Most people wouldn't buy a home without an attorney, or start a business without an accountant. In the same way those professionals assist with complex legal and financial processes, a civil engineer trained in the specific field of design and construction can help your HOA navigate the budgeting and capital improvement landscape by conducting a reserve study.
Many of New Jersey’s condo communities were built decades ago, and in many cases, deteriorating infrastructures are now presenting HOAs with serious maintenance and improvement costs. In cases where neither the condo association nor the property management company is equipped to deal with such technical issues, hiring a civil engineer can be helpful. A prudent civil engineer will thoroughly evaluate the property, consider cost-saving options, minimize unplanned capital expenditures, insure that governmental regulations are being adhered to, and make sure that costs are based in reality rather than on averages or on hypothetical life-expectancy tables.
Look Before You Leap
For example, an association may request an evaluation of the building’s roof system. In addition to the building’s location, there are many other characteristics that affect the longevity of a roofing system. A trained professional (an engineer or architect in this case) will typically have the expertise to evaluate many other characteristics of the roof. These characteristics include roof pitch, sun exposure, presence of overhanging trees, existence of proper eaves, gutters and flashing, quality of material and installation, extent of cuts and corners, ventilation, roof color, and a host of other affecting factors. An engineer or architect with the appropriate background can provide an informative assessment of the actual roof system conditions.
Another example might be an asphalt-paved roadway. Like roofing materials, pavement also deteriorates over the course of time due to weather and ongoing wear from traffic. But a close evaluation of a paved road can often expose many other underlying issues that should be considered prior to investing in a new pavement overlay or repavement project.
Water, for example, has an enormous impact on a paved road. If a paved surface is continually in need of repair, or fails to last as long as its projected useful life, a professional civil engineer may expose the reasons for the failure and suggest new approaches or methods for repairs. Perhaps the roadway system is failing due to poor drainage, or subsurface soil conditions are shortening its useful life. A full assessment and making recommended repairs might add another 10 years to the life of the surface. These options may be of interest to the community association, but they would never know unless a qualified individual is engaged.