3 Challenges of Rehabilitating Aging Housing Units

Posted on February 28, 2019 by Karin • Filed under: , ,

Building renovations are complex processes requiring many teams, lots of moving pieces, a great deal of careful thought, and a detailed plan. This is especially true when it comes to housing. However, these projects can be very worthwhile for property owners and residents.

Renovation expertise will be increasingly in demand in the decades ahead. According to the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects, approximately 75 percent of public buildings in use today will be in need of renovation by 2030. Consequently, a growing number of municipalities will be faced with decisions about when and how to rehab their aging structures.

Once the choice has been made, moving forward with a renovation typically involves:

  • Performing a careful needs assessment of the building and grounds, and prioritizing these needs
  • Budgeting and finding the funding sources for various aspects of the project
  • Choosing a design and construction team to draw up, coordinate, and carry out the renovation

Much-Needed Renovations in Collaboration with a Housing Authority

We have been working with the Housing Authority of New Haven on an initiative to renovate senior housing. The first group of three building complexes, recently complete, was in need of upgrades such as enhancing the insulation of ceilings and walls, and replacing and insulating air conditioning units. The apartments also needed new kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, energy-efficient fixtures, flooring, and paint.

Adding to the challenge of ensuring that all this work is done properly has been the need to determine the right cadence for the upgrades. There are residents living in these units, and it is critical to ensure that they are displaced for as little time as possible.

Construction will start on a second group of buildings later this year. These are larger structures, and in addition to interior renovations, other types of work will have to be performed. This will include upgrades to elevators, switchgear, and other mechanical systems, replacement of roofing and windows, and the installation of additional insulation.

LEARN MORE: View the project in our portfolio

Common Challenges in Older-Building Renovations

Renovations involving older residential buildings involve a number of challenges that must tackled. They include:

  • Developing a thorough Needs Assessment document. This detailed review of the building covers architectural, structural, MEP/FP, and site aspects. It also has to factor in potential environmental issues such as the presence of asbestos, lead, PCBs, etc. Failing to identify potential pitfalls can result in project delays, cost overruns, and other issues.
  • Planning for all aspects of “Substantial Renovations.” Lighter renovations can be simpler in terms of prioritizing tasks. What the Existing Building Code defines as “Substantial Renovations” however, require upgrades that can be significant when working with a building that is over 30 years old. Often this involves structural and mechanical upgrades, energy efficiency improvements, egress and ADA-related upgrades, etc.
  • Minimizing temporary lodging costs. In addition to wanting to minimize the inconvenience to residents, it is important to keep their displacement as brief as possible for financial reasons. The costs associated with housing them can quickly add up, so carefully phasing of work is essential.

A True Team Effort

The work we’re performing and managing for the Housing Authority of New Haven is the definition of a “team effort.” First, it involves the contributions of our group, including architects, structural engineers, mechanical/electrical/plumbing and fire protection engineers, civil engineers and surveyors.

Beyond our team, we are collaborating with the owner’s consultants, such as a “needs assessment” architect, funding partners, attorneys, and an in-house logistics team. Plus, we are working closely with the construction manager to fine-tune the budget and scope of work to ensure the project comes in on time and on budget.

These kinds of projects are definitely a juggling act, but we truly enjoy them. And this particular initiative is especially gratifying, as the end result will be upgraded, comfortable homes for deserving seniors.

If you have questions about this project, other projects profiled on our website, or our architecture and design services in general, please contact us at your convenience.