by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP

One of the biggest risks when buying a building is unforeseen problems with the property. Of those unforeseen issues, the Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems represent a significant risk. Power outages, cold/hot work spaces, and leaking pipes are just a few of the issues that you may experience with existing MEP systems, and the replacement costs can be high ($30-$80 per square foot depending on systems).

A due diligence study is a necessary part of any business venture or investment. Estimating the return on the money spent is critical to determining the viability of the investment. When a building is involved there are added questions that need to be answered in the due diligence effort:

  • Are there any existing encumbrances on the property or deed restrictions that limit use of the property?
  • Are there easements that must be maintained?
  • Are there any hazards on the property that must be remediated?
  • What is the existing zoning for the property and the building use?
  • Is the building code compliant?
  • Will anything need to be brought up to current code as a result of a change in use or renovation plans?
  • Are there existing problems in the building that need to be fixed?
  • Is there any underperforming equipment that needs to be fixed or replaced?
  • Are there any life safety issues that need to be corrected before occupying the space?

The answers to these questions can result in significant costs. Therefore, it is important to understand the total investment required to purchase a building and to convert it for the desired intent. If you purchase a property and then find out it will cost another million dollars to adapt it, you may not see a return on the investment

Completing a property condition assessment can help you understand the existing building, the codes it was built to pass, items that don’t meet current code that may need to be updated, as well as the viability of envelope, structure, and MEP systems.

A property condition assessment starts with a discussion. It helps the assessment team gain an understanding of the existing building and its current use, the new use, known issues, and any details of the purchase agreement. Having this big picture discussion helps the team focus on the important items during the assessment.

A site walkthrough is necessary to review the building and system installation. Existing plans of the MEP systems are very helpful during this phase, but not required. The whole building will be reviewed, and each system will be evaluated. System types will be documented; service sizes, equipment capacities, and fixture types will be listed; general observations will be noted; age and condition will be checked; and any visible deficiencies will be cited. We’ll also report any apparent code violations and life safety issues.

During the site survey, it is useful to have someone who is familiar with the building, its history and any known issues. They can lead the walkthrough and aid in capturing any relevant problems or repairs that should be included in the report.

All of the information gathered during the initial discussion, site walk through, and maintenance history will be compiled into a report. Organized by system type, the report will include a system summary, installation characteristics, any specific issues, and a cost for replacement/repair (if needed). Photos will also be included to help identify the various systems and areas of concern.

The report is a useful tool to identify potential problems and estimated replacement/repair costs. These costs aid in the proforma costs analysis used to evaluate the venture and can help the buyer negotiate purchase price. Having all the data available to make an informed decision on purchasing a building is the best way to ensure the success of the opportunity.

February 5, 2019

Do you need a property condition assessment?

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP One of the biggest risks when buying a building is unforeseen problems with the property. Of those unforeseen issues, the Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems represent a significant risk. Power outages, cold/hot work spaces, and leaking pipes are just a few of the […]
January 16, 2019

How much energy should your building use?

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP How much energy should your building use? Is its usage comparable to similar buildings? How can you reduce it? These are relative questions and sometimes hard to quantify and assess, especially if you only own or occupy one building. However, the answers could identify […]
January 10, 2019

What’s the right HVAC system for your building?

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP Choosing the right HVAC system for your building may not be an easy task, complicated by the fact that there is no “right” answer. There are many types of HVAC systems and all have unique attributes. It is important to consider the application, use […]
December 13, 2018

Standing Out as a Professional

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP In an engineering firm, professionalism is key to earning the trust of clients. Professional engineers are hired because of a distinct skillset earned through years of education and experience. Professional engineering firms provide skills and consulting services, and clients trust them for advice and […]
December 13, 2018

Planning for MEP System Capital and Operating Expenses

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP Understanding the costs of conducting business is critical to the profitability of that business. One aspect that is often overlooked is the maintenance and replacement of Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) systems. These systems are easy to overlook because the expenses to maintain them […]
October 2, 2018

Why Hire an Engineer?

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP Why hire an engineer? Are they necessary? The answer is, not so simple at times. Law stipulates that a professional must design certain projects — healthcare facilities, high-hazard buildings and buildings that have an occupancy of more than 100 people, to name a few. […]
August 22, 2018

Western Kentucky University

For nearly two decades, Kerr-Greulich Engineers, Inc. (KGEI) has collaborated with Western Kentucky University’s (WKU) Planning, Design and Construction department. WKU continues to progress on their $500 million campus renovation plan addressing the continued growth of the university. KGEI is proud to be a part of a large number of […]
August 16, 2018

The Importance of Building Envelope Testing

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP Energy codes have advanced to the point where small breaches in envelope integrity can lead to claims of HVAC size insufficiency. Each version of energy codes reduces building energy use below the level of its predecessor. This has been accomplished through improved building envelopes, […]
August 16, 2018

Old Forester Distillery – The Importance of Collaboration

by Ben Gries, PE, LEED AP The recently completed Old Forester Distillery is a testament to the need for collaboration throughout the design and construction process. This project combines historical construction, customer experience, sophisticated industrial processes, sustainable design and high hazard materials into one aesthetic package. There may not be […]
May 17, 2018

A Q&A with Ben Gries, President, Kerr-Greulich Engineers, Inc.

Ben Gries took over the reins at Kerr-Greulich as President in January of 2017. With a year under his belt leading the now 35-year old company, Ben took a little time away from his busy schedule to answer some questions about the industry and his mentor and colleague, Don Greulich. […]
May 2, 2018

Design Summary Data and what it means to building owners and occupants

by Christine Keltner As engineers, we must make assumptions and estimations as part of the design process. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to explain or discuss our assumptions with the people who are most affected by them. ASHRAE has laid out a few guidelines to help us keep similar assumptions […]
February 15, 2018

Egress Model Video

Fire Protection Engineers use egress models to simulate occupants exiting a building during emergencies. The results are analyzed to determine the time required to evacuate buildings. This software allows engineers to evaluate building evacuation strategies and provides animated 3D results.