Forensics: Understanding the Building Investigation Process

April 7, 2023

As a leading architecture and engineering firm, Howard L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers D.P.C. offers a range of forensic services to help residential condo and coop boards assess the condition of their buildings. But what exactly is a forensic investigation, and why might you need one?

At its core, a forensic investigation is a comprehensive review of a building’s design, construction, and systems to determine if they meet code and industry standards. This involves a rigorous process of document review, site inspection, and data analysis that can uncover hidden issues or discrepancies between what was promised by the developer and what was delivered.

So, why might a condo or coop board hire a forensic expert like Howard L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers D.P.C.? There are several common reasons, including:

  • Residents have noticed problems or defects in the building that suggest a deeper issue.
  • The board has been advised by a property manager, attorney, or other professional to commission a forensic report.
  • The building is relatively new or recently converted, and the board wants to ensure that everything is up to standard.

Whatever the reason, a forensic investigation typically involves the following steps:

Step 1: Document review process

The first step in any forensic investigation is to review the relevant documents, including the original offering plan and any amendments or updates. This allows the forensic expert to compare the promised features and specifications with the actual building. Architectural and mechanical drawings are also reviewed for discrepancies that may indicate construction defects or non-compliance with codes and regulations.

Step 2: Review of building & common areas

Once the documents have been reviewed, the forensic expert will conduct a thorough inspection of the building and its common areas, such as the roof, mechanical and electrical spaces, and amenity areas. This is done to verify that the building is up to code and constructed according to the design specifications.

Step 3: Residential survey

In addition to inspecting the building itself, the forensic expert may also conduct a survey of residents to gather information about any issues they have noticed in their individual units. This can include questions about heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and other building systems. The responses are then filtered and analyzed to identify any common issues or trends.

Step 4: Generate report

Finally, the forensic expert will generate a detailed report documenting any discrepancies or issues found during the investigation. This report is typically shared with the condo or coop board, as well as the developer and their attorney and experts. The parties may then enter into settlement meetings to address any issues that have been identified.

In summary, a forensic investigation is a critical tool for condo and coop boards to ensure that their buildings are safe, up to code, and constructed to the promised specifications. If you are concerned about the condition of your building, consider hiring a forensic expert like Howard L. Zimmerman Architects & Engineers D.P.C. to conduct a thorough investigation.

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