A Look at Building Anatomy Vital Signs

In many ways, the homes in a detached condo development resemble any other single-family dwellings: they have their own driveways, their own water and electric meters, distinct roofs, and heating and cooling systems. Other types of condo associations take the form of attached townhouses, or high-rise apartment buildings. Regardless of the architecture, a thorough understanding and regular maintenance of all the components that ultimately deliver the essential amenities like heat, air conditioning water, plumbing, and electricity is required in order for the association's operating systems to run safely and efficiently.

These tasks are divided between individual homeowners and association boards and managing agents, coordinating with the association's superintendent and staff to assure that the development's roofs are free of leaks and that there's heat in the middle of January.

"I often refer to [a condo development] as one would look at a luxury cruise liner," says Edward Frank, president of the River Vale based Arthur Edwards, Inc. "It needs a captain, a skipper, a first mate and passengers. The passengers are the owners; the skipper is the manager; the first mate is the super, and the board of directors serves as the captain."

Different Buildings, Different Systems

But the main thing, of course, is the boat itself. Like any inhabited structure, a townhome development or high-rise condo building relies upon several major—often interconnected—mechanical systems to function. For most buildings, the major components are the HVAC system, the plumbing, the electricity, and the roof.

The age of a building or development as a whole often dictates the reliability of one or all the aforementioned systems. While some condo communities are celebrating their thirtieth or fiftieth anniversaries, others are youngsters. In addition to age, climate, quality of maintenance, and day-to-day wear-and-tear all figure into how well a community's basic systems will hold up.

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