By Joel W. Meskin, McGowan Program Administrators
Community associations are creatures of budget. The primary purpose of a budget is to provide certainty and avoid surprises as the board complies with its obligation to protect, preserve, and enhance the association assets.
More often than not, board members primarily focus on “price” when purchasing insurance. However, “price” is only relevant if the options presented substantially provide the same coverage - apples for apples; or there are never any claims.
Caveat: Remember not all insurance is created equal!
The reality is most boards never make the ultimate insurance decision, because they defer this task to the CAM. Not only do they defer to the CAM for insurance decisions, they do not meet in person with the community association insurance professional. It is one thing to defer the insurance leg work to the CAM, however, it is another thing for the CAM to make the insurance purchase and maintenance decisions on their own. In my humble opinion, focusing primarily on the point of sale premium should be the last decision. The key obligation is to determine whether the insurance proposal is proper coverage to protect, preserve, and enhance the association assets.
CAUTION: BOARD MEMBERS BEWARE
More often than not, the management agreement with the Association requires that the association unilaterally indemnify the Management Company and the CAM for claims arising out of services provided.
The board is obligated to protect, preserve, and enhance the association assets. Primarily focusing on price in the insurance decision process is counterintuitive to this duty. Where in the governing documents does it provide that the board has a duty to save the association money when purchasing insurance? Nowhere! Rather, the duty is to determine what insurance will best protect the association assets.
Boards are authorized to seek counsel from professionals when an issue is beyond the knowledge of the average board member. Insurance is one of those issues. Moreover, why wouldn’t a board always seek counsel from a community association professional? Why not obtain counsel from a community association insurance professional who does not charge?
The “cost of insurance” is not the same as the “point of sale premium.” The “cost of insurance” is the total amount the association incurs at the time of a loss or claim plus the value of peace of mind that the association receives during the claims process. If the board made sure they purchased the best coverage for the association, the cost of insurance will have been a good deal. However, if the focus was the point of sale price as opposed to coverage, there is a very possible reality that the cost of insurance could be significantly higher than the price, because the association will be self-insured for the coverage that was sacrificed for the cheaper price.
Caveat: More important for associations than “point of sale insurance premiums” is not being surprised by uncovered claims!
CAUTION: CAMs BEWARE!
Many management agreements expressly provide that the CAMs assume the task of purchasing and maintaining the association’s insurance program. In other situations, many management companies take on this role voluntarily and may involve preferred insurance business partners in the process.
This practice in and of itself is not necessarily a problem. However, there are a number of traps for the unwary, including who is ultimately responsible for any errors in the purchase and maintenance of insurance. The key individuals that should be most concerned here are management company “owner” and Boards.
Most management agreements have an indemnity provision that provides that if the CAM is sued for something it did for or on behalf of the association, the insured needs to provide the CAM defense and indemnity. Accordingly, the managed association must be able to fund that obligation. Many CAMs and Boards “assume” that this can be funded by the association’s Directors and Officers policy where the CAM is almost certain to be added as an additional insured, or are included in the policy definition of insured. As a result, the funding of the obligation owed the CAM is by the association’s assets, special assessments, or a loan.
It is also important that the Management Company or CAM understand the indemnity provisions of your state. Not all states will allow indemnification for someone’s active negligence, and if they do allow indemnity for active negligence, that provision must be expressly set forth in the agreement, and in some states follow a certain formula.
2. Community Association D&O Policy
Most Boards, Management Companies, and CAMs “assume” that since the management company was working on behalf of the association, and since it is an additional insured on the D&O policy, that the CAM will be covered and that is how the insurance claim against the CAM, for whom the association agreed to provide defense and indemnity will be funded.
Unfortunately, virtually every D&O policy on the market “excludes” coverage for claims by the association against the management company or CAM. Even worse is that there are some D&O policies where the management company or CAM is not even covered under a policy.
3. Management Company/CAM Professional Liability Insurance
Virtually all CAM Professional Liability Insurance “expressly excludes” any claims arising out of insurance claims. This should make sense, because a professional liability policy is intended to cover the professional from its industry professional services. CAMs are not licensed insurance professionals.
4. Conflict of Interest
Some management companies or CAMs have their own preferred insurance professional who in turn has its own preferred insurance carrier. There are also some where the insurance is a division, affiliate, or subsidiary of a management company. These may in fact provide the best products to protect the association’s assets. However, there are two key requirements. First, any such relationships must be expressly disclosed to the association board. Second, under this scenario, the management company or CAM must still conduct its due diligence as to the best available coverage, and not just the best price.
5. Business Good Will
There are “Good Will” issues that can arise from insurance issues. First, very often the management agreement has a unilateral indemnity agreement flowing from the association to the management company or CAM. Theoretically, if the CAM does not purchase and maintain the appropriate coverage, it is still protected, because the association must defend and indemnity the management company or CAM. Who will tell the board that the management company is being sued, but they have to defend them? If the management company is not concerned about losing the client, there is no problem. Does the management company and CAM have an obligation to disclose this to the association before the agreement is entered?
Second, what will the neighbor associations or other associations think when they hear about this? What will the impact be on the association property values?
6. Management Company CEOs Beware
One of the biggest mysteries I have encountered in my years in this industry is why there are management company CEOs, executives, and owners who do not make it one of the highest priorities to make sure the association’s insurance program is the best. Management companies spend so much time making sure they are additional insureds on the association insurance policies, but they do not make sure the association’s policy is the best. The management company and the CAM’s coverage is only as good as the associations.
By Jason Kleinsmith, SavATree
Do you manage a community association with numerous and/or aging trees? Chances are, you‘ve had to contend with unexpected tree care costs, and perhaps damage to structures or other property resulting from failed tree limbs. You want to head off future problems and preserve the beauty of your community’s treescape; But where to begin?
A professional tree inventory and management plan is the most efficient and cost-effective way to care for your trees and keep your community attractive and safe. It can help your association avoid expensive emergency tree services, reduce risk to people and property, and build a data-based care plan tailored to your priorities and budget.
In community associations, all common areas, open space, and recreational areas are typically included in the tree inventory, while residential parcels are not. The inventories are usually performed in “improved areas” marked by grass and mulch. However, if the property includes unimproved areas such as natural areas and woods, the arborist would perform a limited visual assessment of those areas to identify tree conditions which could impact persons or property in the maintained areas. If significant defects are found, those trees are added to the inventory.
Due to advancements in technology, tree inventory and management plans are now remarkably functional and accessible. In addition to a written report of the data and recommendations in the tree inventory, the information is also provided on a cloud-based application that can be easily accessed by the property manager, the homeowner’s board, and the tree-care professionals hired to do the work.
An expertly-prepared tree inventory will warn you of the potential for tree failure due to pests or disease.
Guidance on new plantings.
Because the inventory report provides a breakdown by tree species -- and highlights any over-represented species -- it serves as a guide for new plantings to ensure species diversity that will protect your landscape from devastation from a single pest or disease.
Take the first step.
Jason Kleinsmith is an ISA Certified Arborist with SavATree, providing tree care and plant health care services to professionally managed communities throughout the Front Range of Colorado.
By Mike Colton, Asset Preservation Group, LLC
A building’s siding is exposed to Mother Nature all day, every day, for years and years. Water, sunshine, wind, ice, time, fire, and pests can all play a part in determining just how long that siding and ultimately your building may last. Choosing products that are engineered to stand up to the elements, as well as performing routine maintenance are the key factors in a long and effective life for your building.
The goal is that in 10 YEARS YOU WILL SAY TO YOURSELF, "I MADE THE RIGHT DECISIONS. I GOT THE RIGHT PRODUCTS. I FOLLOWED THE RIGHT MAINTENANCE PROGRAM.”
Being ready at all times is instrumental to the success of long-lasting siding. Bad weather and other events can strike at any time. But it's not only extremes that break down siding - the change of seasons does a number on materials such as vinyl (which may crack in the cold or blow off in high winds) or wood products (which expand and contract with changes in moisture and humidity). Studies have also shown the long-term effects that different climates have on siding, which is why the IECC Climate Zone Map was created to help you choose the right products for your region. Zone 5 products, for instance, are made to resist wet, freezing conditions, while Zone 1 and 2 products protect structures from heat, humidity, blistering sun and more.
THE THINGS WE VALUE MOST SHOULD LAST THE LONGEST AND THEREFORE BE PROTECTED AT ALL TIMES
Water can damage your building like nothing else can. It may be gradual or sudden, but it is relentless and can cause extensive structural damage, swelling, cracking, delamination, mold/mildew, and color separation. This is where the right products and maintenance programs are most critical. Regardless of the product you choose based on your climate, proper installation per manufacture recommendations is a must and when possible, having participation of a manufacture’s field representative during installation is ideal for not only ensuring that the product is installed correctly, but also to ensure a full manufacture’s product warranty. Proper flashing installation, sealing all joints that should be sealed, and leaving all recommended joints/seams open for ventilation and moisture transfer is the key to a successful siding installation.
Once the product is installed, annual inspections and routine preventative maintenance is highly recommended. Inspections should consist of checking all seals for proper adhesion and cracking and all joints for proper fit and gapping. Inspections should also identify any loose or missing product. If your siding product is painted, it is also important to ensure that the condition of the paint is sound and full coverage is still in place. If areas are peeling or damaged, immediate touch up should be performed. Depending on the product type, periodic re-painting may be required to ensure proper protection of the siding. This period can range from 6-10 years based on the quality of paint products used and the quality of installation performed. Numerous products, such as pre-colored cementitious siding, vinyl siding, and veneers are engineered to last much longer before surface conditions become an issue and need to be addressed.
THE TEST OF TIME
One thing's for sure: As the years go on, we all show signs of aging. Choosing the right products created to stand up to the demands of your specific climate and performing routine inspections and maintenance will ensure they will look great for years to come, saving you both time and money.
Mr. Colton is a graduate of Colorado State University and founder of Asset Preservation Group (APG), a full-service General Contractor based in the Denver, CO and serving the Mid-West. APG has the distinction of being a James Hardie Multi Family Preferred siding installer as well as a multi-product roofing specialist.
By Antonio Rojas, Duke Property Inspections
Spring is fast approaching! With winter days behind us, spring storms are heading our way. This is the time for us to be proactive in our preventative measures against the negative effects of storm water. For true moisture protection, it is necessary to start at the top and work downward. Your first line of defense is located at the roof of a structure. The roof is designed to shed water to the gutters and downspouts. Sidings and gutters shed water away from the structure and foundation of the property. Grading and drainage directs that water away from the structure and toward storm drains and water retentions. Each piece of this structure is affected by the former component. When one part is compromised, it can affect everything that comes after. Our goal is to inform professionals on items to look for this spring in order to help reduce major damages due to storm water.
Spring storms can be unpredictable. We often see snow, freezing rain, and a mixture of the two. During a storm is the perfect time to see how the downspouts and roof slopes are performing. Observe the drainage patterns of entire building structures. Downspouts, surface gutters, and drains should be directing water away from the foundation of the structure. After a storm is the perfect time to check the roof. Look for damaged or missing shingles and signs of rusting, cracking, or leaking. Having a contractor actively monitoring and repairing these components, as needed, can save from developing major issues.
Siding FunctionsSiding is the exterior wall covering of the home that acts as a “skin” for the house exterior. This protects against the elements, particularly to shed precipitation down and away from the foundation. Siding includes wall surfaces, eaves, soffits, fascia, windows, doors, trim, flashing, sealants, and caulking. If there are any part of these components that fail, this may lead to greater structural damage. All of these items should be inspected by a contractor annually to ensure that are operating as intended.
Landscape Grading and Drainage
Well-maintained landscaping and other improvements are important for the enjoyment of a healthy and durable property. One of the most important parts of landscape is maintaining the proper grading and drainage. If the drainage is poor or non-existent, your entire property can potentially suffer. Excess water in your landscape can lead to damage in trees, roots, and soil erosion. If water is directed toward the foundation of structures, it can eventually lead to major structural damage as well. Once water or structural damage occurs, the cost of remediation can be very expensive. If your property does not have enough grading, water can pool or flood. If your property has too much grading, water will drain away too quickly, and plants will have difficulty surviving. Spring is a busy time for landscape contractors as they prepare for the grow season. I recommend scheduling a walk through with your landscaping contractor to effectively determine the grading and drainage of your property.
With Denver's soils constantly expanding and contracting as a result of ever-changing temperatures and moisture, it is common for concrete flatwork to settle, sink, and fail in response to soil movement and compaction. Settling creates uneven surfaces that can often result in dangerous trip hazards. Now is a good time to perform those community walks to determine which sidewalks, walkways, and driveways need repair or replacement. There are many factors as to why the pads are settling that can be directly related to storm water mitigation, such as gutter downspouts that are leading directly to concrete pads, and landscape negative grading that leads to areas of a concrete structure instead of water retention areas or storm drains. Having these walk-throughs and assessments of the properties can lead to preventive repairs on other components of the community and can add longevity to the concrete flat work as well. Concrete cracks should also be noted on these site walks. Many believe that concrete cracks are a non- issue, but this is the first sign of action needed. Cracks can give us a "tell" that there is an underlying problem. Once we have identified the problem, we can then remedy a solution for the area. Work with your concrete contractor this spring to ensure your community’s safe from trip hazards.
Spring is a busy time of year. We are starting to see a change in weather and getting ready to ditch our winter coats. Now is the time to be proactive! In order to have sustainable properties that will last for many years, we must start maintaining our environment. By taking the additional time to walk the properties, work with your local contractors, and implement these preventative measures, you can provide storm water protection for your assets.
Antonio Rojas is Owner and Lead Inspector of Duke Property Inspections. He carries 10+ years of experience in Building Construction and Landscape Management. Please visit dukepropertyinspections.com for more information.
One of the largest maintenance issues that associations can face is corrosion of their current fire sprinkler system. Microbiologically Induced Corrosion (MIC) is only one of several types of corrosion found in wet and dry sprinkler systems. MIC can involve different types of bacteria that colonize on the internal surfaces of sprinkler systems and cause highly localized corrosion, resulting in the common "pinhole" leak. To mitigate the risks associated with potential leakage or even flooding of corroded systems, the need to conduct periodic internal assessments of water-based fire protection system piping is imperative and mandated to comply with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.
Joshua Johnson has worked at Meridian Fire and Security for 15 years and holds a NICET 3 Certification in Fire Alarm Systems and holds inspectors’ licenses in both Colorado and Nebraska. Meridian Fire & Security specializes in the design, engineering, development, supply, installation and service of integrated fire and life safety systems.
By Brian Cadwallader, The Pool Connection Inc.
Like many investments, your swimming pool is one that requires regular maintenance. All too often, details that may seem small to the untrained eye can have serious consequences if left unaddressed. Regular maintenance of pool and equipment, along with properly balanced water chemistry, can go long way to keep your pool looking beautiful and operating smoothly.
We often see items that are neglected on pools, such as a properly maintained caulking joint between the coping and deck. This sealant has a very important job in protecting the structural integrity of the pool shell and corresponding components. Water penetration into this joint saturates the soils around the shell and can cause heaving of the pool, as well as the neighboring deck slabs.
The water that enters the caulking joint can also damage the components of the pool itself. As moisture makes its way under the coping and behind the tile line, it quickly begins to undermine the adhesion and stability of the materials. This leads to tiles falling off, leaving your pool looking unsightly. In addition, loosening coping stones can be a hazard and major liability! If left unaddressed for a significant period, the bond beam, or top of the pool wall, will begin to deteriorate, leading to structural cracking in the shell itself. The concerns of water penetration to a pool shell are compounded in freeze/thaw climates. As water freezes, it expands greatly, which can cause severe damage over the winter months.
Even if the caulking is very well maintained, it is still important to conduct regular inspections of the rest of the pool shell to look for any signs of deterioration. Remember, your pool is meant to be a water tight vessel. Cracks lead to water penetration, which leads to the undermining of your pool structure as a whole. Keep your pool sealed so you can keep swimming!
Maintaining Water Chemistry
The manner in which a pool is maintained is a major determining factor on how much potential cost will be incurred to keep the amenity operational. A facility with consistently balanced water chemistry and properly maintained equipment will save significant annual costs by not needing to replace or repair items prematurely. On the other hand, pools with erratic water chemistry issues and neglected equipment will incur substantial costs and find themselves constantly chasing one repair after another!
A crystal-clear pool on a hot sunny day sure can be inviting! However, sometimes this comes at a price. With the sincere intention of keeping a pool looking good, pools are very commonly over chlorinated. This can start a chain reaction that can cause damage to every component of your pool!
High chlorine levels will drive PH and alkalinity levels down. What does this mean for you? It means aggressive water that will wreak havoc on your pool and equipment. Water in this aggressive state will attack anything made of metal. This includes parts in your pumps and heaters among other things. The heat exchanger, a very expensive heater part, is particularly sensitive to this corrosive water and in severe cases, can be ruined in a matter of weeks.
When corrosive water breaks down metal components in the system, the dissolved particulates permeate the water and stain the pool surfaces making for an unappealing look. Metal components are not the only material to take a toll from unbalanced water. Cementous materials, vinyl liners, and fiberglass finishes are all affected by aggressive water. Cement breaks down and dissolves, vinyl liners wrinkle and fade, and epoxy paints applied to fiberglass wear away.
Pools are a big investment, but with diligent care you can protect your investment and keep more of your dollars in your pocket! The hard work that it takes to have a well-maintained pool will pay off, ultimately saving money in the long run. The same cannot be said for the pool that did not receive the same diligent care. As with most things in life, you get back what you put in!
Brian Cadwallader, President of The Pool Connection Inc., has been proudly serving the Denver Metro area for over 28 years! From minor repairs to new construction, and everything in between, we have all the tools to get the job done! Don’t let your investment go by the wayside!
By Shad Parrish, BrightView Landscape Services
A beautiful landscape has many physical, social, and financial benefits. Greater health and enhanced moods result from a landscape that invites you outside to exercise with your family, or to entertain guests. A well maintained landscape also helps the environment. In addition to converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, a well established landscape helps control erosion and flooding, and combats climate change. And with a significant initial investment that many homeowners associations have put into their communities, proper maintenance is the means of protecting and “growing” that investment.
Unfortunately, many older landscapes suffer from deferred maintenance; the lack of appropriate services to adequately care for the various features that make up one’s landscape, either due to cost savings / budget goals, or from placing priority on other items. Studies have shown that for every $1 in deferred maintenance activities, it costs $4 in capital spending to offset the effects of the deferred maintenance.
When securing a more complete landscape contractor, you will likely find that a truly competent provider’s contract price is generally higher than their competitors because they will be able to keep the ancillary costs (water usage, plant / tree replacement) lower. By taking a “big-picture” view of your landscape costs, and looking beyond only the contract price, you can save significantly on future expenses.
Just as there are various components of your landscape, there are various activities involved with proper landscape maintenance. The most visible and often most thought about is the maintenance of the bluegrass turf throughout your community. Healthy, manicured turf is a function of proper watering, fertilizing, aerating, mowing, and weed control. While many people think of golf courses as the model of beautiful grass, maintaining bluegrass requires many of the opposite methods. Mowing at taller heights (generally in the neighborhood of 3” +/-) vs. mowing it “putting-green short” promotes healthier bluegrass turf. Fertilizing using a quality product that matches well with the needs of the soil (which can be determined through a soil test) helps the turf by supplying nutrients that are otherwise lacking in the soil. While not a full replacement for fertilizers, adding organic matter into the soil is also a significant means of promoting turf health.
In regard to weed control, the best answer is not to simply spray an overabundance of chemicals on the grass. Healthy grass is the best way to curtail weeds, meaning ensuring other aspects of turf maintenance are being done properly. Targeted applications of pre-emergent (based on conducive weather conditions in the spring) and post-emergents, while beneficial, are meant to help control weeds, not serve as your only defense.
And of course, proper irrigation will help your turf and the rest of your landscape thrive.
Many homeowners (and unfortunately some contractors) think dumping more water on the landscape will make it healthy. Overwatering essentially drowns the turf, as the spaces that otherwise would hold oxygen are filled with water. The result is shallow root systems for the turf, which often begin with overwatering in the spring. Shallow roots lead to stressed turf. The results are: greater susceptibility to insect and disease, greater weed growth (which needs more financially and environmentally costly chemical applications), and the need for more fertilizer than is otherwise adequate (since the fertilizer is essentially being washed out) to keep the grass green.
A better approach would be to educate homeowners and wait until later into the spring to regularly water the turf. Setting programs for short durations, often only for a day or 2 per week, forces the turf to develop deeper root systems, thus strengthening the turf, protecting it from insects and disease, allowing the turf to fill in more and choke out weeds, and require less drastic increases as the season progresses. Additionally, there are countless new technologies that make watering more efficient, alert you when problems occur, and allow you to better budget for, monitor, and adhere to various water allowances.
An attractive landscape also means keeping weeds in bed areas under control (and out of sight, out of mind). A coordinated program of pre-emergent (which prevent weed seeds from germinating and spreading) applied in the spring along with hand pulling and post-emergent (eradicate existing weeds) throughout the year will ensure your shrub and perennial plantings are the focal points, not the weeds. The mulch (especially wood mulch) in these beds should also be regularly supplemented to promote appearance as well as to help promote healthier plants by assisting in moisture retention.
Agronomically correct trimming / pruning of shrubs (in a manner most healthy to the plant) is among the most important aspects of caring for these landscape assets. The more is less approach is typically the rule here. Unfortunately, many think that shrubs should continually be trimmed, which actually has a detrimental effect on many plants. Certain plants are conducive to continual pruning, but most of the plant material here in Colorado should not be touched more than twice per year (some only once), with the time of year and weather factors being very important.
Trees represent the single most expensive landscape asset in many mature landscapes, and therefore should be maintained accordingly. Proper fertilizing (typically deep root), watering, and targeted insect control are the primary components of proper tree care, and having a qualified landscape professional with the ability and expertise to care for your trees properly is of paramount importance.
As with any living thing, your landscape needs continual care and attention. You may take vitamins, or others may need surgery to help them, and similarly, your landscape can’t be expected to thrive on its own, especially as our natural environment changes. Enhancements need to be made in order to attain the benefits presented at the beginning of this article. Such improvements may include replacing dead / dying plants, converting high water use turf areas to more sustainable alternatives, installing more colorful plants and flowers to improve an area’s appearance, or taking advantage of new irrigation technologies to maximize watering efficiency. Doing nothing results in the poor health and appearance of your landscape, and soon those benefits diminish, and landscape assets devalue. And while all of these things come at additional costs, those costs represent the investments needed to protect your assets, as well as your physical, mental, and emotional health.
As a Business Developer for BrightView Landscape Services for over 10 years, Shad truly aims to position himself as a resource for Association and Property Managers across multiple industries, offering education and perspective on all things pertaining to landscape maintenance and snow removal.
By Quality First Plumbing & Heating
You can do a few things to avoid a mess this spring. If you live in a home built in the 70’s or earlier, you may want to consider having the main sewer line for your home cleaned. These homes tend to have metallic or clay sewer pipes which allow tree roots to grow inside them. These roots don’t necessarily mean the pipe is broken, although they find their way through the joints in the pipe and catch things, potentially causing a back up. Avoid the mess and the possible damage by having the line cleaned when it is convenient for you, instead dealing with a surprise back-up at the worst time.
Things to remember for spring to have a “happy” plumbing system: Did you forget to remove your garden hose before the cold set in? Even “frost free” hoses can freeze if a hose is attached during freezing temperatures. Leaving the hose on the faucet keeps the faucet from draining. The remaining water will freeze and could damage the faucet. Before running water to wash your car or do some spring cleaning, locate the area in your home where the hose connection leaves the building. Connect the hose and turn the water on slowly. Check the area where the hose leaves the home and make sure you don’t see water coming in. If the hose faucet did break and you see water, turn off the hose immediately and call your plumber. Clean up any water that may have entered as soon as possible!
Change your furnace filter! Start up your air conditioner on the first day the temperature reaches 70 degrees. A digital thermometer at one of the vents should reach the low 60’s. Having your system inspected and serviced is a great idea to ensure your system is operating efficiently and safely! This is also a great time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors!
By Justin Bayer, Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management
By John O’Sullivan, VDA Elevator Consulting
There are not a lot of positive choices to finish that sentence with, so if you didn’t respond with a positive word or phrase in the blank, then you need to ask yourself a few questions.
Is my Elevator Service Provider doing their job properly?
Has my elevator reached the end of its life expectancy and is it just worn out?
Do my tenants abuse the equipment?
Do I have the wrong type of elevator to meet my needs?
Is my building properly elevatored?
These are some of the major issues that are discussed with property owners and managers every day. So often, they want their elevator equipment to run dependably, but just can’t seem to get the reliability they so badly need. Typically, they call their elevator contractor and place a service call, and the contractor comes out and fixes it. But, soon enough, it breaks down again. It’s a vicious cycle.
So how do we stop the cycle? Let’s talk about each of these scenarios separately.
Is my Elevator Service Provider doing their job properly?
Unfortunately, many companies throughout the industry perform “Call Back Maintenance” which means that they typically only perform routine maintenance when the unit breaks down and they must go there to repair it. The issue is, often they come in and return the elevator to service, and then quickly leave, never having actually fixed the problem or performed routine maintenance. Hence, the vicious cycle. A building manager needs to read their maintenance agreement and understand what the elevator contractor’s responsibilities are. If the maintenance agreement reads “regularly and systematically” as a definition for the frequency of maintenance, then that’s a big part of the problem. Your maintenance agreement is not written in your favor. It needs to have a clear and well-defined scope with performance requirements specific to your building. Too often owners and managers sign maintenance agreements that are written by the elevator contractor. These typically include automatic renewal clauses that lock you in for extended contract durations. Building management should only sign a maintenance agreement that is written in their favor, so that it protects the building owner’s investment and protects management’s best interests. The building management company should also meet with the elevator maintenance contractor quarterly if possible, but at least twice a year, to discuss reoccurring issues and develop strategies to help improve elevator performance. Annual “Quality Control Evaluations” by an independent elevator consultant can help keep your finger on the pulse and help prevent ever getting caught in this vicious cycle to begin with.
Has my elevator reached the end of its useful life expectance and is just worn out?
When an elevator starts reaching the end of its life expectancy, which is typically 20-25 years, then it is time to start planning for an Elevator Modernization. There are many factors that can contribute to the decision-making process, particularly in a commercial or residential building. Poor maintenance practices and a general dissatisfaction with elevator service are important, but not necessarily the primary reasons to modernize. Just like any other piece of machinery, it will reach a point where modernization must occur. It’s up to you to make sure that you have done your “Modernization Due Diligence” to confirm that you have reached that point. Obsolesce is a buzzword often thrown around in the industry. Remember, just because your Elevator Contractor says a component is obsolete, doesn’t necessarily make it true. In fact, it is seldom true and there are often other ways to repair and improve the equipment’s performance and maximize its life cycle until you can afford to modernize the elevator properly. There are usually several costly building related items that will need to be performed as well when a modernization takes place, so make sure to have all these items identified and budgeted for. This is an expensive undertaking and the process can be a very frustrating and confusing. Make sure to have someone experienced in your corner that will guide you through the process and help protect your interests and help to ensure that the project runs smoothly, as well as provides you with the best possible equipment for the next 20-25 years.
On occasion, no matter how well an elevator is maintained, or how new the equipment is, the elevator continues to shut down due to user abuse or “vandalism.” While this is extremely frustrating, it can be very difficult to control, and costly to repair. In certain situations, vandal resistant buttons and vandal resistant cab interiors can be installed to help minimize the damage. Cameras can also be installed to monitor the situation, but they do create added liability if you don’t monitor them properly. Adding card readers and key switches are often the best solution and keep the vandals out of your elevators.
Many times, owners try to take “Passenger Elevators” and make them perform like “Service Elevators” or “Freight Elevators.” Typically, passenger elevators are not designed to handle this type of abuse and will quickly become damaged and dilapidated. Modifications can be made to beef up a “Passenger Car” and convert it into a “Service Car,” improving its overall durability. A “Freight Elevator” is a completely different animal due to its vertical bi-parting doors and extra heavy-duty cab interior. This freight car transformation can be very costly and often isn’t necessary.
Is my building under elevatored?
Many buildings have been transformed since they were originally designed. Their tenant populations have dramatically increased and yet the quantity of elevators available to handle the increased traffic flow has remained the same. Some improvement can be obtained through modernization. The only way to tell for sure how much improvement can be obtained is by conducting a “Building Traffic Analysis” where the population and building layout are all taken into consideration and studied to determine what improvements are actually achievable. Advances in Destination Dispatching and increased elevator speed can add up to a significant improvement. A few seconds saved here and there at each stop can result in a dramatic improvement.
At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to take control of your elevator situation. It will be through your diligence and proactive involvement that will allow you to someday honestly fill in the blank with: My elevator runs like a “A Champion”, “A Fine-Tuned Machine”, or “A Swiss Watch”.
VDA is the world’s largest elevator consulting firm that assists our clients with Project Design, Quality Control Evaluations, Maintenance Contract Documents, Modernization Documents, and Project Bids on new and existing elevator and escalator equipment. VDA has a local office in Littleton, CO. For more information, contact John at email@example.com.
CONTACT US(303) 585-0367
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