Designing A Building Maintenance Plan
By Jimmy Fell, Building Engineering Consultants, Inc.
Katrina, Sandy, Ike, Andrew, Wilma, Ivan & Irene. There you have it; in that order. The top seven costliest Hurricanes ever to make landfall.
Combined, these storms caused an estimated $280 Billion dollars in overall damages and with the exception of Hurricane Andrew (1992), the other six hurricanes all occurred between 2004 and 2013. However, September 16, 2004 shall always be remembered in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Perdido Key, as the day that changed the lives for so many. The effects from Hurricane Ivan’s landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama that fateful morning forever altered the landscape along our beaches.
Based on our examination and involvement with over 60 different properties (post Hurricane Ivan), from Perdido Key, Florida to the West Beach area in Gulf Shores, Alabama, we typically identified significant damages occurred to the infrastructures, roofs, exterior walls, windows and sliding glass doors, railings and ground floor amenities. There were also other obvious damages that occurred from rising waters, wind-driven rain and breaches in the building envelope, which affected the interior portions of individual condominium units. The efforts to repair and replace the majority of the damages sustained from Hurricane Ivan took approximately 18-20 months to complete. However that time frame varied depending on the extent of damages, the size of the property and the Association’s ability to settle their claims with the carrier.
The average cost of non-insured property damages around Orange Beach and Gulf Shores was estimated at approximately $1.2 Million dollars, depending on the location and size of the property. The insurable property damages along the coastline varied greatly and also depended on the size of the property, its age and preventative maintenance efforts employed (prior to the hurricane).
Shortly after the hurricane, the local Building Departments in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama replaced the existing Southern Building Code with the International Building Code (IBC). Under the new IBC code, the overall restoration efforts also ushered in changes as to how portions of the building exteriors had to be rebuilt. In particular, the new code required certain building exteriors had to meet or exceed higher design wind pressures than the previous code. For most condominiums along the coast, this meant installing impact resistant windows & sliding glass doors (large & small missile) for the first 60 feet. The new design wind pressure requirements also required greater strength in materials for the new sliding glass doors & windows, which in turn, required the framing adjacent to the openings on certain properties to be strengthened. New roof systems also had to be designed and installed to meet or exceed the IBC code requirements, which typically included design considerations for temporary roofs, until such time contractor(s) could procure the necessary new materials for final repairs.
They say hindsight is 20-20. Looking back at the damages created by Hurricane Ivan, one can’t help but wonder what the outcome might have been had certain properties developed and implemented a specific building maintenance plan, prior to the storm. Based on our involvement with properties that received significant-to-major damages as a result of Hurricane Ivan and the ones that had been in service for approximately 10 years or longer, various underlying and pre-existing anomalies were present at the roofs, exterior walls, windows and/or sliding glass doors. These underlying anomalies included, but were not limited to, rusted metal framing and structural supports, deteriorated sheathing boards, cracks in the exterior walls, unsealed penetrations, failed glazing gaskets, wet roof insulation, unsecured roof assemblies and materials that had simply worn out their intended service life. The combination of these existing anomalies, along with hurricane force winds and rain, contributed to the overall damages.
One of the most cost effective methods for protecting a typical condominium building exterior is to implement a fiscal plan that includes monthly expenditures for preventative maintenance, as compared to large financial injections over a 10, 15 or a 20 year period. By definition, the word “maintenance” can best be described as “routine scheduled work needed to protect properly constructed building components.” The overall preventative maintenance plan for the building envelope should be considered a living document and include roofing, exterior cladding (walls), windows & sliding glass doors, railings, exterior concrete, waterproofing. The maintenance of a typical building envelope can basically be separated into three phases-Planning, Inspection & Execution. The Planning phase is paramount to the overall success of any preventative maintenance plan. Under this criterion, the Association/Board should decide which components are to be included, determine the type of inspections to be performed, which entity will perform them and dates for the inspections. It is advisable to solicit the assistance of an experienced design professional and/or contractor during the planning phase as well.
The next phase is the Inspection process. Depending on the type of components involved, the size of the property and its age, inspections can range from monthly site visits to yearly condition survey inspections. To simplify matters, the overall inspections can be segmented into sub-categories. For example, roofs, exterior walls, windows & sliding glass doors…etc. would have their own category with specific inspection protocols for each. Typically speaking, roofing areas should be visually inspected on a monthly basis and after each storm event, to ensure there is no damage, debris on the roof and the drains are functioning properly. Compare that with yearly Pre-Hurricane inspection, which is intended to document the overall condition of the property for insurance purposes (prior to each hurricane season). Each inspection that is performed should include some type of written report that identifies the components inspected, their overall condition, an action list (where applicable) with recommendations, opinions, as well as, photographs of the areas examined and retained within a convenient location. When major building components are identified that may need to be repaired or replaced, it is recommended that competitive pricing be procured and presented to the Board for review and in the form of a restoration document prepared by a design professional. The restoration documents should include a detailed scope of work, technical specifications and drawings, which clearly define the work to be performed. However, for smaller projects such as minor painting, sliding glass door adjustments or refastening of miscellaneous railing pickets, it has been our experience these types of repairs are often performed by in house maintenance personnel.
Under the Execution phase, the Board of Directors should have sufficient documentation to evaluate the overall processes and make an educated decision as how to proceed with the applicable repairs, replacement and/or maintenance of the components. During this process, it is recommended that the Board have the design professional and/or contractor present to answer any possible questions related to the project, pricing and maintenance plan. The BOD should also review and utilize their Reserve Study (if applicable) to help guide them through the financial process. During large restoration projects, it is also recommended that quality control inspections and limited testing be performed, by experienced professionals, to ensure the materials are being installed in accordance with the contract documents and industry standards. Written reports and photographs, by the entity performing these types of inspections & testing, should be included within the maintenance manual, as well as all warranties and close out documents from the contractor.
As a Condominium Owner or Board Member, there are certain things you can obviously plan and prepare for, but the BP oil spill in April 2010 was probably one that we honestly didn’t see coming. However, designing and implementing a specific building maintenance plan is an achievable goal and one that should be considered by property owners along the gulf coast.
It is important to understand that the service life of exterior building components varies and the overall content and format of any maintenance plan should be tailored to a building’s particular need, size and age. For the purpose of this article and discussion, typical items related to the building envelope have been included. However, other components such as but not limited to, electrical and mechanical systems, landscaping and pools, should also be considered as part of a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan.
Jimmy Fell is a Principal Partner with Building Engineering-Consultants, Inc (BE-CI) and has been involved in the building envelope industry since 1988. BE-CI is an Engineering & Construction Consulting firm that specializes in construction systems and materials that make up the weather protection of the building outer envelope.
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