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Dramatis Personae

The dramatis personae—or cast of characters—for a restoration project includes: the building owner or its managing agent, restoration architects and/or engineers, contractors, and attorneys.


The Owner (or Managing Agent)

An owner has legal responsibility for their building and pays for its maintenance and restoration. Ultimately, an owner makes business decisions regarding investment in the asset’s upkeep (though life safety issues are non-discretionary).

Once they have information about their building’s condition, owners and managers are tasked with establishing a budget and timeframe for necessary repairs and deciding which work takes priority and which can safely be deferred to a later phase.

Learning the essential roles of the cast of characters helps owners have clear expectations of who does what on a restoration project. Similarly, the more architects/engineers and contractors “think like the client,” the more likely the project is to be successful.


The Engineer/Architect (E/A) (and introducing the QEWI)

Traditionally, architects focus on the formal design of buildings, while structural engineers focus on their structure.

Registered Architect (RA) and Professional Engineer (PE) licenses are granted by the NYS Education Department, after candidates have completed a curriculum of professional studios at the undergraduate/graduate level of professional studies, interned for several years, and passed a battery of licensing exams.

The fields of architecture and engineering are constantly evolving. Continuing Education (CE) requirements ensure that PEs and RAs stay abreast of the latest products, technologies, and regulations affecting their practices.

The practice of exterior restoration exists at the intersection of architecture and engineering disciplines. It combines the technical and the aesthetic. (That’s why it’s SUPERSTRUCTURES’ mission to advance both the art and science of exterior restoration). Professionals specializing in exterior restoration can arrive there from either direction.

In any event, exterior restoration is a specialty, and successful building envelope projects demand practitioners experienced in it.

Facade examinations required by NYC’s Facade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP) require more specific credentials: Qualified Exterior Wall Inspectors (QEWIs), must be licensed architects or professional engineers with at least seven years of relevant experience. QEWIs must also provide detailed resumes and prove to the DOB that they have relevant experience and knowledge of NYC building codes and facade rules.

RAs or PEs investigate and diagnose envelope problems and postulate solutions, often presenting the owner with alternative paths with tradeoffs between initial expense, longevity, phasing of work, etc. The E/A clearly expresses the selected solution in contract documents (CDs)—drawings and written specifications.

Once construction begins, an E/A firm conducts construction administration (CA), observing the progress and quality of the work.

The contract between the E/A and the owner will delineate the scope of professional services. Professional services for exterior restoration projects generally fall into these major categories:

  • Investigation and Analysis
  • Preparation of Construction Documents
  • Contractor Bidding
  • Construction Administration
  • Municipal Agency (DOB) Interface

Note: The E/A is NOT the contractor, and furthermore has no contractual relationship with the contractor. The E/A determines what physical remediation is necessary and communicates this in a clear set of contract documents (typically drawings and written specifications) that the contractor will follow in executing the E/A’s “instructions.”


The Contractor

Contractors—and the teams of mechanics or tradesmen who work for them—perform the “hands-on” work delineated in the CDs that achieve the results the E/A prescribes.

Contractors are obligated to produce a final product that conforms to the E/A’s CDs. But the contractor, not the E/A, has sole responsibility for logistics—the means and methods by which that product is achieved. For example, staffing, number and type of scaffolds, sequencing, etc.

Material costs might constitute only 10-20% of the cost of a restoration project, and in any event, materials are specified by the E/A.  So, the quality and price of each contractor is primarily a function of its logistical capabilities, as well as its current workload and appetite for profit.

Contractors “contract” directly with the building owner. They have no direct contractual relationship with the E/A. However, the world of NYC restoration is relatively small, so most E/As are familiar with contractors within this niche.

Contractor quality runs the gamut from (regrettably) those who don’t follow the CDs faithfully, substitute inferior materials for those specified, and perform improper work, to those who (thankfully) complete the project on time, exactly as specified in the CDs, extrapolating properly from the details that are shown, minimizing disturbance to building occupants, and communicating clearly and proactively with the E/A firm and owner.


The Attorney

Everything involves a contract, so many restoration projects involve attorneys.

The contract between the owner and the contractor is distinct from the contract between the owner and the E/A.

Typically, a “letter agreement” proffered by the E/A suffices between the owner and the E/A.

The agreement between the owner and the contractor typically involves a more “formal” contract.

There are standard contract formats for restoration projects. Those published by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are the most common, but certain buildings and projects have custom requirements. An experienced attorney incorporates project-specific requirements into the standard form agreements to ensure that unique owner requirements are clearly expressed and accepted.


SUPERSTRUCTURES Engineers + Architects

14 Wall Street, 25th Floor, New York, NY 10005
(212) 505 1133


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