SuperMen & SuperWomen! Importance of Superintendents and Chief Engineers

The life of a super is different every day, but it usually goes something like this: arrive at work each morning; check in with security for any possible situations that have come up during the night; review any outstanding work orders and walks the property, making sure that all of the building mechanics—such as the cooling towers, boilers, pool, etc., are all running properly; if anything is wrong, log in the problems. Then, meet with staff, divide the work orders for the daily and holds daily, weekly, and monthly meetings to follow up and make sure everything is running smoothly.

In the past, the responsibilities of a building super or chief engineer could have been described as ‘it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” Building superintendents get their hands dirty from time to time, but nothing compared to the way job was 20 years ago. Think back to how the building or chief engineers, also known as ‘supers’ or ‘resident managers’ in some parts of the country—were portrayed on television or in movies. They were the guys with the huge crowded key ring who were greased up and dirty from the repairs they made. Remember Schneider from “One Day at a Time?” He didn’t really have authority to do more than basic repairs (although Schneider was a special case). Oh, how times have changed.

Today, the role of the super has evolved, and it's also become more varied. “A superintendent has a protocol. He has his boilers to check, his air conditioning system in the summer, heating system in the winter. He checks his building, his walls, his rugs, sets the protocol for housekeeping, the mechanics, how they go about doing their work. There’s a preventative maintenance schedule that he has to keep up with. Scheduling workers. Just keeping the place alive,” says Raul M. Maldonado, master superintendent in Hackensack for RCP Management.

A super in one building could have a different combination of responsibilities than the person with the same title down the street. Commonly, supers are responsible for maintaining high-rise condominiums and property grounds, including all building systems, including elevators, fire alarms, fire pumps, sprinklers, emergency generators, electrical, domestic water, boilers, irrigation, HVAC systems and all associated equipment, swimming pools and Jacuzzis, gym equipment and health club amenities. They are also responsible for inspections and repairs as needed, working with vendors and hiring and training maintenance personnel.

“You’re not a master of anything, but you have to be a jack of all trades. You have to communicate with all the levels of contracting, and address all the levels of problems that you have in the building—water to electricity, to engines and emergency generators, exhaust fans on the roof—you have know a little botany to talk to the landscapers. You have to know your electronics to deal with the low frequency drives that are installed in motors in sites. You have to have a lot of books, let’s put it this way,” says Maldonado.

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