By Evelyn Saavedra, CMCA
Q: Explain the differences in maintenance between high rises and single-family homes?
A: Maintenance is important for all homes; however, what you do, or don’t do, in a high rise can leave your neighbors at risk.
In single family homes changes to the interior of a home typically don’t impact neighbors. Residents transitioning from single family homes to condos have a lot more to consider when modifying their unit. For example, the underlayment for flooring used in single-family homes might not be neighbor friendly in a high-rise environment, depending on its STC/IIC ratings. What is STC/IIC? STC (Sound Transmission Class) is a rating for how well the underlayment reduces airborne sound such as music. IIC (Impact Insulation Class) is the rating for how well the underlayment reduces impact sounds such as someone walking. Some high rises restrict hard surface flooring like hardwood altogether eliminating any worry about this; however, with proper ratings and installation hard surface flooring can be installed with minimal impact.
Maintenance of appliances and the unit itself is also important. A simple item can easily impact other units. Think about where the water from a leaking refrigerator hose could travel to. No one wants to be in the unit below that is “rained” on. Yikes!
Q: What are some key factors to consider for high rise maintenance?
A: One of the most important factors is figuring out a way to prioritize and track historical issues. Life and safety equipment should always be the top priority, and providing utility services to units is secondary. Why are historical issues important? If a manager starts to see trends, it may point to bigger issues.
In one of the buildings I managed, I noticed multiple complaints about the smell of marijuana coming from another unit. After looking at the locations of the complaints on various floors, we noticed there was one thing in common, they all were on the same exhaust stack. After conducting a simple airflow test on multiple bathroom exhausts, it was clear this was the path transferring the smell. We then discovered that the shaft was never fully completed, and the large section that was missing was causing the smells to be transferred to other units.
Q: What is a BMS System and why is important for a high rise?
A: BMS stands for Building Management System also known as Building Automation System (BAS), which is a computer based system used to control and monitor a building’s mechanical and electrical equipment. With proper forethought and setup, this type of system can be used to identify issues before the residents experience the outcome of the issue.
For example, installing a sensor on the water temperature output of a chiller that has an alarm set to sound if the water temperature reaches a certain point, gives managers an indication that there might be an imminent loss of air conditioning. This allows managers to get ahead of the problem and fix the issue before the residents are impacted.
Q: What can residents do to help with the building maintenance?
A: While many people buy in high rises looking for a lock and leave situation, there are important things that need taken care of within each unit. First, don’t delay on repairing a running toilet or leaking faucet.
It is also important to think about what is put down sewer lines and garbage disposals. It is shocking to hear about the things that plumbers pull out of sewer lines throughout the city. The garbage disposal is intended to grind down table scraps from your plate, with some small exceptions, not to be used as an in-sink trash can. As for pasta and rice? No way! Those items expand and swell, causing unnecessary clogs. Grease from a cooking pan also is not good for drains. It will solidify and act as a glue and plug with other items in the sewer lines. Things like this can lead to a sewer backup and, if not caught early enough, cause a lot of damage to everything around. Be kind, and remember in a high rise the sewer lines open to all of the units throughout the building.
Remember, in a high rise everyone has different perspectives on maintenance and what is important. Most owners and residents want to be able to have a simpler life, and no longer worry about snow removal, landscaping and many of the maintenance items to that come into play with a single-family home. On the other hand, the manager and staff must be concerned with these items to ensure a correctly working building. However, maintenance awareness from both managers and residents leads to an improved high-rise experience for everyone.
Evelyn Saavedra is the Community Association Manager for the Residences at Penterra Plaza, a community managed by Hammersmith Management, Inc. Hammersmith Management provides a full range of management services for condominiums, single family homes, townhouse, high-rises and large-scale properties in Colorado.