Cleaning up After Winter’s Blast

“Though this winter has been relatively mild, it can still leave a bleak mark on buildings and their landscaping.  While New Yorkers are thawing out in March and April, our asset manager are inspecting for damage and  repairing winter’s ravishes.”, says Ira Meister, president and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, Inc.

Areas include landscaping, terraces, the roof, windows and air conditioning, whether window units or a central system.

Starting at the entrance, we look at plants and trees and also check for salt damage to tree planters, plants and flower beds.  The city uses rock salt to melt ice, which kills off almost anything in a planter. We also check for any cracks at the entrance.

Meister says another area to check is setbacks and roof terraces for water/ice damage and to be certain the drainage pipes are not clogged.  It’s a good idea to snake out the pipes every year.

This is also the time for a general clean-up of the building and the common areas after several months of people trudging through the lobby and halls with snow and slush on their shoes and boots.

The roofs are visually checked by our asset managers and the superintendent/resident manager for any ice-caused damage and leaks.  “In fact, they make period inspections during the winter, particularly to make certain the drains are not clogged,” Meister says.

Residents should check windows and window air conditioning units for leaks to ensure maximum efficiency and arrange for vacuuming of condensers, changing filters and flushing the coils.  If the unit was removed during the winter it needs to be replaced in compliance with city regulations. .

“We instruct all our asset managers to visually inspect buildings with window units to be certain they are in compliance,” Meister says.

In buildings with central air conditioning, the HVAC unit and the cooling towers are checked with the towers tested for efficiency at least every five years. Loss of efficiency translates into significantly higher expenses.  While this benchmark is usually done in the fall, it can be done this spring if the cooling tower check has not been conducted for five years.

“While our asset managers and superintendents/resident managers continuously inspect a building during the year looking for potential problems and areas needing repair, we urge resident to be alert and let us know if they see something that needs attention,” Meister says.  “For smooth building operations and to reduce costs, it is much better to find a problem before too much damage has been caused or when damage can be averted.”

The New Generation in Co-Generation

“There were many lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy.  For example”, says Ira Meister, President and CEO Matthew Adam Properties, “we learned that hi-rise buildings are not immune to power outages caused by flooding that can affect a single property or a wide area.  When this occurs, a separate back-up generator is needed to maintain power, but that is expensive.  Now, however, there is a way to have a continuous operating back-up in a system aligned with a co-generation.”

The back-up generator called “Black Start” is produced by Tecogen, a leader in the field of co-generation.  Matthew Adam Properties is working with Tecogen to evaluate the installation of co-generation in several buildings it manages.

Peter Goldsmith, Field Sales Specialist, Tecogen says. “Since Sandy, we’ve been getting at least a call a day inquiring about ‘Black Start.’”

Originally, co-generation involved using the steam produced by boilers to power generators in buildings. This, however, required electric power to keep the water heaters and boilers operating.  Meister says the Tecogen system his company is exploring (called CHP, “combine heat and power”) generates electricity using a natural gas-fueled engine, which immediately reduces electrical consumption. Natural gas is cleaner and more efficient than oil and less costly than oil or steam.

Meister says that while working with Tecogen the company explained how CHP could be used to provide energy in the event of a blackout or situations such as occurred with Hurricane Sandy when flooding caused Con Ed to lose power in much of Manhattan below 40th Street.  Rather than having a separate generator which would be costly and dependent on having sufficient fuel to operate, the emergency generator component of the co-generation system runs continuously and can be utilized for an emergency, though not at full power.

There are financing incentives through NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Agency) that can reduce the initial costs.

During Sandy, a large residential co-op in southern Manhattan benefitted from having the Tecogen co-generation system with the back-up generator. When Con Ed cut power, Tecogen’s proprietary inverter and microgrid technology continued to provide power for the building.  The system powered the entire building and ran 24/7 under computerized control from an off-site monitoring station until power was restored by Con Ed.

Matthew Adam Exploring Co-Generation for Properties It Manages

Co-generation, the reuse of energy to power systems, has been around for a while in a variety of forms and uses, notes Ira Meister, president and CEO, Matthew Adam Properties, Inc.   It has gained increased interest in the past decade with the expansion of efforts to reduce global warming, enactment of stricter government regulations and the desire to control skyrocketing energy costs in larger buildings.

Matthew Adam Properties, a leader in bringing “Green” initiatives to the properties the company manage, has instituted a program to evaluate the installation of co-generation in several buildings, Meister says. It has been working with Tecogen, a leader in the field of co-generation.  The company is currently performing financial feasibility studies at several buildings. Initial findings indicate Tecogen’s natural gas system can reduce carbon emissions and costs.

“While still in the preliminary stage, the study indicates we can reduce a building’s electric bill by 50 percent, in addition to savings in heating water,” Meister says.

The Tecogen system (called CHP, “combine heat and power”) generates electricity using a natural gas-fueled engine, which immediately reduces electrical consumption.  Natural gas is cleaner and more efficient than oil and a less costly energy than oil or steam.

In co-generation, the “waste” heat produced by the natural gas-fueled engine is recovered and replaces fuel used to operate the water heaters and boilers.  The “waste” heat can be used in conjunction with an absorption chiller to convert the heat into cooling and relieves the chillers (typically electric powered) of providing much of the site’s air conditioning.

“When Tecogen completes its study, we will have a better understanding of the benefits of installing co-generation and help us determine which buildings would benefit,” Meister says. “We, at Matthew Adam Properties, believe that co-generation can help us resolve several issues we confront as managing agents – improving services, reducing costs and adapting ‘Green’ initiatives.”

Meister says the co-generation program is part of Matthew Adam’s overall program to use innovative thinking and a professional approach to provide quality management for the buildings in our portfolio.   The “Green” efforts are spearheaded by our Sustainability Division headed by Kendra Stensven.  Kendra is LEED certified, making Matthew Adam Properties one of the few, if not the only, management company with a LEED certified person heading a “Green” division