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Ask The Engineer

RAND answers commonly asked questions about building repair, maintenance, and upgrades in Habitat Magazine.

Exterior Repair and Maintenance
water damage
The Ongoing Battle
Against Leaks

A regular maintenance program is the best way to guard against water penetration.

a damaged parapet
Cutting Corners and
Band-Aid Fixes

So-called cheap and easy fixes only lead to more leaks and expensive repairs down the line.

old windows
Replacing Old Windows

Thermally insulated double-paned windows provide energy efficiency and noise reduction.

Replacing a Cornice

Replacement materials replicate the style of an original cornice at lower cost and maintenance.

Deteriorating mortar
The Key to Healthy Exterior Walls

Identifying common symptoms of wall distress early on can prevent a small issue from becoming a costly disaster.

Balcony Repairs

Cracked and stained concrete, loose railings, and “icicles” are signs of balcony deterioration.

a window air conditioner improperly installed
Installing Window
Air Conditioners

The DOB rejects LL 11/98 facade inspection reports that cite unsafe window air conditioners.

A fire escape
Refurbishing a
Fire Escape

A  dilapidated fire escape is an accident waiting to happen.

Boiler at 75 Henry St.
Preparing Your Building
for Winter

Keeping your building systems properly maintained will help prevent cold-weather problems.

recycling construction debris
Making Your Repair
Projects Green

Products and materials that help keep projects environmentally friendly.

mold at a baseboard
Preventing Mold

Inadequately insulated piping, poor ventilation, and exterior leaks provide moist environments where mold spores thrive.

cleaning a facade
Facade Cleaning

Different types of masonry require their own cleaning agents and applications.

a sidewalk shed
Sidewalk Sheds

New York has more than 6,000 sidewalk sheds. Here’s what you should know about costs, permits, safety, and more.

water damage
Investigative Probes

By uncovering hidden conditions, investigative probes help minimize surprises during construction.

Replacing a Roof: Hot or Cold System?
Replacing a Roof:
Hot or Cold System?

The choice depends on the underlying roof deck and building height. Proper installation is key.

roof deck
Installing a Recreational
Roof System

A properly installed recreational roof is a valuable building amenity.

roof parapet
Roof Warranties

A No Dollar Limit agreement is cost-effective protection for a new roof, but be aware of limitations and exclusions.

Heating Plant Upgrades

Boiler type and fuel—oil, gas, or both—are the two key factors.

Plumbing Risers
Re-piping a Domestic
Water System

Corroded steel piping in old plumbing systems will eventually need to be replaced with new copper tubing.

electrical meters
Electrical Upgrades

Even after a main building upgrade, residents may still need to address the electrical setup in their apartments.

a gas burner
Converting From Oil to Gas

Installing a gas-based system requires upfront capital costs, but it can save money in the long run.

gas meters
Re-piping a Leaky
Gas System

The first steps are isolating leaks by pressure testing and determining where new piping will run.

A RAND employee doing an energy audit.
Complying with Local
Law 87/09

The law requires an energy audit, retro-commissioning, and filing an Energy Efficiency Report.

A RAND employee doing an energy audit.
Chimney Liners and Extensions

Converting a heating plant from oil to gas often requires installing a liner and/or an extension to the chimney.

split ac
Split Air Conditioning Systems

Split A/C systems are increasingly popular because of their low-profile design and ease of installation.

water tanks
Fixing Brown Water
and Low Pressure

Reinstalling a roof tank and replacing corroded piping can fix a building's plumbing problems.

a heater
Installing a Cogeneration System

Producing electricity and heat simultaneously reduces electrical demand and heating costs.

a Rand employee inspecting a sewer line
Repairing a Sewer Line

A cured-in-place method is used for minor repairs, but more extensive damage requires excavation and replacement.

Elevator Upgrades

Abrupt movements, doors that stick, and uneven stops are signs that an elevator needs an overhaul.




Backflow Prevention

Backflow devices prevent contamination of the public water supply, and they’re required by NYC law.




Remedying Ventilation Issues

Ventilation deficiencies can lead to health and comfort issues, as well as increased operating and energy costs.




a damaged wall at a construction site
Structural Evaluations

A structural survey conducted before construction begins at an adjacent site can alert building owners to potential problems.

sidewalk vault
Replacing a Sidewalk Vault

Vault spaces are prone to leaks and deterioration, which can cause structural damage over time.

a collapse retaining wall
Retaining Walls

Retaining walls can deteriorate from seasonal changes, compromising their stability.

garage repairs
Garage Repairs

The most important aspect of the repair and construction of concrete parking garages is coordination.

Second Avenue Subway Construction
Second Avenue Subway Construction

Important steps building owners should take to ensure safety and protection from adjacent heavy construction and demolition.

Architectural Design
Apartment alterations
Interior Renovations

An engineer/architect should review proposed alternations to make sure they don’t damage building-wide systems.

ADA Ramp
Installing an
ADA-Compliant Ramp

A ramp must meet requirements concerning the incline, handrails, and doors.

Feasibility Studies
Feasibility Studies for Building Amenities

A feasibility study helps determine if a proposed building amenity is viable and can save time and money.

Surveys and Inspections
RAND employees doing and energy audit.
Surveying Your
Building's Condition

A physical condition survey provides a blueprint for planning major capital improvements.

RAND employees doing and energy audit.
Finding–and Fixing–Construction Defects

To address problems in new construction, start with a forensic survey.

pouring concrete
Special Inspections

The DOB has tightened requirements for Special Inspections, which apply to most repair projects.

Infrared thermography
Detecting Leaks with
Infrared Thermography

Infrared Thermography reveals hidden defects throughout a building.

Doing Due Diligence
Before Buying

A pre-purchase survey can uncover defects that could mean higher maintenance costs later on.

asbestos testing
Testing for Asbestos

An asbestos survey is part and parcel of most repair jobs.

Construction Administration and Project Management
Two Rand employees
Project Communication

Establishing upfront a realistic scope of work, repair budget, and timeline paves the way to a smoother running project.

A facade inspection
Exterior Repair Contracts

Owners should insist on a formal agreement specifying guarantees, payments schedule, liquidated damages, and insurance.

High Bid, Low Bid, Best Bid?

For a competitive bid, get itemized repair components, check references, and never reveal your budget to contractors.

Contractors at work
Contractor Quality

References alone aren't sufficient. Ask prospective contractors the right questions before hiring one.

A Rand conference
When an Engineer Is
on the Board

An engineer can provide valuable technical input, but he or she does not run the project.

Two Rand employees
Getting the Construction
Documents Right

Plans and specifications for a revived project need to be updated if the scope of work has changed.

a rusted beam
Time for a Change (Order)?

Change orders are inevitable, but which ones are legitimate, and how much should be allotted for them?

When to Use an Engineer

An Engineer’s role is to determine how to make the most cost-effective repairs.

A Rand Employee doing a building survey
Engineer vs. Architect:
What's the Difference?

A licensed professional’s practical experience with the type of project at hand is the key consideration.

Uncompleted roof project
To Bond, or Not to Bond?

Performance bonds can offer a measure of financial protection for owners undergoing construction projects.

Filing and Permits
a building permit
Permit Requirements

Which types of projects require permits and what kind are needed?

an apartment renovation
Amending a Certificate
of Occupancy

Whenever a building changes its use, egress, or occupancy, it must file for an amended C of O.

Historic architecture
Managing the
Landmarks Process

The LPC requires owners to preserve the architectural integrity of the building’s original design.

  • RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC
  • 159 West 25th Street
  • New York, NY 10001
  • P: 212-675-8844
RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC
159 West 25th Street | New York, NY 10001
P: 212-675-8844 |