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Capital Replacement Projects: Professional Design and Inspection Produce Quality Results

By: Andrew Amorosi, PE, RS, Principal
Tel: (908) 595-0050
Email The Falcon Group

As your community or building ages, it will require an increasing amount of maintenance and large scale replacement or improvement projects will become necessary. Your association's capital reserve funding plan should anticipate these projects such that proper funding is available when it is needed. Periodically updating your capital reserve funding plan will help ensure proper funds will be available. The larger replacement projects may involve roofs, facades/siding, concrete, waterproofing, retaining walls, parking structures, decks/balconies, pavement, HVAC systems, recreation facilities or other elements of the community or building or related amenities of the site.

While these projects may seem straightforward in terms of scope, in reality, they are construction projects with major expenses. It is important that an association move forward with these construction projects with the assistance of a qualified design professional. Proper designs, specifications, bid documents along with representation (inspection) during the construction process are paramount to the project's success. Sometimes, associations make hasty or unadvised decisions regarding these projects and construction defects or excessive costs can be the result. Merely obtaining three (3) bids with three (3) different approaches from three (3) different contractors can be the start of a project going bad. The bids submitted may be inadequate or incomplete for the desired result and the low bid or selected bid may even be artificially low (possibly resulting in claims for extras) or the bid just does not represent what is actually needed for the project. Even when using contractors with the best intentions, claims for extras are a big concern for a project without proper design or bid documents. Unfortunately, improper scope of work, defects in methods or materials or improper claims of payments for extras may only become evident years after the project is completed and fully paid for. Depending upon the type of project, the construction defects may result in water infiltration and damages, a reduced useful life of the new element, a need for premature remedial repairs or even the association having to redo the project entirely. Sometimes lengthy and costly litigation between the association and the contractor occurs as a result of these issues or payment disputes.

Prevention of the above scenario can be simple and relatively inexpensive. Typically, a design professional's fees range from 6% - 8% of the total construction costs dependent upon the size and type of project. Many times, these costs can be partially or even wholly recovered just by having a cost-effective design, having accurate quantity verifications performed in the field during the work and by having verification of adherence to design documents.

If designed and inspected properly, all reconstruction projects can be undertaken and completed with a high quality final work product and limited inconvenience to the residents. The design professional is retained to prepare a proper, cost effective design, construction specifications and bid documents for the proposed improvement. The design professional prepares construction plans, specifications and bid documents based on (but not limited to) the applicable Codes, ordinances, feasibility/needs of the project and the safety and wellbeing of the association. This effort provides peace of mind to the association that the project is being implemented with proper work scope, limits of work, methods and materials with the seal of an experienced design professional. In short, the scope of work that is proposed is what is needed for the desired result. The association can then obtain competitive bids with an exact scope of work including specific details and requirements of what needs to be done. The design professional may also be involved in the selection and award of a contract to a qualified contractor through a competitive bid process. The competitive bid process ensures that the design plan and specifications are to be followed in full, with each contractor providing a quote for the same scope of work. The bid prices should be evaluated as well as the qualifications and experience of the contractor.

The design professional's value and responsibility to the association should not end with the preparation of the design documents. Too many times, the construction project begins, proceeds and is completed without the presence of a qualified inspector. The result, in some cases, can be a substandard quality work product, unverified or inaccurate quantities for payments, unverified or unnecessary changes or extras and/or worse yet, noncompliance to the original design plans and specifications. As alluded to above, the potential for problems can be much worse if there are no professional design documents prepared at all and a merely generic bid is used for the project.

Construction inspection by the professional of the work being performed is needed for the project to be completed in accordance with the design documents. While each project may require specific requirements, in general terms, the inspection services should include (but not be limited to) the following aspects:

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The Falcon Group a team of highly-skilled professionals, was established to offer consulting in the fields of Professional Engineering and Architecture. Our project management and financial control processes allow us to consistently deliver projects on schedule and within budget. Our reputation is built on our attention to detail and relentless commitment to client satisfaction and our principals maintain a visible role in our assignments to ensure that relevant issues will be anticipated and resolved satisfactorily, in a timely fashion.

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