Reducing Renovation Costs

             While multi-family buildings are looking to keep costs down as much as possible in this economic environment, there are certain items that need to be addressed.  One of these is the physical upkeep of the property, says Ira Meister, president and CEO of Matthew Adam Properties.  An important area is the public spaces, which immediately give a visitor insight into the attention to detail in the management of the property and how the residents view their homes.

Appearance of public areas can affect property value

“In fact,” Meister says, “the appearance of the public areas has an impact on the value of the building and the price of units.  Spaces that show their age might give the prospective buyer an indication that the mechanical systems may lack proper maintenance, which could lead to higher maintenance/common charges or a special assessment.

“The hallways at 1175 York Avenue needed to be refurbished and we wanted to add ‘Green’ elements to reduce costs and make the environment healthier for residents and staff,” Meister says.

He notes that in today’s economy with construction and renovation projects less plentiful contractors are more competitive and buildings can obtain lower bids than prior to the recession of 2008.

“While this helps to reduce costs, there are other ways to do so, and we diligently pursue these,” Meister says.  “One way is through the purchase of materials.”

For 1175 York Avenue, the asset manager at Matthew Adam researched the cost of materials such as carpeting, wall coverings and lighting fixtures and then aggressively bargained with the vendors to get a better price.

“We reduced the designer’s budgeted cost of materials by $150,000,” Meister says.  “The diligence of Martin Traub, the asset manager, paid off for the co-op.”

“Green” initiatives have long-term savings

In addition to installing new carpeting and wall covering, Matthew Adam had energy-saving, compact florescent lighting installed.  While the initial cost is higher for the lighting, long-term there is savings in the cost of the bulbs and energy.  Other “Green” initiatives are found in the adhesives and surface coatings.

“At Matthew Adam Properties we are in the forefront of bringing “Green” materials to the properties we manage,” Meister said.  “In every project we are involved with we see how we can bring our “Green” initiative to bear.”

A Geothermal Well in Manhattan

Matthew Adam Properties is committed to promoting and implementing “Green” systems wherever possible in properties it manages. In fact, points out President and CEO Ira Meister, the firm has its own Sustainability Department headed by a LED certified professional.

One of the more unusual projects for the firm was the installation of a geothermal well in a small, multi-family co-op it manages on East 93rd Street.

“Many are surprised to hear that we were working with engineers to install a geothermal well in Manhattan, and while it is unusual, it is not the first,” Meister says.  “It is estimated there are about 100 geothermal projects in the five boroughs, mainly in institutional buildings, such as the Times Square TKTS Booth, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Queens Botanical Garden.”

In Manhattan, Meister points out, most building sites tend to be small, so the wells are vertical.  The building on East 93rd Street is in the Carnegie Hill section of Manhattan, which is higher than other areas, which facilitated the drilling.  The wells usually go to a depth of 1,500 feet. 

Use the Natural Energy of the Earth to Heat Your Buildings

Geothermal energy systems use the earth’s constant temperature to heat and cool buildings.  They are dug to the level where the earth maintains the water temperature at a constant level.  Actually, the systems are not wells, but a series of pipes.  Here is how it works.  In winter, the warm water is drawn from the earth through a series of pipes using the natural warmth of the water to deliver it to a heat pump inside the property, which transfers it to the air circulated though interior ductwork to heat the interior.

In summer, Meister says, the process is reversed and heat is extracted from the air inside the building and transferred into the earth.  The system also uses some of the heat generated to provide hot water.

Geothermal Systems are More Efficient Then Conventional Heating

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that geothermal systems are 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces, 48 percent more efficient that gas furnaces and 40 percent better than air source heat pumps.

The expense varies depending on the size of the property and the extent of the drilling, but it is estimated that costs are recovered in from two to eight years.  In addition to the energy savings, tax credits may be available as well as financial assistance from NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), which promotes the use of alternative energy technologies.

Other positive factors, Meister points out, are lower maintenance costs since the systems do not burn fossil fuels, which require cleaning and upkeep of the fuel and gas systems.  In addition, the pipes in the system are warranted for 50 years and the above ground equipment of 25 to 30 years, about twice the life expectancy of a furnace or other conventional systems.

A Lobby Designed by a Pre-Eminent Designer

Increasingly the value of apartments in New York is determined in part by what is known as “curb appeal” or the design and maintenance of the exterior of the building and the lobby.  Developers are spending more effort and money today to make the entrances as modern and edgy as possible to attract high-end buyers.

One of the luxury buildings Matthew Adam Properties manages was a forerunner of this type of thinking back in the 1960s, says Ira Meister, president and CEO of Matthew Adam Properties.

Raymond Loewy the Father of Industrial Design

“Plaza Tower, the luxury apartment building at 118 East 60th Street is noteworthy for several factors,” Meister says.  “The 232-unit, 34-story building is a midblock high-rise, just down the block from Bloomingdale’s with an attractive circular driveway and a fountain.  But, most noteworthy and unknown to many is designer of the lobby. It was Raymond Loewy, who is known as the ‘father of industrial design.’ In fact, this is the only residential lobby that Loewy designed.”

While Loewy may not be known to many, the average American comes across his designs almost daily.   Included are the slenderized Coca-Cola bottle, the logos for Shell Oil and Exxon, the interiors of Saturn I and V space capsules as well as Skylab.  He designed packages, cars, appliances, and numerous logos.

Modernize and Keep the Integrity of the Design

“Loewy called his design concept ‘beauty through function and simplification,’” Meister says, “and it is evident in the lobby of Plaza Tower.  When it was time to upgrade the lobby our challenge was to modernize it while respecting the integrity of Loewy’s design.”

Loewy’s open-air design included marble and terrazzo floors, a gold-leaf dome, and an ancient Buddha in a niche.

“We replaced the furnishings without taking away from the design element,” Meister said.

One notable change was in the lighting.  Consistent with the “Green” initiatives in Matthew Adam properties, energy efficient lighting was added that both improved the look of the space, made the lighting more dramatic and reduced energy costs.

“We are proud to have worked with the designer and contractor on this project and were able to respect the integrity of the design done by a pioneer in industrial and consumer design,” Meister said.