Existing condos: rising to modern standards
CondoBusiness | November 23, 2022
Duncan Rowe, BASc, MEng, P.ENG., LEED® AP, BECxP, CPHD | Principal
Owners of existing condos are in a unique and challenging position as we progress toward 2030. New regulations from multiple levels of government are forcing condominium boards and property management companies to consider more than just a simple cost-benefit calculation when examining repair and retrofit options.
Many condos are getting older and facing decisions about upgrading major components, such as parking garages, windows, walls, and roofs. These components do not generally have quick paybacks, are considerable capital expenses, and can take multiple years to deliver.
In particular, many boards and property managers are looking to plan, prioritize, and combine larger retrofit projects efficiently in response to the realities of higher energy prices and an increased focus on making existing buildings lower carbon and more resilient. It is ironic that some older existing condos, even before a retrofit, may have a higher climate resilience than some newer all-glass towers.
All of the above is starting to force the existing building industry to undertake more extensive and holistic building retrofit projects. In addition to being costly, these projects are technically complex and require a clear understanding of the purpose of the work. With more industry attention on the above, there are a few approaches to note that are working well and that boards and management companies should consider when examining possible building retrofits.
What is the end goal?
The most critical part of undertaking a large retrofit project is knowing the “why.” Boards and managers should write down what they want the project to achieve. Many condos want energy efficiency, but are they also looking to get closer to a net-zero carbon building? Does the building want to be more climate resilient? Or is the intent to make it less drafty to improve the comfort of the owners in their suites? All of these can be accommodated in a larger retrofit project; however, the end goal has to be clearly defined so that the board and managers can use this to determine if any changes or options that inevitably arise during design will serve to get the building closer to that goal.