Getting the Job Done

Impact On You and Your Unit

Updated 8/20/18

Brooks Tower, Our Problem

​​Brooks Tower Residences

Riser Project Frequently Answered Questions

Q & A Session with the Bergeman Group

What Is The Riser Project?

It’s a project to remove and replace virtually every section of HVAC, Domestic Water and Sewage piping in the building.  Most of these pipes are behind the walls within most of the 566 units.  

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Why Is Pipe Replacement Necessary?

Brooks Tower is more than 50 years old. Most pipes and plumbing fixtures are at the end of their useful life, while the others are nearing that point. We are unable to just repair-as-we go anymore.  With each passing year, the risk of what engineers call a 'catastrophic event' becomes more likely.  It’s nearly impossible to predict where leaks or ruptures will occur because pipes are often behind sealed walls and difficult to inspect. 

 
Why Is This Happening At Brooks Tower?

High rise residential buildings like Brooks Tower carry thousands of gallons of both hot and cold water every day, and nearly as much waste water, garbage and chemicals that accelerate the damage done to pipes. In 2014, we hired eCUBE to assess our pipes and their report determined that most of our pipes were at, or close to, their life expectancy. 

 
Who Are The Contractors That Are Working With Us On The Project (so far)?

Bergeman Group has been hired as our HOA Rep/Construction Management firm, MKK is our engineering firm and BTG is our Environmental Firm.  The main contractor has not been hired yet.

 

Who Is The Bergeman Group, what Is It’s Role, And What Qualifications Does It Have?  Why Can’t We Deal Directly With The Contractors and Save Some Money?     

Bergeman Group specialty is as an Owners’ Rep/Construction Management firm for HOA's going through major projects like ours.  With a project of this size, we need a consulting firm to identify qualified contractors to do the work. Then, once the bids are submitted, our HOA Rep/Construction Management firm will pay close attention to every detail from actual construction and scheduling to quality assurance, invoicing and finance. All of this gives us a far greater assurance the work will be done properly, and on time with no corners cut. The Bergeman Group is one of a handful of firms with both the skills and experience to accomplish this and its track record is impeccable.

 
If Pipes Already Have Been Replaced In Our Unit, Will They Need To Be Replaced During This Project?

Yes.  Some pipes on Floors 4-6 have been replaced in the past ten years.  Others may have already had them replaced or repaired as well.  However, no contractor will warranty work done by other contractors, so all pipe will need to be replaced.  

 

What Warranties Can We Expect from Our Contractor?

Warranties vary depending the on contractor.  Typically, we can expect 1-5 years warranty.  However, we can require any number of years for parts and labor in our Request for Proposal.  The cost will increase depending on the amount additional time we request.  

 

Will I Need To Move Out For Work To Proceed? 

The goal is to get all work done from 8am to 5pm on weekdays, during which time you may need to leave your unit. When you return, you may not have access to your kitchen or a bathroom for a few days.  In some cases, where the work is difficult to accomplish, re-location for a few days by residents in some units may be necessary. The best estimate for the amount of time needed for the work to be completed in each unit is eight to ten days. Again for most residents we anticipate no need for overnight or multi-day absence from your unit. This provision is a part of the Request for Bids Bergeman Group has sent to potential contractors. 

 
Will Homeowners Be Required To Vacate Their Unit For Extended Periods Of Time?

The original proposal projected 70 days plus/minus for relocation.  As we looked at the technology needed to get the job done, that has changed. 

 
Who Will Pay The Cost Of A Hotel, Parking And Meals While I Am Out Of My Unit?

If vacating is required, this will most likely be at the homeowners’ expense rather than the project expense but is dependent on the details of the contract. We are prepared to explore options to make such short term accommodations affordable as well as convenient.

 
How Much of a Problem Will Asbestos Be?

Our hired Environmental firm (BTG) has tested 50 units and determined that there is asbestos in the drywall and on the pipes behind the walls that needs to be removed. During the work, the contractors environmental hygienist will test air quality to assess asbestos levels before residents return to their units, ensuring state and local health department standards are met. 

 

How Much Will The Work Affect My Paint, Cabinets, and Other Fixtures?

We are currently discussing what options are in the best interest of the homeowners.   This decision will be made prior to going out for bid to potential contactors.  We will update this answer as soon as the decision has been made. Very soon we expect to post pictures of what this “putback” or restoration will look like on the Brooks Tower website.

 

How Will You Determine What Units Will Have Work Performed When There Is An Option Between Two Connecting Units?

The Contractor with guidance from our HOA Rep (Bergeman Group) will select the option that is most cost effective.  For example; the F unit kitchen is backed up against the E unit front hall closet.  In this case, most often, the E unit front hall closet will be selected.

 

How Long Will The Project Take?

We anticipate it will take 2-1/2 to 3 years. The contractor that wins the bid will create a timeline and we will provide it once it is available.  

 

How Will Access to My Unit Be Controlled While the Work Is Done? I Am Worried That Possessions Will Not Be Protected.

The contractor carries insurance and workers are bonded.  The Management Office will monitor access to units and control issuing keys. It might be a good practice to take photographs and maintain a list of your possessions in the rare case that a claim needs to be filed.

 

Do I Need to Add Insurance On My Unit and My Valuables?

As previously stated, we expect to address your security concerns.  Though we will do everything possible to assure your unit and valuables will be safe and secure, we highly recommend that every homeowner has Homeowner's Insurance and every renter has Renter's Insurance.  This is recommended at all times, not just during construction.

 
What Do I Need To Do With My Pets When Work Is Being Done In My Unit?

We understand that your pets are part of your family and you’re highly concerned with their welfare.  We are exploring options for the safe handling of your animals in the event that they must vacate your unit while it is under construction.

 


Will There Be An Impact To Usage of Elevators During The Project?

Yes.  Use of the all the elevators is likely to be affected once construction begins.  The Freight Elevator will be occupied nearly every working day during construction hours (generally 8am – 5pm).  We also recognize that residents will have needs for an elevator capable of heavier or bulkier loads, such as furniture, appliances, or for move-ins or move-outs.  Once we know what the needs of the contractor and subs are, we will likely be looking for help in supervising and dispatching the freight elevator to get maximum use throughout the day, to keep anyone from tying it up when that’s not necessary.  The other elevators may also be pressed into use.  Much as we’d like to predict operations will go smoothly during the duration, it’s reasonable to expect some disruptions and inconveniences.  Please be patient as we try to get maximum usage out of all elevators. 

 
When Will We Vote On Proceeding With The Project? 

The homeowners will vote on the project once the HOA board selects the most attractive quote.  The plan is to vote this summer. 

 

Do I Have To Participate In The Riser Project If It Is Approved?

Yes.  We are all part of the Brooks Tower HOA and are required to participate.  Participation is based on your percentage ownership.  You can ask the Management Office what your percentage ownership is, if you don't know it.  Additionally, approval for the project comes from the owners.  The HOA Board will recommend a contractor to all owners, but owners will have the final say on whether to proceed.  It’s true that a limited number of units will not need work done.  But those residents living in select loft units on the second floor will also benefit from the work and reduced risk of water or sewage damage.  Also, our by-laws require financial participation from everyone.

 

How Does This Voting Process Take Place?

At present, we’re looking at a two week window for mail-in ballots. Prior to the voting period, we will schedule meetings to acquaint all owners with the construction process, the cost, the duration of the work and other details. These meetings could take place in the evening, during the day and on a weekend for maximum participation by Owners. Once the voting period begins, we want to hold another informational session to address any last minute concerns or questions owners may have.

 

What Will Be Needed To Approve The Project?

The short answer is that once the Board recommends a contractor and we have a firm price with financing in place, your vote will be to accept or reject that recommendation. Our by-laws say the project will go forward unless 50% plus one owner vote “No.” Owners who do not participate in the voting are not counted as “No” votes. But they are not counted either as “Yes” votes. So in theory a small number of owners could decide the outcome. But there’s another factor to consider. Some of the lending institutions that have expressed interest in financing the project have stated that they’re looking at significant owner support. The numbers they’ve provided are in the 67 to 75% range for a “Yes” vote. 


Do I Have To Participate In The Riser Project If It Is Approved?

Yes.  We are all part of the Brooks Tower HOA and are required to participate.  Participation is based on your percentage ownership.  You can ask the Management Office what your percentage ownership is, if you don't know it.  Additionally, approval for the project comes from the owners.  The HOA Board will recommend a contractor to all owners, but owners will have the final say on whether to proceed.  It’s true that a limited number of units will not need work done.  But those residents living in select loft units on the second floor will also benefit from the work and reduced risk of water or sewage damage.  Also, our by-laws require financial participation from everyone.

 

What Will The Loan Rates Be And How Will The Assessment Be Paid?

We are currently looking into interest rates, but a rate cannot be finalized until we know the total price of the project. Typically, during construction we will only be required to pay the interest on the loan, and this amount will be assessed as part of your HOA dues.  After construction is completed, there may be an option to either pay your share in full or over the life of the loan for the next 10-20 years assessed in your HOA dues.  Once more details are available, they will be shared with all homeowners.

  
How Will Re-Piping Affect The Sale-Ability And Price Of My Unit?

Generally, once the construction of the project begins there is a positive impact to the reputation of the property which  increases sale-ability and market value of the units.

 

What Will The HOA Board Base Use To Make Its Decision On A Contractor? 

The HOA Board will base its decision on established Evaluation Criteria.  In part, it will consist of Cost, Timeline, Convenience to homeowners, and Experience of past projects similar to ours.

 
How long might one estimate that the initial bidding process may take and until construction would begin?

Bids are due on June 8.  Bergeman Group will immediately begin to review / analyze and provide a detailed comparison with recommendations to the Board by the end of June.  From that point, we would expect approx. 2 - 3 months for the residents to vote on the project, obtain funding, negotiate the contract and then begin construction.

Will each unit receive a notice of what walls need to be cut open?

Yes.  Bergeman Group, along with the contractor, will walk each unit approx. 30 days prior to starting work in your unit.  At that time, we will address the specific areas that we will be working on, as well as walls that will need to be opened to access piping.

What about personal belongings and valuables?

Each tenant will be responsible for moving furniture, accessories, artwork, etc. away from the work area(s).  Small valuables will need to be put away in drawers.  The contractor will cover, protect and seal-off areas where no work is taking place.  For the most part, Bedrooms and Closets will not be affected. 

How many contractors are bidding and who are they?

Bergeman Group started with 8 contractors from our national campaign to find qualified bidders for this project.  The nature of the work and size of the project ultimately reduced the list down to four Sagewater  (Alexandria, Virginia) BluSky Restoration  (Centennial, Colorado) Reconstruction Experts  (Arvada, Colorado) Re-pipe Specialists  (Burbank, California)

Will contractor bids be sealed and is there a line by line template for them to fill out per cost for each line-item (for apples to apples comparison)?

For the most part, bids will be sent to Bergeman Group via email, so they will not be sealed.  Bid information will not be shared amongst the bidders. Bergeman Group has prepared a bid form that each bidder will fill out.  It is broken down into the major components of the project as well as providing allowances, requesting pricing for alternates and unit prices.

What type of contract will be used for the project? Cost Type? Time / material incentive?

 This will be a fixed fee, lump sum contract.  Although there is not a time / material incentive planned at this time, the way we set-up the schedule of values (how the contractor will bill for completed work) will create an incentive for the contractor to stay on schedule and  complete as many units as possible each month.

Will the contractor start at the top or the bottom of the building?

The process to replace each riser will start at the top and work down.  

How long will the Laundry Room be unavailable?

The majority of the piping in the Laundry Room is already exposed.  Just like the living units, portions of the Laundry Room will be off-line during the day.  If possible, the contractor will install isolation valves and work on portions of the washing machines at a time.  As with the repair strategy for the rest of the building, this process will be discussed in detail once a contractor is selected.

Can we request a certain time-frame for work in our unit such as when we are on vacation?

Unfortunately, we will not be able to schedule the work in that manner.  We will be able to give approx. 30 days notice before we start work in your unit, so it would be possible to plan a vacation after you are given notice.

 
How will asbestos abatement take place?

Please see the Bergeman videos for a detailed explanation by Dana Bergeman of the process.


Will I be able to approve the put-back in my unit?

Yes.  The put back will not be considered complete until there is unit holder sign off.


Will consideration be taken as to the finishes in the unit in determining which unit to cut a hole in?

Yes.  Each unit will be surveyed as part of the planning process, and the least cost, and least intrusive option will be chosen.

 
What are the voting requirements to pass the riser project?

The HOA By Laws provide that the riser project can only be voted down by a 50% +1 vote no.  This does not include abstentions.

It should be noted, however, that we have a much higher bar to reach to obtain financing for the riser project.  Potential lenders want to see a positive 65-75% vote before they will consider lending the HOA the funds to proceed with the riser project.  They feel that this provides additional security for the repayment of the money they have lent.

 
What happens if the repairs of the pipes make it financially untenable for some of the homeowners?  Even with loan assistance.

 
It is every homeowner’s responsibility to provide for the maintenance and repair of their property, whether they live in a single family home or a condominium environment.  In a condominium environment, this responsibility is increased by the homeowner’s duty to the other homeowners in the building.  As a result, there is no opting out of the riser project, if it is voted in by the HOA.  We are all in this together.

 
That being said, the Board is sensitive to the impact of the project on the individual residents of the building.  Every effort is being made to minimize the cost of the project, while not sacrificing the quality of the repairs.  A start has already been made on making sure the HOA can meet its financial obligations with the 20% riser fund assessment currently in place.  In addition, the Board is searching diligently for viable financing for the project so that it will not be necessary for the residents to have a lump sum assessment for the project.

 
If an owner has a tenant renting, how will the lease be handled – who compensates if the tenant has to move out?

That is a contractual matter to be worked out between the tenant and the owner.​


General observations from Alton/the Board about how the process is going.

I am very thrilled/happy with the process that we have gone through with the project so far. The Bergeman Group is doing a great job of keeping me/us updated, running the project, tightening up the construction documents and helping with educating owners and the board as to what the process is going to entail during construction. We have a great group of contractors that are bidding the project and it should be very tight and competitive bids because of the strong competition. It is very exciting that we are receiving bids soon. 


If a vote takes place and the vote is a “no” to proceed is there an alternative plan to make lesser changes, with less cost and less disruption?  At that point, will there be a similar effort to explain the alternative option to a complete replacement, and the impact of these?

The Operations Committee and its 11 members did consider other options. With a broad base of experience in project management, construction, finance and architecture, Ops voted to recommend proceeding with work on all three systems simultaneously. In choosing this option, Ops members understood that the project as recommended to the Board would be more complex, more time consuming, and more expensive. Arguing in favor of this option, Ops members agreed that doing the work piece-meal would drag out removal and replacement over several more years, that there was no guaranty the system in the worst shape would be chosen first, or that another one of the three might have a catastrophic leak before its scheduled time for replacement and removal. Ultimately the cost to Owners could be substantially more.


There was another compelling argument in favoring work on all three at once and that was access. By working on one system at a time, the same invasive procedures might have to be repeated two or three times in each unit. Not only would that significantly add to the cost over the long haul, it would extend the time to get all three done by several years. Additionally, hiring separate contractors, a likely course of action, would successively void warranties provided by previous contractors. Both Ops and the Board found this unacceptable.


The Board agreed with the unified plan to tackle all three systems at the same time, and so far the support expressed by Owners is generally favorable to this approach.  

When the Bergeman Group recommends one or more general contractors, perhaps in late June Board will consider cost, contractor experience, track record in this work, and other factors.

It's fair to say this decision to be presented to Owners in public forums, will not be based exclusively on who can do the work for the lowest cost.  

As for the "Plan B" and "Plan C" options, we're prepared to address those in the event the proposed project is rejected.

Bear in mind that in order for that to happen, a majority of all ownership (and not just those participating in the vote) must vote "No."


The riser project will require cutting into the walls.  My unit is 100% asbestos free but also has custom stonework in both bath and kitchen.  Will the contractor be able to access the kitchen and bath walls by my neighbors if they do not have updated stonework? 


The contractor will do everything possible to reduce the impact of cutting into the walls. If it is cheaper to go through one unit than the other, that is what they will do. 


Regarding the 20% Riser Special Assessment, will that item disappear when we start paying for the actual project?


The 20% riser assessment was a one-year, one-time assessment. Unless it is renewed at the 2018 annual meeting, it will end with your December 2018 HOA payment. 


In deciding whether to finance, is it better to take the loan through HOA/Mutual of Omaha, or take a personal loan, or a second mortgage? 

Our attorney, David Firman has stated that if a loan was taken through the HOA/Mutual of Omaha, the loan obligation, which is to the HOA, remains with the unit such that the new owner would have to take it over.  However, he said it could also be a point of negotiation at the time of the sale.  For example, buyer and seller agree to each pay half of the remaining loan costs. 

In terms of loan decisions, taking the HOA loan would allow current owners to transfer the financial obligation for the -term use of the new pipes to a new owner.  However, with a personal loan/second mortgage, while it would not be transferable, the interest should be deductible for tax purposes. 

 

Thanks to Jack Ziegler for obtaining this clarification for the HOA.   

                  

We will make every effort to answer questions and to update this FAQ list. But some questions simply cannot be answered until we hire the Contractor this summer. Some of those questions are:


How Much Will This Project Cost?

How Will This Removal and Replacement of the Pipes Proceed? 

Will The Water Be Shut Off For The Whole Building All Day? 

 

If you have additional questions, please contact Nancy Brock at the Management Office via email at nbrock@brookstower.net or by phone at (303) 629-7200. And look for more updates as we move forward.