A quiet neighborhood had a bit of a crisis on their hands recently. The local homeowner association (HOA) decided it was time to replace the building envelope siding of their beloved clubhouse building. To pinch pennies, the HOA hired a contractor to handle the work without consulting a licensed engineer or architect. At first, everything seemed “a-okay.” The project rolled along, and folks were happy with how it looked. The contractor even finished ahead of schedule and on budget! However, it wasn’t long before problems started peeking through the cracks, both figuratively and literally. Water started seeping in and dripping through nooks and crannies into the interior, a big red flag. The leaks caused a lot of interior damage. In contacting the contractor, well, let’s just say they were unresponsive. Recognizing they were in over their heads, the HOA brought in some licensed engineers to take a look. The engineers quickly identified several serious installation flaws: including the flashing, weather barrier, and siding attachments. Thankfully, their expertise was key in coming up with a solid plan to repair the work. The HOA attempted to hold the contractor accountable – an expensive endeavor to say the least. The scenario above happens a lot… but it is easy to avoid.
GUIDANCE WORTH THE INVESTMENT
This example serves as a good reminder of why it pays to bring in licensed engineering professionals for big construction projects like roofs, siding, and deck replacements, to name a few. In projects like these, you must ensure structural integrity and water-tight and code-compliant assemblies. Engineers are a big deal in New England, where you’ve got the old traditions mixed in with new innovations. The land is rugged, and the weather is nuts, so you need engineers who know how to design and build projects that can handle it. Engineers have the skills and smarts to make sure that what you build won’t just survive, but will thrive in New England. The New England area is known for having strict building codes, environmental regulations, and zoning laws. Engineers who work locally know how to deal with all of these complicated rules so your project won’t get held up or run into legal issues. They make sure everything follows the local and federal guidelines.
WHEN TO WORK WITH ENGINEERS
You should start working with engineers right at the beginning when you’re first coming up with ideas and planning the project. That’s when you need to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and what kinds of technical challenges there might be. Whether it’s a new road, roof, deck, siding, or even a bridge, a building, or an energy project, engineers can provide valuable input from the start.
As your project moves forward and you’ve nailed down the scope and goals, engineers are key for the design. They can make detailed plans using the latest building science, do feasibility studies, and tackle any technical challenges. Their job is to ensure your project matches your goals and follows relevant rules. During construction, engineers watch over the work to confirm it matches the approved plans and specifications. Having them onsite is critical for maintaining quality, safety standards, and avoiding expensive mistakes and hold ups. Even after the project is done, engineers remain as valuable partners. They help with maintenance and repairs, providing expert input on fixes and upgrades to keep your investments in tip-top shape.
PARTNERING WITH ENGINEERS
Working well with engineers in New England starts with clear communication. Lay out your project’s goals and expectations clearly and be open to suggestions from the engineering team. Regular check-ins are crucial to keep everyone on the same page. Picking the right engineer is key. Find one experienced in your project type. In New England, where the environment ranges from mountain homes to coastal communities, consider engineers with the know how in your particular location. The HOA board plays a big role in making decisions for community groups, and it starts with them. Engineers can help by answering the board’s questions and assist in bringing the HOA’s ideas into reality. What can be even more valuable is allowing the engineer to present to the unit owners the “what, why, and how” of large and expensive projects. I always tell the board to let the engineer share the news and allow the community to ask all the questions; this takes a tremendous amount of heat away from the board, especially if the project is unpopular.
Property managers connect the board, unit owners, and engineers. Their job is making sure goals are met and budgets and timelines are followed. Most importantly, consistent communication between property managers and with owners on the status of the project will keep rumors at bay and the community at ease about the project meeting all budgets and timelines. This also gives unit owners a forum to ask questions and discuss any perceived issues.
In New England, caring about the environment is a huge priority. Work with engineers to find eco-friendly design and construction methods, which matches the region’s values and can save money in the long run. Engineers are helping to shape the future and play a big role in your project’s long term success.
Written by Andrew Dudka – Criterium Dudka Engineers
Published in Condo media, January 2024