Building Inspections: Essential Questions

Why should you hire me to inspect your building?

Because I am an architect and I have inspected thousands of buildings. I have a vast pool of experience available to help you. Architects are unique in that they inspect the dynamic state of the building (defined as; the therelationship between motion of bodies and its causes, namely the forces acting on the bodies and the properties of the bodies (particularly mass and moment of inertia) in detail to avoid long expensive problems for you. Architects are licensed by all States in America as the lead building construction professional who directs all the other building professions to complete a building project. They have a minimum of 5 years of college and 3 years of experience (and often much more) before they can take the licensing exam which is over 40 hours long. They are tested on design, engineering of structural, mechanical and electrical systems plus many other subjects. When licensed, architects are in many states also licensed engineers for electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. No person is as well acquainted with the building as the designer because he knows the laws that govern the building type, performance information of all its component parts and the costs to build and maintain the systems under all weather condition over extended lengths of time. I am also licensed by the United States Federal Housing Administration (FHA) as a HUD 203 (k) Plan Reviewer and Fee Inspector. It is the unique training and experience that I have as a very experienced architect that directly benefits you.

What value added service do I bring to a building inspection?

My inspections cover all the major building systems and component parts including the electrical, mechanical, plumbing and structural. This is not a “checklist” type inspection that any non trained, non licensed individual can offer “an opinion” upon. This is an inspection based upon 50 years of experience as an designer, architect, master planner and forensic architect and is completed as a customized report for each building. Even a simple building is a system of component parts that have complex interactions of forces of compression, tension, moisture infiltration, thermo dynamics, hydro dynamics plus environmental and biological dynamics. Only the licensed architect understands all of these in the fullest sense.

Should you be there for the building inspection?

It is not mandatory, but the normal answer is, Yes. Please come a little early and dress in casual clothing because you will be asked to view any deficiency that is found, be it in the basement or attic. We will inspect the building together and you will benefit from my knowledge with an understanding of what is found, as it is found.

Is the building site inspected by me?

Yes. The building site is inspected by me for many things including topography and natural constraints of the property, soil types and potential problems, water problems and proper water drainage away from the house, legal constraints affecting the building site, plus basic landscape and maintenance suggestions.

Is the structure of the building inspected by me?

Yes. The structural system is what a building must literally stand upon, so I start my inspection by looking at the structural integrity of the foundation to ascertain it’s psychical health. I look for cracks, leaking water, indications that water came through the foundation and stayed for an extended period of time. Water can also linger with in a hollow concrete block wall and cause a condition called “spalling” on the inside. This is the slow yet eventual degradation of the unit due to water infiltration. Potential causes may be lack of proper exterior drainage for the foundation wall, major pipe broken near exterior foundation wall, incorrect materials used to build the foundation wall and many others. The building structural system also includes the load bearing wood, steel or concrete members that carry all the weight of the building along with the weight of the occupants and all their possessions. Each and every part must work in harmony with the others and be of the correct type and size for its legal intended use. Is there evidence of dry rot, or decay? Is there dampness? Is there evidence of wood destroying insects and rodents? Are there excessive settlement cracks and non level surfaces? Are there bulges in walls, cracks in girders, sagging roof lines and sloping floors? If so, I will tell you about these issues.

Are the exterior and Interior of an building inspected by me?

Yes. The exterior and interior walls are checked for damage, leaks or water infiltration, good or bad maintenance, lack of insulation, structural integrity and potential structural alteration capabilities. This is often a search for subtle information that is like looking for a finger print, rather than looking for the hand.

Do I inspect for termites and rodent infestation?

No! I know what termite and rodent infestation look like, but I am not licensed to use and provide the toxic chemicals needed for this service. Please be very careful with this request and be sure you are dealing with a fully experienced, licensed and insured individual who works as an individual termite inspection service, as a stand alone business.  There is a very high potential for an conflict of interest in having a Home Inspector provide this service, even if they do have the termite license.  I will be happy to recommend a good licensed individual to you for any problems we discover during the inspection.

Are older homes inspected differently from new homes by me?

Yes. Older homes are different than new homes and experience is needed to understand what products were used in them that are no longer are available. Older homes often will have concurrent electrical system problems, such as aluminum wiring in the walls with plaster walls laid up over wood slat’s. Please consider that older homes I inspect, do receive the same close attention as new homes in the inspection process, for example; electrical systems are looked at for the correct size of service for the building, correct wire type usage, wiring violations and potential for future expansion if needed. Mechanical & plumbing systems are checked for proper functioning, insulation, correct maintenance and leaks. All products have a reasonably known useful life expectancy and this is taken into account when inspecting systems and component parts.

Are building code violations looked for and noted to the home owner by me?

Yes/no. Code violations are noted during my inspection based upon my knowledge of the local prevailing laws and can vary from not very important to life threatening.  However; I am not a licensed Code Official and thus cannot give legal opinions about the Code. For this service, please contact the local Code Official.  Life threatening violations when found are always discussed with the client in detail because it is an ethical responsibility. If the violation is significant, the client will be called before the report is completed and made aware of this.

Can other professional services be performed (such as zoning code analysis) as an additional service to find potential code restrictions before you buy?

Yes. Zoning code analysis is a service that I can provide as a licensed architect, under the State Education laws. However, a normally licensed Home Inspector cannot provide this service. I would of course provide this professional service as at additional cost and this can save you great amounts of future discomfort. For example, what are the current legal front, side and rear setback requirements for this individual building and how will this effect any plans for future expansion of the building? I am qualified as a licensed architect to answer these questions for you.

Is there any way to know how long component parts of the house (such as a dish washer, or roof) should last on the building I am inspecting?

Yes there is!  Component parts of all buildings in the past fifty (50) years (+/_) have developed a know expected life expectancy and there are industry standards that are published that list them. For example (under normal conditions, with normal maintenance) an asphalt driveway should last 10-20 years; an clothes dryer should last 5-7 years; an warm air furnace should last 15-20 years; paint on the exterior should last 5-8 years; aluminum siding should last 40 years. There are variables, such as prevailing wind direction, sun exposure duration on the side of the building being examined.  I use these standards to tell you when you can expect an expensive repair based upon its existing age and physical condition.

I offer the following Building Inspection Services:

General Questions

  • What is an residential building Inspection? A residential building inspection is a complete evaluation of the home in order to disclose the actual condition of the systems and component parts and to note all items that need maintenance or replacement and then determine when some these components will need repair or replacement.
  • What will I do for you? I will inspect all the systems and component parts and give you a written report about the actual physical condition of your home on a specific date in time. This report can include pictures if you request and can have a cost analysis of the systems and components as well. Each report is custom designed to meet individual home owners needs.
  • Why is this a good value for you to have me, an architect provide this service for you? Because I have inspected thousands of buildings of every type for more than 15 years and I am a recognized expert in this area. Please also read about my inspections of commercial and institutional buildings and whole complex’s of homes and you will have a better understanding of my capabilities.
  • How am I as an architect unique when I inspect a building? I as an architects am unique in that I inspect the dynamic state of the building in detail over time and therefore avoid long time expensive problems for you. I find things that in the future can cost large amounts of money if not corrected now, for example asbestos siding on all the exterior walls of a house that the buyer I represented, wanted to do major renovation work on. The removal of this material by experts would have broken his budget before he began to renovate the house. My client was saved many thousands of dollars when he did not purchase this problem building.
  • What is meant by dynamic state? Dynamic state is a complex system of motion of bodies and the interaction of forces of compression, tension, moisture, infiltration, thermo dynamics, structural dynamics, hydrodynamics, environmental dynamics and biological dynamics (mildews, insects, fungus, etc.). Therefore your home is a living, breathing, constantly changing system. I examine it from this point of view.
  • Even a simple building is a complex system of systems and component parts. How do I help you to understand them and what they do for you in combination with each other? I was a teacher of design in two colleges and I can explain this information to you in simple terms. I will walk and talk with you during the inspection and explain your individual home to you. I will explain for example what the heating system is and what are the component parts that make it function. I will then examine them and advise you of their general condition and look for malfunctions, code violations and parts that are either worn out or near their useful expected life. This is also true of the roof, walls, foundation, etc.

Examples

Multiple family homes:

  • Due Diligence Building Condition Survey, Rolling Homes LLP, West Deptford Township, N.J. (16 .13 acres with 177 mobile homes and 6 buildings for EMJ Construction Consultants Inc.)
  • Due Diligence Building Condition Survey. Asylum Hill Ventures I, LLC, Hartford, Connecticut (Eight Residential Buildings with 177 units of housing for EMJ Construction Consultants Inc.)
  • Building Inspection–Quantium Portfolio, The Commons, Cincinnati, Ohio (236,281 S.F., 12 story, luxury office complex with attached 6 story garage for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Quantium Portfolio, One American Center, Nashville, Tennessee (21.88 acre, 13 building, 288 unit, housing complex for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Linden Lane Apartments, Ridley Park, Pennsylvania (159 unit, housing complex for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Cedar Grove Apartments, Ellenville, N.Y. (100 unit, housing complex for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Hyde Park Apartments, Hyde Park, N.Y. (242 unit, 19 building housing complex for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Hillside Homes, Bronx, N.Y. (1,496 unit, housing complex covering five square blocks for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Seasons Apartments, Kenner, La. (304 unit, 14 building housing complex covering 12.3 acres for Inspection Valuation International)
  • Building Inspection–Windsong Apartments, Kenner, La. (540 unit, 37 building housing complex covering 21.2 acres for Inspection Valuation International)

Single family homes:

  • Property Condition Assessment Survey for 2,700 SF Residential Home in Sherman, Connecticut.
  • Property Condition Assessment Survey for 1,200 SF Residential Home in Mahopac, New York.
  • Property Condition Assessment Survey for 1,500 SF Residential Home in Carmel, New York.
  • Property Condition Assessment Survey for 4,100 SF Residential Home in Pawling, New York.
  • Property Condition Assessment Survey for 1,400 SF Residential Home in Sherman, Connecticut.
  • Due Diligence Building Condition Survey, Rolling Homes LLP, West Deptford Township, N.J. (16 .13 acres with 177 mobile homes and 6 buildings for EMJ Construction Consultants Inc.)

General Questions

  • Why would you hire me to inspect a commercial building? All architects are registered in ALL states they practice in but not all commercial building inspectors are registered in all states they practice in.
  • What knowledge can I bring to bear for your advantage? I bring over 15 years of experience completing inspections on most commercial building types.
  • How will this knowledge add value to your investment? I have already completed inspections on most building types and I am therefore familiar with what to expect and how to proceed in the quickest manner.
  • What will be needed from you? Information needed from you will include; Client name, Owner name, Property name, Address of building, Contact name, Contact telephone number, Site plans of building location.
  • How soon will your material be required before I can start? Your information will be required 1 week before I can schedule a visit to your site.
  • What is included in the report? The report is broken into three separate portions, the executive summary, the written report and pictures of the building. Each section tells the same story but in a different manner. Some owners just read the executive summary and look at some pictures, while others are more interested in the details of the report.
  • How long will an inspection take to complete? It depends on the location, size and complexity of the inspection required, but generally 2 to 3 weeks after a contract is signed with you the report will be complete.
    How many copies of the report will I receive? Two copies are included. Additional copies can be provided at a nominal additional cost.
  • What will this cost? The cost depends upon what you have asked to be done, (size, complexity etc.) and where your project is located. All travel, hotel, food and per diem expenses are a part of the fee structure.

Commercial Projects:

  • I was the consulting Senior Supervising Architect for the New York City Office of Management and Budget, City Charter Fixed Assets Project. This project included the physical survey of over 2,700 facilities with values over $10 million each. These buildings varied from City Hall to The Metropolitan Museum to the Bronx Zoo to all the schools, fire houses, jails, parks, piers, terminals, etc. for all eighteen city agencies.
  • This was the largest physical survey of buildings ever finished in the USA and it created the current Capital Budget for Maintenance for New York City through 2015. I was the lead consulting architect to Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Douglas &, Quade Architects & Engineers for this project.
  • Building Inspection–Merchandise Mart # 416, Harvey, Louisiana, Retail 70,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–Merchandise Mart # 408, Mettarie, Louisiana, Retail 150,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–Builders Square # 1403, Waukegan, Illinois, Retail 150,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–Builders Square # 1021, Niles, Illinois, Retail 80,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–K-Mart # 7767, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Retail 200,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–K-Mart # 4938, Round Lake Beach, Illinois, Retail 120,000± S.F. store.
  • Building Inspection–Quantum Portfolio, Hilton Hotel, St. Louis Missouri 197,500± S.F. hotel.
  • Building Inspection–Fleet Bank, 19 Bradhurst Ave, Hawthorne, N.Y. 212,000± S.F. 4 story, Luxury office building with 4 story atrium.
  • Building Inspection–One American Center, 3100 Westend Ave, Nashville, Tenn. 175,000± S.F., 12 story, glass office building.
  • Building Inspection–710 Bridgeport Ave, Shelton, Conn. 450,000± S.F. Industrial Manufacturing Facility.
  • Building Inspection–Newburgh NY Housing Authority, 9 story Public Housing with 90 units.
  • Building Inspection–Brooklyn NY, NY State Housing Finance Authority with 1,500 units.
  • Building Inspection–Boulevard Square, Amhurst, N.Y. (Benderson Development Corp., strip shopping center, with four main buildings of about 171,785 S.F. located on 14 acres -with Laslo Papp, FAIA.)
  • Building Inspection–Colony Bay, Fort Wayne, Indiana (Siara Management, Inc. Housing complex with six Main residential buildings, recreation facilities, garages, parking maintenance facilities and about 1,500 units located on 26 acres–with Laslo Papp, FAIA.)
  • Building Inspection-Boulevard II Towers, Amhurst, N.Y. (Siara Management, Inc. Housing complex with two, six story buildings and parking garages for 402 units located on 26 acres–with Laslo Papp, FAIA.)
  • Building Inspection–Hamilton Corporate Center, Hamilton, N.J. (Hamilton Center Associates, Office/Industrial Building of about 85,000 S.F. located on 10 acres-with Laslo Papp, FAIA.)
  • Building Inspection–Physical Survey “MRI” Building, St. Francis Hospital, North Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (Principal Architect–Survey to confirm compliance with all NY State Board of Health and ADA requirements.)

Institutional Projects:

  • I was the consulting Senior Supervising Architect for the New York City Office of Management and Budget, City Charter Fixed Assets Project. For the first time in New York City, an architectural maintenance data bank was being formulated. This project included the physical survey of over 2,700 facilities with values over $10 million each. These buildings varied from City Hall to The Metropolitan Museum to the Bronx Zoo to all the schools, fire houses, jails, parks, piers, terminals, etc. for all eighteen city agencies. This was the largest physical survey of buildings ever finished in the USA and it created the current Capital Budget for Maintenance for New York City through 2015. I was the lead consulting architect to Parsons, Brinkerhoff, Douglas &, Quade Architects & Engineers for this project.
  • Physical Survey “MRI” Building, St. Francis Hospital, North Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (Principal Architect-Survey to confirm compliance with all NY State Board of Health and ADA requirements.)
  • Westchester Medical Center Complex. White Plains, N.Y. (Project architect in association with another architect ( Sal Vasi, AIA) for complete ADA study, cost analysis, working drawings & specifications and supervision of contract documents and construction at three major buildings.)
  • Westchester County Building. White Plains, N.Y. (Project architect in association with another architect (Sal Vasi, AIA) for complete ADA study, cost analysis, working drawings & specifications and supervision of contract documents and construction at main County Exhibit Building.)
  • Pediatric/Rehabilitation Evaluation Study, St. Francis Hospital, North Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (Principal Architect-Study for expansion capabilities and ADA compliance.)
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory, Brookhaven, N.Y. (Chief planner/designer for the revision of the master plan of a 6,500 acre Federal Government science laboratory, consisting of an analysis of site development and the facilities utilization plan. This planning provided BNL’s long range re-vitalization, incorporating the existing constraints and extending the concepts developed in the planning analysis so they could extent well beyond the year 2,010. With Max Urbahn, FAIA.)
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, World Trade Center Complex, New York, N.Y. (Building components including building envelope and windows. Staff Architect.)
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JFK International Airport, Queens, N.Y. (International Arrivals Building envelope and windows study. Staff Architect.)
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, La Guardia Airport, Queens, N.Y. (Main Terminal Building envelope and windows study. Staff Architect.)
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, New York, N.Y. (Building envelope and windows study. Staff Architect.)
  • New U.S. Main Post Office, Saugerties, N.Y. Project architect for new 180.000 S.F. ± main Post Office. With another architect, Kenneth Irving, AIA.
  • Westchester Medical Center Complex. White Plains, N.Y. for complete ADA study, cost analysis, working drawings & specifications and supervision of contract documents and construction at three major buildings.
  • Westchester County Building. White Plains, N.Y. for complete ADA study, cost analysis, working drawings & specifications and supervision of contract documents and construction at Main County Exhibit Building.
  • N.Y.C. Transit Authority Headquarters, 43rd and Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. (Project Manager for contract documents for 160,000 S.F. of office space. With another architect, Henry Meltzer, R.A.
  • Community Center, Waterbury, Conn. Associate architect for the study of a 5 story Regional Black Community Center in a renovated shoe factory, four stories of about 75,000 S.F. With CODA architects.
  • Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 33 Liberty Street, N.Y. Designed over 1,000,000 S.F. of offices, computer rooms, vaults, warehouses etc. as staff designer over 7 years.