerry Bell, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA, provides this season’s outlook.

Now is a good time to prepare your home or business for such an event. FEMA provides a wide array of hurricane tips—including what to do before, during and after a hurricane at READY.gov.

It’s also a good time to take photos of your residence or commercial property in its current state. That way, if your property is involved in a hurricane—you have photos to use as a basis of comparison. When it comes to insurance companies and FEMA, more is better for documenting any hurricane damage. That way you will have “before” and “after” photos to document your property’s situation.

The post Hurricane Season is Here—Are You Ready? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

How Safe Is Your Deck?

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:46

May is National Deck Safety Month® and your spring maintenance checklist should include a thorough inspection of your deck and railings. It’s important to ensure their safety before the outdoor entertainment season begins with family gatherings and neighborhood barbecues taking place on your deck.

Here are a few items to consider as you check your deck:
  • Check Connections: make sure all railing connections are secure. Anchorage points for wood railings often rot and may fail. Perform a stress test by cautiously pushing on the railing to make sure it doesn’t give at any point.
  • Stair Railings: stairs with two or more stair risers should have a railing.
  • Guardrails (railings): are required on “open-sided walking surfaces” higher than 30 inches from the ground, including decks. On single family homes, guardrails must be 36 inches high for decks (measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail) and 34 inches for stairs, measured vertically from the tread nosing.
  • Strength & Spacing: both guardrails and handrails must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force applied at any point and in any direction. The balusters should withstand 50 pounds of pressure exerted over a one-square-foot area. Spaces between balusters cannot exceed 4 inches to prevent children from getting their heads stuck in the openings or falling through them.
  • Benches: a bench installed around the perimeter does not serve also as a guardrail. The bench may be the required distance from the ground (36 inches), but without a guardrail behind it, which both the building code and common sense require, there is nothing to prevent someone from toppling backwards off the deck.
  • Touchup with Paint: repaint or stain the wood, if necessary (the experts suggest at least every five years). Consider using paint with slip-resistant additives for the deck and stairway riser surfaces.

With regular inspections of handrails and guardrails, you can identify and correct problems before they become an accident you could have prevented. Ensuring that your deck, handrails and guardrails are safe will help to ensure the safety of all who use them from toddlers to seniors.

Related Resources:
  • Your Home – a Criterium Engineers publication “Stairways and Decks Aren’t Safe Unless their Railings are Secure.” This document outlines building code requirements for guardrails and handrails, as well as design elements that may cause problems such as rail height and benches along the perimeter.
  • The State of California has a new extensive law that went into effect January 1, 2019, requiring the inspection of Exterior Elevated Elements (Decks and Balconies) and waterproofing elements for buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units. Information on this bill and its history may be found on CA.gov.
  • The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) provides tools for consumers to Check Your Deck® for the upcoming season.

Note: these resources are provided for consumer guidance only. To have a licensed, Professional Engineer inspect your deck, contact Criterium Engineers.

The post How Safe Is Your Deck? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

How Safe Is Your Deck?

Latest "Your Home" Article - Thu, 05/16/2019 - 08:46

May is National Deck Safety Month® and your spring maintenance checklist should include a thorough inspection of your deck and railings. It’s important to ensure their safety before the outdoor entertainment season begins with family gatherings and neighborhood barbecues taking place on your deck.

Here are a few items to consider as you check your deck:
  • Check Connections: make sure all railing connections are secure. Anchorage points for wood railings often rot and may fail. Perform a stress test by cautiously pushing on the railing to make sure it doesn’t give at any point.
  • Stair Railings: stairs with two or more stair risers should have a railing.
  • Guardrails (railings): are required on “open-sided walking surfaces” higher than 30 inches from the ground, including decks. On single family homes, guardrails must be 36 inches high for decks (measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail) and 34 inches for stairs, measured vertically from the tread nosing.
  • Strength & Spacing: both guardrails and handrails must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force applied at any point and in any direction. The balusters should withstand 50 pounds of pressure exerted over a one-square-foot area. Spaces between balusters cannot exceed 4 inches to prevent children from getting their heads stuck in the openings or falling through them.
  • Benches: a bench installed around the perimeter does not serve also as a guardrail. The bench may be the required distance from the ground (36 inches), but without a guardrail behind it, which both the building code and common sense require, there is nothing to prevent someone from toppling backwards off the deck.
  • Touchup with Paint: repaint or stain the wood, if necessary (the experts suggest at least every five years). Consider using paint with slip-resistant additives for the deck and stairway riser surfaces.

With regular inspections of handrails and guardrails, you can identify and correct problems before they become an accident you could have prevented. Ensuring that your deck, handrails and guardrails are safe will help to ensure the safety of all who use them from toddlers to seniors.

Related Resources:
  • Your Home – a Criterium Engineers publication “Stairways and Decks Aren’t Safe Unless their Railings are Secure.” This document outlines building code requirements for guardrails and handrails, as well as design elements that may cause problems such as rail height and benches along the perimeter.
  • The State of California has a new extensive law that went into effect January 1, 2019, requiring the inspection of Exterior Elevated Elements (Decks and Balconies) and waterproofing elements for buildings with 3 or more multifamily dwelling units. Information on this bill and its history may be found on CA.gov.
  • The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) provides tools for consumers to Check Your Deck® for the upcoming season.

Note: these resources are provided for consumer guidance only. To have a licensed, Professional Engineer inspect your deck, contact Criterium Engineers.

The post How Safe Is Your Deck? appeared first on Criterium Engineers.

Categories: Criterium Engineers

Water, Water, Everywhere

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 10:31

Typically when I am discussing water problems with the condo’s property manager or the board, the focus is on leaking roofs, foundations, windows, or other building envelope points of water infiltration.  Instead, this article’s focus will be on water damage problems from inside sources and their prevention.

It is hard to talk about inside water damage without also considering a lengthy discussion of insurance matters, but I’ll try.  The short answer is both the board and the unit owner should confirm the correct policies are in place.  The association’s master insurance policy review should determine if the policy covers both as-built and upgrades (i.e. betterments and improvement clause) or just the walls, floors, and ceiling.  The unit owners should consider sewer/ drain back-up coverage, if the policy does not.  Keep in mind, insurance adjusters are looking for ways to avoid claim payouts.  They will look for the source of the water and whether it was caused by accidental reasons or old age wear and tear; lack of maintenance; or your negligence.

So why is internal water damage such a big deal?  It is because it is the number ONE insurance claim in the nation beating out other high profile claims including tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires.  And it is growing.  1 in 50 homes experienced an internal water claim in the five year period of 2013 to 2017 per Verish Analytics ISO who provides insurance industry statistical data.  This 5-year claim rate of 2.05% per dwelling is up from the prior 5-year statistical period rate of 1.44%.  This equates to an average $10,000 per claim and $13 billion in total claims for 2017.  It’s a big deal.

So why is this happening?  The short answer is the trends in condo and HOA development and the aging of residential building inventory across the country.  The burst in condo development in the 1980’s and 2000’s have resulted in many more water sourced appliances in risky locations.  Many homes built in the last 20 to 30 years have laundries on the second floor instead of the more traditional basement location where a leaking hose could be dealt with a mop and bucket.

Some homes can have more than 40 water connections including washing machines; water sourced heat pumps; ice makers; wet bars; filtration systems; extra bathrooms; dishwashers; garbage disposals; indirect hydronic floor heat; and the list goes on.  This partially explains why fire damage claims in the US have declined while water claims have increased, not only in numbers but in amount.  High-end properties are the worst for this increase in water claims.  For homes valued greater than $500,000 the claim sizes have doubled since 2015 while homes valued greater than $1 million have tripled in size according to the Wall Street Journal.

So what’s a property manager, board, or unit owner to do?  Protect the home.  Needless to say, each condo or HOA complex has its own factors of importance.  These factors must be considered and a plan should be established to minimize the potential problems each type of complex should address.  One place to start is the creation of a central maintenance log to record all reported internal water events to determine if there is a trend or pattern.  An aging condo may have experienced a rash of washing machine hose leaks.  This may prompt the property manage to notify unit owners to inspect their own hoses for wear or even hire a plumber to inspect all of the units’ water sourced appliances.  Another HOA may have a population of ‘snow birds’ who should be cautioned to maintain their unit thermostats at a certain level to avoid pipe freeze up while they are vacationing in warmer climates.  Sometimes a global reminder to all unit owners of the location of their central water shut off valve for future water emergencies is a good ounce of prevention.

Needless to say, no matter how much a property manager or board thinks about internal water damage, it often comes down to the individual unit owner being responsible to maintain the unit.  Investing in water sensors at some risky or perennial problem locations may be money well spent.  Educating the unit owners through the association’s newsletter or web site is also a step in the right direction.  Reminders of the importance of maintaining caulk in the tubs and showers; hose connections for all appliances; and periodic observations around the home looking for developing rust; drywall damage; and pooling water can go a long way in preventing a trickle becoming a sea of trouble.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED-AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media May 2019 edition

Download a PDF copy of this Condo Media Article

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Still Hot – Condo Market Forecast

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Wed, 03/27/2019 - 14:19

This time of year I like to share my observations of the Maine real estate market and forecast things to come (spoiler alert) the news is still good. Describing Maine’s real estate market is like describing its weather. First there is a discussion about the southern part of the state and later the northern part of the state, as it is often different.

The Real Estate Forecast Conference sponsored by the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA) was held in Portland in January where the leaders of the industry revealed a flood of positive statistics and a bright forecast of things to come. As with population and average income levels, real estate in the greater Portland area and Cumberland County set the tone for the rest of the state.

Statewide 2018 median prices for homes rose 7.5% compared to 5.3% in 2017, however, Portland’s average condo unit median prices rose 12%. Perhaps even more telling than price increase is the shrinkage of the average days on the market for a home. While statewide the average days on the market was 28 days in 2018, in the greater Portland area the average days on market was 7 days. Real estate agents joke they tell their clients to pack their bags when the unit is listed.

Towns such as Cumberland / North Yarmouth; Scarborough; Yarmouth; South Portland; Cape Elizabeth; and Falmouth represent some of the hottest real estate markets in Maine. Even areas such as Biddeford/ Saco and Lewiston/ Auburn are seeing increased activity. While the single family market has been relatively flat since 2010, the new market is being driven by existing inventories as new single family construction continues to stall. Interesting enough, this is not true for condo sales where new construction is leading the market. If you have not visited Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood in the last few years, you would not recognize it. Low-rise condominium buildings have sprouted like mushrooms.

Boomers have become empty nesters who do not want to deal with the four bedroom suburban house. They are migrating to the new high-end condominiums in the urban areas such as Portland to enjoy the fine restaurants and cultural attractions the city has to offer. Changing demographics in the urban areas see condos being purchased for vacation homes; investments; and a search by many for a new living style. Condo sales are becoming more than a third of the real estate market.

Many factors are creating this condo market environment. Millennials are looking for their first home (45% of buyers). They do not own cars and use uber or public transportation in the city. With the economy improving, the inventory of apartments in the cities is shrinking. Multi-family buildings spend less than 30 days in the real estate market in Portland due to a favorable cap rate for quality properties. Even historically left-behind multi-family markets such as Lewiston and Biddeford witnessed in 2018 its inventory shrinking and cap rates of less than 10%. Surprisingly, the boom in hotel building in the greater Portland market is having an effect, as hotel owners frantic to find affordable housing for their hospitality staff needs, are turning to buying apartment buildings for their employee use.

Meanwhile, new buildings are becoming more expensive to build, with cost increases perhaps as high as 20% over last year’s averages. These cost increases are due to labor shortages (Maine’s aging population); material transportation cost increases; local/ state regulatory delays/ costs; and lack of competition in Maine’s market.

So what does all of this mean for the future condo market? My 2019 Forecast is this:

  • Interest rates will climb throughout the year and dampen the market
  • Prices will continue to rise for the first half of the year and then level off
  • The Sellers’ market will end and more normal transactions will ensue
  • Inventory of units will satisfy demand

And one final forecast issue. For those not paying attention, with Millennials in the market big time, the iBuyer real estate buy/sell model will be a major force to change the way real estate is transacted.  With companies such as Opendoor; Knock; OfferPad; and Redfin either starting or testing ibuyer services to reduce the cost of transactions as well as speed up the process, predicting future real estate markets will be like predicting weather.   To paraphrase an old Maine adage, “If you don’t like the real estate market, wait a minute.”

Printable Version of this Article

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Building Envelope Woes

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 11:53

So what to do in a Maine winter? Certainly snow sports, a good book, or dreams of spring golf are excellent pursuits but for the chairperson of the condo maintenance committee, winter is a good time to be planning building envelope repairs. The building envelope comprises the roof, siding, and foundation with all of the windows, doors, other penetrations that go with the envelope.

As the building envelope is probably one of the most important, if not the most costly common condominium asset, it bears careful monitoring. This article will attempt to provide a guide of the typical problems and issues encountered in most condominium buildings with most of these associated with water infiltration.

Starting from the top, most condos use asphalt shingles for sloped roofs and EPDM membranes for flat roofs. Both last a long time with asphalt shingles having lives of 25 to 30 years while EPDM membranes start to fail after 20 years. Most roofs start to show their age with leaks of which the great majority are concentrated in areas where dissimilar material or horizontal and vertical surfaces meet. Defective or poorly installed flashing is usually the culprit.

Caulking or roof tar is often used for repairs but these tend to be only temporary fixes. Watch for curling or lifting shingles as these are good signs of an aging roof. Roof can also fail prematurely from overheated and poorly vented attics. And speaking of attics, the irony is that ice dam leaks are caused by heat rather than ice. Ice dams are formed at the edges of roofs due to heat escaping into the attic from poorly sealed exterior walls or inadequate insulation and melting roof snow setting up a freeze/thaw cycle that eventually works under the shingles. Those issues should be addressed first before bothering with external electrical heat tape or similar measures.

Many of New England’s condominiums are sided with wood, vinyl, or cement composite clapboard siding. For the most part these materials do their job to keep most of the moisture out of the building but they are not the only barrier. In fact, one of the most important components of exterior walls is the building wrap beneath the siding. This material’s purpose, going by such names a Tyvek or Typar, is often misunderstood, even by contractors.

When it was first introduced it was called a vapor barrier and is still thought as such by many. In fact, building wrap should be renamed and called building flashing as that is its true purpose. Water gets behind all siding whether it is clapboards, brick, or stucco. The trick in good building envelope design is to insure this water infiltration is stopped by a drainage plain which for most residential structures is building wrap. This is why most exterior wall leaks can be traced back to missing or poorly installed building wrap.

If building wrap were only used for a vapor barrier function, then not taping the seams of the wrap would not be a big deal. But as a building flashing, it is critical that seams (particularly vertical ones) are taped, holes are patched, and the wrap is properly integrated with the flashings around doors and windows. When a unit owner reports a water infiltration problem through the walls it is a good idea to focus on problems with the wrap rather than the siding. To make matters worse, if the wrap is failing it is very possible water damage may also be occurring to the sheathing and insulation behind the wrap.

This brings us to windows. The problem with windows is they belong to the unit owner and are not a common element under most condominium rules. However, the building committee is not off the hook with window leaks as these same condo rules that assign the windows to the unit owners also assign the window frames to the association’s responsibility. In most cases it is not the window that is leaking but the frame’s flashing (or lack of flashing) causing the problem.

Poorly installed windows that did not follow the manufacture’s instructions, that no one read on the job site, are one of the biggest sources of homeowners’ complaints. Often the only solution is to remove the siding around the window, inspect the flashing, and re-flash. Many such problems can be minimized by preventive inspections using either visual methods or instruments such as moisture meters to focus on the specific moisture path to diagnose the issue.

Water infiltration problems are like odd noises in your car. They do not go away they only get worse. By addressing these problems now your dreams of early spring golf may yet be realized.

Printable Version of this Article

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Paving Isn’t Sexy: But Proper Maintenance is Essential

Latest "Engineering Advisor" Article - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 20:45
Engineering Advisor | Volume 26, Number 1

When was the last time you thought about your parking lot? The honest answer, probably, is not in recent memory.  It’s not a question of ‘out of sight –out of mind.’ Parking lots and other paved areas are highly visible, but they aren’t all that interesting.  There is nothing sexy about asphalt.

A well-designed, nicely manicured landscape will get your attention; a nicely-paved parking lot – not so much.  As a result, paved areas don’t always get the maintenance attention they need, and that is a potentially serious problem for both the owners of commercial properties (shopping malls, for example) and the homeowner associations that manage residential condominium communities.  A poorly maintained parking lot is not only an eyesore, detracting from a property’s curb appeal; it is also a liability risk:  Customers or residents who trip over cracks or whose cars are damaged by potholes are going to sue the property owner.

Paved areas, if well-constructed and well-maintained, can last between 25 and 30 years or more, depending on where they are located and how they are used.  Unfortunately, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways are often afterthoughts — the final items on a construction checklist, undertaken near the end of the project when funds are low and the developer’s attention is waning.

Doing it Right

Pavement isn’t complicated.  It begins with good soil compacted properly to create a stable base that should be covered by two layers of asphalt ― a base course on bottom and a wearing course on top. There is some disagreement about the desired thickness, but no question that the thicker the asphalt layers, the longer their life.  The industry standard calls for a combined thickness of between 2.5 and 5 inches, with the top layer thicker than the bottom.

Only about half of the parking lots we inspect meet that standard.  Most fall short and many fall well short, with both layers sometimes totaling less than 2 inches.  If the asphalt layers are too thin, if the underlying soil is poor, or if the area isn’t paved uniformly the surface will form holes, crack and split, requiring constant repairs and premature repaving.

Harsh winters and the damage inflicted by the steel blades of snow plows take a toll in New England and other cold climates; extreme heat and exposure to the blazing sun do the damage in the south and southwest.  Pavement in hotter areas may require the application of a sealant (to smooth over holes and cracks) in less than a year after being laid; pavement in colder climates may not need sealant for five years, and possibly not all, but it will benefit from efforts to mitigate the damage inflicted by snow and ice.

You can’t skip the snow plowing or the application of de-icing materials, but some of those materials are harder on asphalt than others. It’s worth asking your snow removal contractor for recommendations.  Proper application of the material is also essential; adding more salt won’t necessarily improve its effectiveness, experts say, but it will increase the cumulative damage to paved areas and reduce their useful life.

Poor drainage can also accelerate deterioration. Even the best-laid surface will be compromised over time if water “ponds” on it instead of draining properly. You can spot evidence of ponding even if it isn’t raining. Areas of discoloration (shadows) and collections of dirt, twigs and other debris are red flags indicating a drainage problem.  A decent slope and catch basins, on the other hand, suggest that the contractor was thinking about proper drainage

Maintenance Guidelines

All pavement, however well or poorly-constructed, requires proper care. The maintenance schedules will vary ─ some paved areas will require attention sooner or later than others — but the protocols will be essentially the same.

A few small cracks here and there will be the first sign of wear. They will usually appear between the three- and five-year marks, and filling them will be the first line of defense. The important thing about cracks is, small ones will quickly become larger, so you don’t want to ignore them. They represent both a safety hazard (people can twist their ankles or trip over them) and a structural concern. Water can seep through the cracks causing damage below the surface of the asphalt. In warm climates, the water will unsettle the soil, pushing the clay up against the asphalt and accelerating the deterioration process. In New England, water will trigger a destructive freeze-thaw-freeze process in the winter, which will also shorten the asphalt’s useful life.

You can deal with small cracks by filling them in. Contractors typically use a melt-in substance that won’t shrink after application. This is the product highway crews use because of its durability and ease of application. It is sold under several retail brand names, all variants of “hot-applied crack sealant.” Experts suggest that you fill cracks every two or three years, as part of a regular maintenance plan. If cracking becomes more widespread, you can take the next step, which is to apply a sealant to the entire paved area.

Resurfacing and Replacing

As asphalt ages, one or more sections may begin to break up or flake, indicating that the surface is beginning to deteriorate. Patching will probably take care of the problem, at least for a while. But you don’t want to just pave over the failed area ― a shortcut some contractors might suggest; you want the contractor to cut out the area, fill in the subsurface and then pave over that. This will give you a sturdier, longer-lasting repair, but it is still a temporary fix ─ a band aid, not a cure.

At some point — and the hope is it will be later rather than sooner in your pavement’s life ― deterioration will accelerate, repairs will become more frequent requiring more aggressive and more expensive responses.

One option is to resurface the area ─ either lay a new surface over the existing one, or remove the old asphalt and pave the area anew. These options make sense if the underlying soil base is stable. But remember Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result). If the old surface failed prematurely because the underlying soil wasn’t’ stable, a new surface laid over that unstable soil won’t wear or fare any better.

It’s time to start over. The contractor should remove the old asphalt, scoop out the bad soil, replace it with gravel and stone to create a solid base, and then lay the new pavement over it. That’s the traditional approach. A newer technique calls for pulverizing the old asphalt and using it as a base for the new pavement. In addition to creating what contractors say is a “super-solid” base, pulverizing the old asphalt eliminates the cost of trucking it away and disposing of it at a hazardous waste site. Either technique will give you nice, new pavement that will last another 25 or 30 years or more.

 Volume 26, Number 1 | December 05, 2017 | Copyright © 2017 CRITERIUM ENGINEERS

The Engineering Advisor is intended to enhance your knowledge of technical issues relating to buildings.  For additional information on any subject, please feel free to call us.  Our commitment is to provide you with timely, accurate information.

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Stairways and Decks Aren’t Safe Unless their Railings Are Secure

Latest "Your Home" Article - Tue, 02/26/2019 - 17:00
Your Home | Volume 35, Number 1

You’re standing in the basement waiting for a friend, who is following you down the stairs. Missing a step, your friend reaches for the railing, which breaks away from the wall. This will not end well for your friend, who may be seriously injured or worse; and it may not end well for you, because of the law suit and liability claim that will follow, and the friendship that will almost certainly end.

This isn’t an article about the importance of having adequate insurance; it’s about the importance of having secure railings on your stairs. Accidents related to stairs are the second-leading cause of accidental injuries in the United States, according to the National Safety Council, responsible for 12,000 deaths annually and for non-fatal injuries costing $92 billion a year. Only automobile accidents take a higher toll.

There are no statistics indicating how many of the stairway accidents are caused by faulty railings, but as the incident described above illustrates, the stair rail can make the difference between a close call and a disaster.

Recognizing the importance of railings – inside and outside of homes – building codes establish detailed requirements for them. The codes address two major types of railings:

•Handrails or stair railings, which are installed along one or both sides of a stairway, providing a surface to grab to prevent falls down the stairs or over a stairway’s open side.
•Guardrails, providing a safety barrier to keep people from falling off or through stairways, balconies, decks, and porches.
The requirements for railings in both categories focus primarily on their height, location, strength and grip. (See related sidebar.)

Emphasis on Safety
Building codes establish the safety standards structures should meet; they don’t guarantee that any specific structure complies with them. For one thing, building codes change over time, usually in response to incidents that highlight inadequacies in them. (Allowable baluster openings got narrower because children kept falling through them.) Older homes, covered by earlier codes, won’t necessarily incorporate those changes. Newer homes may fall short as well.

Municipal building inspectors who issue occupancy permits, ostensibly certifying code compliance, may not notice every shortcoming nor object to every one they find. They would doubtless notice if a required railing was missing, but they might not notice (or decide to overlook it) if the railing was a little shorter than required.

Your concern is safety, not code compliance. The question you should ask about railings is not just whether they are ‘built to code,’ but whether they provide the safety a particular stairway (or deck) needs, given where it is located and how it is used.

Cool Designs – Uncool Risks
Architects, and homeowners themselves, don’t always put safety first. Architects often make building code compromises to achieve design effects, and homeowners often focus more on the coolness of the design than on the risks it may create.

For example, to ensure an unobstructed view while sitting on a deck, the guardrail may be set lower than the 34-38 inches the building code requires. This protects the view, but it doesn’t protect the people who are standing on the deck. At 38 inches, the rail will hit someone of average height at hip level or higher, which is above their center of gravity. At 32 inches, the railing is now below hip level, which means someone who leans too far over the railing or slips will probably go over the side.

Another common deck-related compromise is to install a bench around the perimeter, expecting it to serve also as a guardrail. It won’t. The bench may be the required distance from the ground (36 inches), but without a guardrail behind it, which both the building code and common sense require, there is nothing to prevent someone sitting on the bench from toppling backwards off the deck.

If you read home decorating magazines, you will notice that using cable in deck railings has become popular. The longer the distance between the cables and their anchor points, the cooler the design. But stretching also makes the cables more flexible and easier to pull apart, creating wide spaces through which small children, or less-than-sober adults, could fall.

These risks aren’t theoretical. According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, more injuries result from the failure of deck railings than from the collapse of decks.

I’m not suggesting that only conventional designs are safe. The problem, in many cases, is not the design but how it is implemented. Glass railings, which you will find in many buildings today, are a good example. Thetempered glass used in these railings is quite strong, so there’s no cause for concern there. But the exposed glass edges must be protected, and the railings must be secured firmly. If they are inserted in a wood frame (a common structure), there has to be enough overlap so the glass won’t be dislodged if it is hit hard, as it could be by someone grabbing the rail for support.

Essential Maintenance
Whatever the design and composition of your railings, maintenance is essential. Aging affects all structures and all materials to varying degrees, but deck railings are particularly vulnerable, because they are exposed to the elements. Rain, heat and freezing temperatures all can take a toll. Wood rots, steel rusts, the connections anchoring railings to the deck weaken over time.

Your spring maintenance checklist should include a thorough inspection of your deck and its railings. Repaint the wood if necessary (the experts suggest at least every five years). Make sure all railing connections are secure. Perform a stress test by pressing on the railing to make sure it doesn’t give at any point.

Railings on inside stairs aren’t exposed to weather, but they are affected by age and wear and tear, so you want to inspect them periodically, too. Grab the top rail on a stairway to make sure it doesn’t wiggle at the touch. Shake the rail slightly and notice if it vibrates; it shouldn’t. Perform the same stress test you used on the deck railing; interior handrails are supposed to withstand the same 200-pound force.

With regular inspections of handrails and guardrails, you can identify and correct problems before they become accidents you could have prevented. Most of us have heard Smokey the Bear intone: “Only you can prevent forest fires.” A mascot for stair safety might issue a similar warning: “Only you can prevent railing failures.” Ensuring that your handrails and guardrails are safe will help to ensure the safety of all who use them.

Overview of Building Code Requirements

While local building codes may vary, most track closely, if not completely, the International Residential Code, from which this summary is drawn.

Handrails are required on at least one side of each continuous run in a flight of stairs with four or more risers. The rails must:

•Run continuously for the full length of the stairs.
•Be 34-38 inches above the nosing of the stair treads.
•Allow no less than 1-1/2 inches of space between the wall and the handrail.
•Be easy to grasp. (The code requires one of two types of specified grips or their equivalent.)Guardrails are required on “open-sided walking surfaces” higher than 30 inches from the ground. This would include interior and exterior stairways as well as decks.

Guardrails must be 36 inches high for decks (measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail) and 34 inches for stairs, measured vertically from the tread nosing. (Guardrails for decks on multifamily buildings, which are covered by the International Building Code, must be 42 inches high.)

Strength and Spacing

•Both guardrails and handrails must be able to withstand at least 200 pounds of force applied at any point and in any direction.
•The balusters should withstand 50 pounds of pressure exerted over a one-square-foot area.
•Spaces between balusters can’t exceed 4 inches, which is the average diameter of a baby’s head. The obvious purpose is to prevent children from getting their heads stuck in the openings or falling through them.

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Hidden Dangers of Dryer Vents

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:04

Who would think venting a unit’s clothes dryer was so complicated?  When was the last time the cleanliness of dryer vents was on your Board’s meeting agenda?  Yet, clothes dryers may be one of the most dangerous appliances in the home.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports there are more than 15,000 home fires each year directly related to dryer maintenance and overheating with blocked exhaust venting contributing to half of those fires.  Dryer venting falls in the category of what you can’t see, can hurt you.

Just as condo units and their buildings come in many shapes and sizes, so does dryer vent systems.  It is not unusual for new Boards not only not understand the exact nature of their condo’s in-unit dryer vent system but they also are not certain who is responsible for its maintenance.  Most dryer vent ducts pass through common space, except for HOA unit owners who are responsible for their own building envelope and everything within.  Some condo dryer vent ducts are dedicated to a given unit while others are shared with other units.  Many dryers vent pass through an exterior wall while mid-rise and high-rise condo buildings share a vertical rooftop vent system.

With these different types of systems and variances often found in the governing condo documents, it is not always well understood by the Board members who is responsible for maintenance and repair of dryer duct systems.  This includes basic routine cleaning even if it is clear maintaining the in-unit dryer is part of the unit owner’s responsibility.  This is an important issue to resolve with the assistance of your legal counsel, as it is the first step in meeting the Board’s responsibility to oversee the safety of the units’ venting system and its occupants.

Once dryer vent system maintenance responsibilities are understood, a policy should be put in place.  This policy should provide authority for unit access and performing maintenance and repairs when owners fail to comply with the dryer policy including assessing charges to the unit owner incurred by the association in providing the required dryer maintenance.  The policy should specify the required maintenance including cleaning of the dryer vents and ducts on a scheduled basis, typically every two years.  Often communities will engage a dryer maintenance contractor at a bulk rate to provide a cost effective and consistent maintenance program.  Should a unit owner opt out of this service they would be required to provide proof of compliance of the required maintenance being conducted by others.

Before the dryer maintenance program can be implemented, the Board must understand their system.  This may require the assistance of a maintenance repair contractor or the association’s building engineer who will need to inspect the present system.  This inspection may reveal common and shared duct systems; long duct runs with booster in-line fans; improper duct materials.  As an example, any vent duct found to be vinyl, PVC, or flexible is a problem.  Most of these types of vent ducts are violations of the local and national building codes, as their interior surfaces collect lint creating a build up of highly flammable material as well as a medium to collect water whose weight can bend duct pipe and create an environment susceptible to mildew and mold.  Improper duct should be removed and replaced with smooth-walled metal ductwork.  If flexible duct is found forming an elbow at the rear of the dryer, it should be replaced with non-flexible metal elbow duct so as not to be crushed when the dryer is pushed against the wall.

The policy may set specifications on the type of dryers to be allowed in units.  Not all dryers are the same.  Beyond the differences between electric and gas-fired dryers, some dryers have significantly different exhaust characteristics.  Building codes recognizes this by allowing the manufacturer to specify the maximum length of straight vent duct to be used.  This typically can range from 15 to 90 feet.  This duct length is further defined by reducing the allowable length by 5 feet for every 90 degree bend and 2 ½ feet for every 45 degree bend in the duct.  For this reason, the policy should provide specific direction to unit owners of the minimum type of dryer performance allowed as well as advising the unit owner of the length of duct the dryer will be connected.  Some associations even place a placard at the duct wall connection with this information for future dryer installations.

In hiring the dryer maintenance contractor the Board should take the normal insurance precautions as when hiring any contractor, including coverage for general liability; automobile liability; workers compensation and umbrella liability coverage with key required endorsements.  These are needed to protect the association from both having to defend itself as well as pay damages as a result  of the contractor’s activities while also including additional insured endorsements; waiver of subrogation endorsement; and primary/non-contributory wording.

The contract with the maintenance contractor should specify the method of cleaning the dryer duct.  Typically the cleaning is a combination of extendable brushes and vacuum cleaning.  The scope of work should include specific clarification of disposal of duct debris both inside and outside the building.  Safety issues should be addressed, particularly regarding movement of gas-fired dryers.

The dryer maintenance policy can include some preventative maintenance guidance to unit owners.  Unit owners should be advised to report unusual dryer performance including longer than normal drying times or the dryer surface or clothes feeling hotter than normal.  The owners should also report their observations of the outside dryer louver vents not opening as much as before.  Excessive humid or burnt smells in the laundry area are all signs of blocked exhaust vent duct.  The recognition of dryer malfunctions and a good preventive maintenance policy will ensure the common safety for all.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media, February, 2019

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

The Association Landscaper

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 17:01

Sure, it’s cold out there.  It’s Maine and we have long winters but if the condo board is to find a good landscaper for spring projects now’s the time to start looking.  Landscaping contractors are overhauling their equipment; looking for experienced crews; and scheduling their current customers, so if you wait till the frost is out of the ground, the good ones will not be available. Finding a good landscaper is not easy.  Not that there isn’t many competent landscapers in Maine, it is just they all might not be a good fit for your community.  Some landscapers focus on commercial customers with very specific annual needs not needing a lot of handholding.  Some landscapers prefer high-end residential clients with deep pockets and fancy estates following the design magazine trends.  Other landscapers are accustomed to maintaining apartment complexes and only have to deal with experienced landlords.

Condos are different.  Condos are a hybrid so be cautious with an unwary new landscaper not familiar with dealing with both a property manager and a board not to mention the very opinionated unit owners.  Trying to keep everyone happy is not for all landscapers.  The selection process should focus on this very real issue as well as cost and competency otherwise your engagement may be short lived with your burnt out landscaper disappearing in his red pickup.

Good landscaping is an investment.  Most people in the real estate industry will acknowledge quality landscaping creates real and measureable value, perhaps as much as 16% in condo unit sales value when compared to a communities with poor curb appeal.  This equates in return on investment in excess of 200% of the installation cost of plants and landscape amenities.  In addition to units’ maintaining or increasing their sales value, the value of community pride and quality of life can be profound.  Therefore searching for the right landscaper is worth the effort.  This search should start with the board agreeing on goals clearly related to prospective landscape contractors.  Certainly budgetary matters can be discussed at this time but until the landscape priorities are established no progress can be made.

Develop a list of three or four landscapers to be considered.  This list is best developed from referrals from your property manager; members of other local condo communities; or other condo service providers.  This will help to shorten the list to contractors who will have some understanding of working for a community.  Next set up an interview schedule after the board has had a chance to review and approve the written goals and a written set of specific questions to be addressed to each candidate.

Following introduction between the board and landscaper, the contractor should be given an opportunity to discuss his company and its history and experience.  Each interview should follow an outline agenda with the next step being the board presenting the community’s goals.  The landscaper should be allowed to consider these goals and discuss concerns or offer suggested improvements.  A consensus does not have to be established at this point but the goals of the association must be expressed early in the process.

With the general scope of work stated, more specific information regarding the contractor’s ability to properly crew and supervise the job can be discussed.  An understanding of how many crews are supervised by one individual and over what territory or number of other communities is important to forecast future service.  This would be a good time to discuss possible schedules including completion time frames; communication on site to address service requests; and monthly accomplishment reports.

It should be kept in mind your community is in competition for crew time.  Most communities prefer on-site service on Thursday or Friday and not over the weekend.  Allowing the landscaper’s crew to work on Tuesday or Wednesday may provide negotiation chips for a better deal.  Price is always an issue but don’t make the mistake of forcing a low price only to get unsatisfactory performance.  The board’s goals should include wanting to re-hire the selected landscaper in the future.

As with hiring any service provider, references must be checked and insurance coverage confirmed.  The conclusion of the final selection process should include the contractor providing information regarding his chain of command and how future communication concerning billing; re-scheduling; and expected work environment including times/ location of crew breaks and mobilization; start/ finish times; noise issues and speed of equipment.  The board should suggest the landscaper attend periodic board or landscaping meetings.

After the contract award, the contractor will provide a site map highlighting key issues agreed upon.  An initial meeting with the board representative and key crew members can be very helpful. It should always be kept in mind the community is forming a partnership with the landscaper to create attractive grounds for all to be proud.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media, February, 2019

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Transitions in Condominiums

Latest "Common Foundations" Article - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 16:56

All things are in transition.  Nature, the Patriots, and condo communities go through transitions.  In the world of condos many of these transition milestones are well understood, many are not.  Most know condos go through a transition management period from the developer to unit owner, but there is much more.  Condo transition has two primary elements:  Transition of Control and Transition of Responsibility.

Transition of Control refers to the new Board being primarily managed by the unit owners.  It is often useful for the developer to have some representation on this new board.  Prior to this new Board forming all available condo documents and records should be gathered and reviewed.  At this point the new Board may want to engage an attorney to assist in this process of collecting  the executed bylaws; filed articles; public offering statement;  financial records; meeting minutes; construction plans; maintenance records; insurance policies; warranties; service contracts; and unit files.

Care should be taken in engaging their attorney as not all attorneys have experience in representing transitioning associations.  This attorney should be well versed in collections and reviewing policy resolutions as well as initial contracts.  Similarly, experience in dealing with construction quality claims and defect resolution is very important.  The new Board will also be relying on this attorney to review financial issues as they present themselves.

The Board should also consider implementing a Transition Study.  This study often includes hiring an engineering firm to compare the condo project drawings and specifications to actual common element conditions to render an opinion on whether the Board should accept the facilities as is or conditionally until deficiencies are corrected.  These deficiencies arise from the discovery of violation of industry standards or building codes; failure to follow plans and specifications; design deficiencies; and product failure.

Some of the most useful project documents, if they are available, include ‘as-built’ construction drawings; approved site drawings and land surveys; landscaping plants showing all plantings and planned grounds amenities; list of contractors and service providers and their contact information; and an inventory of all major building elements and their manufacturers.

In parallel with the engineering effort, the Board may also hire a forensic accountant to review the developer’s use of unit owners’ funds to operate the facilities until the transition is completed.

The Transition of Responsibility refers to the moment in time the developer (declarant) transfers one or more common elements to the unit owner Board.  In large condo complexes, Certificates of Substantial Completion are issued as major common elements such as clubhouses; pools; or building phases are put into service.  These certificates are often controlled by professional engineers engaged by the developer or new Board.

Transition issues not only rest with the condo association but also the local community will take a part in the process.  Cope enforcement officers will be inspecting the property throughout the project life to insure the buildings meet current building and energy codes.  Local Fire Marshals and planning boards will be reviewing project documents to ensure both life safety and compliance with local standards.  Some of the common elements such as landscaping and storm water infrastructure may also have performance bonds in place to guarantee the site plans are completed as approved.

Though the new Board may not be aware of it, the local planning board and as well as the building inspection department of the municipality vetted this project whether it was a newly constructed facility or a conversion of a former multi-family building or other commercial structure.  Many Maine cities and towns have enacted condo conversion ordinances based on the Portland and South Portland model ordinances.  These ordinances’ purpose is to ensure the new condominium will meet the minimum standards set by the community for structural stability; mechanical / electrical requirements; and life safety features.    What this means for the new Board is there may be resources and history available at the local level to assist in the transition process.

Transition continues for the life of a condo community.  A good transition process will provide the basis for the understanding of standards of common element condition including building envelope; mechanical systems; life safety; and grounds.  These standards will contribute to reserve fund estimates of estimated useful lives and form a good foundation to develop both operating and capital repair budgets.  With these budgets the cash flow analysis can be performed resulting in a rational projection of future assessments to meet future spending needs.  With this road map future boards and their new members will be able to easily transition to their new roles as future leaders of a successful condo community.

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Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers

Published in Condo Media, January, 2019

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Turn the Water Tank Temp Up or Down? It's a Hot Question.

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 09:46

Is your hot water safe??   Too hot and you can be seriously burned.  Not hot enough and your hot water may harbor dangerous bacteria.   It’s not a simple question!!

What’s the “correct” temperature at which to set a water heater?

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Stairways and Decks Aren’t Safe Unless their Railings Are Secure

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:19

You’re standing in the basement waiting for a friend, who is following you down the stairs.  Missing a step, your friend reaches for the railing, which breaks away from the wall.  This will not end well for your friend, who may be seriously injured or worse; and it may not end well for you, because of the law suit and liability claim that will follow, and the friendship that will almost certainly end.

This isn’t an article about the importance of having adequate insurance; it’s about the importance of having secure railings on your stairs.

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Home Fires are Common, Deadly and Preventable - August, 2017

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 13:14

Fire safety probably isn’t high on the list of concerns for buyers when they purchase a home.  But the statistics indicate that it should be. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in the United States:

  • Most fire-related deaths (more than 80 percent of them last year) occur in residences.
  • More than 4,000 people die and 25,000 are injured in fires every year.

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Categories: Criterium Engineers

Building Code Myths Create Liability Risks for Real Estate Professionals - March 2017

Latest "Your Home" Article - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 15:29

If we were writing a Steven King-style horror movie, it might begin with a real estate broker discussing all the attractive features of a new home.  After noting the “brilliant design,” the high ceilings, state-of-the art kitchen and the exciting architectural details, the broker happily, assures the buyer, “The house is fully compliant with the building code, so you can be confident that it has no structural defects and that the construction quality is superb.” Cue the eerie music and note the black storm clouds forming in the sky. 

Why is this a horror story?  

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Categories: Criterium Engineers