Engineers possess the technical expertise required to professionally assess buildings. Their work is critical because professional assessments allow building owners to develop a real understanding of what their buildings require, over time, to keep functioning safely and as designed.
The role of technical reports has grown for both co-ops and strata units. They are used for internal planning, but also for dealing with outside parties, such as lenders, regulators and property assessment authorities.
Obtaining and updating reports is important, and engineers offer several different kinds of assessment services. The needs of your co-op will determine which kind of report makes most sense. The most common report is a building condition assessment. Other reports may involve specialized testing services that better estimate costs for co-ops with concerns about particular building systems, but they can't subsitute for a comprehensive review of all the co-op assets.
The BCA is a technical report, usually prepared by engineers, that provides an overview of the status of all building components and systems. It will summarize when various building components need to be renewed or replaced, and it will provide cost estimates.
To prepare a BCA, engineers should review architectural drawings and other documents relating to the co-op buildings (especially earlier reports). When ready, engineers will visit the co-op and make a visual inspection of the property and buildings to understand each of the building components (structural elements, mechanical systems, interior finishes, etc.). They will also visit a sample of the units to understand the range of finishes and interior elements. (The standard review includes 10% of the units, but other arrangements can be made.)
After the site visit, the engineers will create a report which will include estimates of when the various components should be replaced, how much such replacements would cost, and which should be prioritized.
The cost of the engineers' work depends on a number of factors including the building form or forms (detached houses, townhomes, low-rise apartments, high-rise apartments), whether there are elevators or commercial spaces within the development, and the total number of units at the site.
A BCA is a general report and the foundation of a well-considered long-term plan. Sometimes they are also referred to as "depreciation reports", particularly when commissioned by strata developments. Stratas are guided by legislation that anticipates reports being updated every three years.
Images from a sample IRC report.
A BECA is another kind of technical report, similar to a Building Condition Assessment but more targeted. The BECA focuses on the components and systems that make up the building envelope -- the outside of the building, including the walls and roofs. The professionals who carry out the assessment may use destructive testing to better evaluate the state of the envelope, rather than rely solely on visual inspections. This kind of report is sometimes known as a building enclosure condition assessment.
Because BECAs do not review all the building systems, they are insufficient for a comprehensive long-term plan. But they may be necessary if a BCA has recommended one, or if the co-op has specific concerns about envelope issues.
Elevators are a building component that is usually evaluated by specialists. The results of those investigations are an option to an IRC Group BCA.
If a co-op has concerns about specific components other than the envelope (e.g. plumbing or balconies), those concerns can often be addressed with targeted investigations. Sometimes these can be combined with a BCA or BECA for greater cost savings.
Co-ops are often also interested in unit inspections. Engineers can carry out inspections of every unit in a co-op, but most co-ops prefer to obtain detailed unit data using management company services.
As part of the Federation's long-term planning services, we can assist co-ops obtain relevant technical reports. The process is very similar to our other group-buying services. Because we research and identify the best options when we choose partners, CHF BC members who work with our Program partners are not obliged to follow CMHC's three-quote requirement. By doing the research for you, we can help you avoid the time and effort of getting multiple quotes for services.
Our current partner for engineering services is IRC Group, a firm already familiar to a number of co-ops and The Agency for Co-operative Housing. IRC's primary BC office is located in Richmond, and the firm is able to serve clients across the Province.