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Systems need attention, especially now.

In these cost-conscious times, building managers and owners are finding they need to be more familiar with the "blood and guts" of their buildings' operating systems. Also, these systems, like heating, elevators, intercoms and electrical systems, are invisible when working properly but stir up plenty of complaints from tenants when they don't.

Many managers are taking advantage of the high-tech user-friendly products available today that can help them monitor usage and waste and make tenants happy. These include computerized sensors that locate heat loss, computerized laundry facilities, and intercoms that work together with tenant televisions and telephones.

Gerald Pindus, president of Tedpin Realty Inc. and U.S. Energy Controls has an unusual perspective. He is both an owner-manager of 1,000 apartment house units as well as the principle of an energy management system company.

From a management point of view, Pindus said, the heating system is really an "unknown." Most managers only know how much fuel they are burning, he said. "If they are lucky enough to have one of those supers that lived in those bygone days - that took care of the building immaculately and finessed the building - they don't have to worry," Pindus said. "But those people don't exist or they are one in a million."

So what the owners need to do is get information from the heating system the same way they obtain information from their bookkeeping.

Pindus says managers should know such things as how quickly the boiler builds steam, and if under a load - such as when everybody in the building turns on the shower at the same time - how low the hot water temperature gets. "I want to make sure that the apartments are not getting overheated and how much water is being used to service the sinks and showers," he said.

If an owner knows that the building is normally using a certain amount of hot water every day, if someone leaves it running "you very well may be able to pick up the aberration," Pindus said. Hot water costs an owner double, he noted, because "you pay for it once when it goes down the drain and you pay for it again when reheating new cold water."

Pindus said a fuel meter detects overuse while other sensors should monitor the chimney stack temperature. "If that goes out of a certain range you know the tubes are dirty or the burner is not functioning properly so there is a waste of fuel," Pindus added.

The unknown of tenants' water usage is the foremost concern among owners right now. Pindus said they can tie into a water meter feeding the building which will tell the owner the total amount of water going out.

"The logical thing is that the tenants should share in it," Pindus said, "but the technology is not yet there."

U.S. Energy performs a building walk through with owners and recommends ways to seal up certain areas and get heat into other areas. "We monitor the buildings for free for the first year to see they get the savings," Pindus added. A basic installation includes 10 temperature sensors, hot water sensors and a printer which provides reports gathered from the sensors. Faulty valves, leaks and extremes in temperature can be detected promptly and save time and money. The information can be printed out on site or at a remote location.

"We're also adding alarms," Pindus said. "So if the boiler goes on safet,y it dials out and lets the owner know something is wrong."

Boiler Life Protection's president, Arthur Cohen, said "Why wait for the boiler to break down or shut off?"

Normally, owners wait too long, Cohen said, and then pay for their service company to come out and say the boiler needs to be cleaned.

Cohen explained that a dirty boiler is less efficient and even one-eight of an inch of soot can add 10 percent to 15 percent to the fuel bill.

"A boiler that's not too dirty, is dirty," he said, "and should be cleaned."

Boiler Life notifies customers when it is time to have the boiler, flue pipe and base of the chimney cleaned. While most customers are on a twice yearly schedule, some have the boiler cleaned four times a year.

"It's all preventative maintenance," he added. "A clean boiler in general does save fuel oil."

New Lamps Cut

Electrical Costs

Hobb Electrical Supply's lighting and energy manager David Goldstein, said one of the biggest draws of electricity in a building is the lighting, often accounting for 50 percent of the building's electrical usage. "The smart building owners and builders are going to be using energy efficient lighting which will reduce the everyday consumption of kilowatts and reduce Con Ed's energy demands," he said.

"In a home, it's easy to turn off your lights," Goldstein noted, "but in a commercial building, where safety is a concern and you have to burn lights all the time, you have to look for other ways to save."

Goldstein suggests an increased use of compact florescent lamps in hallways and other public spaces. He said owners should be using energy efficient florescent lamps and replace existing incandescent bulbs with compact florescent lamps. They should also change to newer electronic ballasts which use significantly less energy.

"An old two-light, four-foot florescent fixture uses approximately 92 watts," Goldstein said. "A new electronic ballast with energy saving lamps will use about 59 watts." Goldstein said fixtures in an older building can remain in place, particularly since they can expose asbestos when removed, the ballast and the lamps can simply be changed. "Not only do you save on the electrical cost but Con Ed will give you an energy rebate," he added.

Page Electric will conduct energy surveys for owners to show them how to initiate these energy savings programs.

Goldstein also recommends installing occupancy sensors which turn off lights when people are not in the room and turn them on when someone walks in. These, he said, are particularly good for closets and small meeting areas in which lights are often left on. "Having a smarter building will be more effective," he added.

Better Elevator

Performance

Republic Elevator Corporation's President, Stanley McDonald, said there are many things that can be done to increase elevator performance and service.

"There are many technical things that are expensive and other things that are cosmetic," he explained. While the cosmetic changes do not make an elevator run better, he added, they do make people feel better.

The most important part to upgrade in an elevator, he said, is its controller which ensures the elevator levels and runs properly. "New controllers give an increased performance time," McDonald said, "and decrease the waiting time for the elevators and makes them more efficient." Newer controllers also reduce power usage which saves the building electrical costs.

McDonald said the most problems with elevators occur in and around doors. Changes can be made in the opening and closing of the doors as well as in the motion of the elevator.

Elevators are also a major obstacle for inviduals with handicaps. When major alteration work is done, buttons are lowered and the control panel can be changed to improve access.

In larger buildings, McDonald's company conducts traffic studies to determine usage. These studies show how quickly an elevator will get to a waiting passenger and highlight areas in which to make operational changes.

Smart Washers & Dryers

Stuart Litwin, vice president, Gordon & Thomas Companies Inc. a commercial laundry company, said owners should be concerned with the physical setup of the room. The ventilation is critical, he said, particularly for the dryers. The dryer vents remove the moisture laden and lint filled air," Litwin said, "and it can be tricky because in older buildings it wasn't always designed properly while in new buildings the HVAC systems can actually impede the ventilation."

The quality of the laundry equipment is also important, Litwin said. While a lot of the high tech machines are expensive and may not save money, they may provide improved auditing and service. Maytag, which Gordon & Thomas uses, has computer track washers and dryers which have a display and can provide variable pricing.

"If you want to encourage people to do their wash on Tuesday morning," Litwin explained, "you can set a lower price because it has a seven-day clock."

These computerized washers can also set variable washing and rinsing cycles. Litwin said there has to be a balance, particularly since water conservation is high on the list of people's priorities.

"If people want an extra rinse they should pay for it," he said. "You can set up a couple of machines that provide an extra rinse for which people pay more."

The newest Maytag model is a data acquisition machine. A hand-held computer, Litwin said, will collect data which can then be transferred into the main computer at the end of the day. The computer will also monitor some of the machines circuits to ensure they are in working order.

"The great thing for an owner is that if he is paid on a percentage basis, it provides 100 percent accountability," Litwin said. "Of course, accountability is only as good as an operator."

For a large installation, he said, an owner could also obtain one of the hand held computers and audit the collection independently. "We generate detailed reports with this system," Litwin noted. "We do it now for all our machines anyway, but the information is generated manually."

Litwin said there is a very sophisticated customer base and they demand a high level of service. "Many companies give good service," he said, "but now we have to provide value added service. There is more sophisticated equipment and we do room renovations where appropriate."

Some buildings are also using either a credit or debit card. These systems provide greater flexibility, Litwin explained, because the users are not tied to quarter increments and can charge something like $1.04 or 96 cents.

In one Murray Hill co-op, the cooperators use a credit car. "They do all their laundry and get a paper receipt and at the end of the month they get a line item on their maintenance or rent bill," he said.

In another brand new building on East 96 Street, Gordon & Thomas put in a debit card system. A resident puts in the card and a $20 bill which credits the card. Each time the laundry facilities are used, the card will automatically be debited.

A couple of things about the laundry business bother Litwin. In some buildings, he cautioned, the price is up to $1. 50 per wash and dry. "We tell owners and boards to make it a market rate or below market rate amenity," he said. "An attractive low priced laundry facility helps to rent apartments. On rental tours, people always want to see the laundry room."

Another issue that troubles Litwin is that a number of his competitors use the "right of first refusal" in their contracts which allows them to match any bid and remain operating in the building. "It removes the freedom of choice and we urge anyone to make sure that the clause is scratched out," Litwin warns. He said another competitor changed the clause to read they can match any business terms. "They lock you in in perpetuity." Litwin explained. "There is no end of the lease term. No one should have to go to court to get rid of a laundry vendor.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Building Management, Section I
Author:Weiss, Lois
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 25, 1992
Words:1914
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