Anatomy of a Condo Building

September 2016

Each of us is composed of parts – heart, lungs, eyes, ears, teeth, limbs and skin. We go for periodic check-ups to ensure each part is in good working order. When a problem is identified we take steps to solve the problem before it becomes sufficiently serious and may affect other parts of the body.

While we may avoid some periodic check-ups, failure to identify a growing problem early enough can have negative consequences.

So it is with each high-rise condo building. Each is made up of many parts. Failure of one or more parts of this thriving system can have dramatic and costly repercussions. Periodic inspections are undertaken to identify minor problems before they result in a more serious failure.

Each system requires periodic maintenance to ensure it operates as expected and serves the condo community. Most building systems should be inspected every two to three years.

Building Envelope

Like our skin, the building envelope protects against weather. It includes a waterproofing system and insulation. Lack of insulation can lead to failings in mechanical systems.

Water infiltration is the most common problem in a building. It is often caused by exposure to the elements and thus affected by the building envelope. Heat of summer, cold of winter, exposure to the sun and freeze/thaw periods can all damage the building envelope and allow water to infiltrate.

Underground Parking Structure

Most high-rise buildings include an underground parking structure. Protecting this structure from damage from moisture, corrosion, salt, oil and the daily flow of hundreds of vehicles is no small task.

Elevator Systems

Elevators are crucial to any building of more than a few floors. They are complex mechanical systems composed of many parts that are expected to work flawlessly. Ensuring continuous operation of these large structures requires constant maintenance, repair and replacement of its parts to avoid a failure.

Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing

This includes the wiring, equipment and pipes that deliver utilities throughout a building. There is a boiler that generates hot water and the system delivering this water to each suite. There may be chillers, cooling towers, exhaust fans and ventilation systems. Plumbing systems include pipes, towers and pumps required to deliver water.

Heating, Air Conditioning, Ventilation (HVAC)

These systems keep the condo building at a comfortable temperature. They include pipes, electrical wires and mechanical systems. They ensure that adequate fresh air enters the building and help to control odours.

Life Safety

Life safety systems protect residents from life threatening situations such as fire or power failure. It includes sprinkler systems, fire doors, stairwell systems and fire alarms.

Any failure in fire alarms or other life safety systems are best identified and rectified in advance of an emergency situation.

The task of maintaining a high-rise condo building is too complex for a single person.

Responsibility for ensuring these systems are adequately maintained is a responsibility of the Board of Directors and Property Manager. Staff, perhaps a superintendent, may be employed on a part-time or full-time basis and possibly available 24 hours a day. Service contractors are employed to regularly check systems and undertake repairs of minor problems before they become major problems.

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