The first installment of this transformation story can be found here.
Aside from the hard-dollar utility bill savings, this overhaul delivered other benefits to residents as well as uncovered some interesting history.
In 21, the building at 3883 Turtle Creek, units on one side froze in winter while the other side baked in the summer. Some residents had gone so far as to install auxiliary HVAC units on their patios. After the upgrade, owners happily removed those units.
They told me another part of the issue was that back in the 1960s, HVAC building codes only called for air-conditioning to lower indoor temperatures by 20 degrees. On 105 degree days, 85 degrees was A-OK. Codes have changed and that just doesn’t fly today. Sitting in front of an open refrigerator, TV propped in on the vegetable bin, is no way to live.
In addition to the new efficient glass, air leaks were virtually eliminated. Fifty five-year-old window gaskets had reached the end of their useful life years earlier, and so with hatches battened down, there was still a hot or frigid breeze running through residents’ homes.
The result has been condos that can be kept at very comfortable temperatures regardless of their exposure. When you set the thermostat at 75, it’s really 75 now.
Homes are also cleaner. You see all those breezes brought in dust.
Double pane windows also eliminated condensation built-up that happens on single pane windows (like the sweat on glass of ice tea in the summer).
The glass has enabled the HVAC system to be shockingly efficient. The AC consists of a pair of chillers that ran 24/7 from around March and into November. Today, they use a single chiller except during the hottest three months of the summer … that’s more than a 60 percent reduction in double chiller usage.
I Can Hear Clearly Now
One of the more surprising secondary benefits was the dramatic reduction of outside noise. Being in the Love Field corridor, suddenly all was quiet … and just in time for the death of the Wright amendment.
Also part of their exterior projects was the painting and repair of concrete spalling. Spalling is what happens when water penetrates concrete and rusts the steel rebar. The rust causes the steel to expand which in turn pops “divots” out of the concrete. Think of them as vertical potholes.
Repair consists of chiseling out the affected areas until you reach clean steel. The rusted steel is removed and replaced and recovered in concrete. It’s very, very noisy. Air chiseling concrete sets up sounds that reverberate throughout the building. Work being done on the ground level was heard in the penthouse.
It’s only after this painstaking work that the multiple layers of protective paint could be applied.
It’s a gas, gas, gas
When all this exterior work was being done they noticed the top few floors were inexplicably stained. They power washed the affected areas but the stain quickly returned. Their contractor told them to smell the building. Kerosene. WTF? Back in the day airplanes approaching Love Field were allowed to dump fuel to lighten their loads. They also had first-generation jet engines that were very inefficient sending incredibly dirty (heavy) exhaust into the air. In short, the area was rained upon. The building had the area thoroughly cleaned and sealed. Problem solved for 21, but the tea-staining can still be seen on some older, lighter-colored high-rises on Turtle Creek. There’s some history we don’t want repeated!
Peace and Prosperity
Residents are over the moon with the improvements. HOA meetings that had been described as “pay-per-view worthy” have settled down. It’s not a difficult equation. Owners enjoying a quiet, temperature-controlled home don’t have the need to complain about the heat. As a result, fewer people attend meetings now because there’s little to gripe about.
In the dollars and sense category, owners should be happy. Even unrenovated units generally top $200 per-square-foot while renovated homes can sell above $230. So far in 2016, five units have sold with an average price of $213.66 per-square-foot. Compare that with 2010 when the average price was $74.47.
Granted the market has lifted all boats, but a 286 percent increase shows a very good return for the work done.
Cable TV / Internet
Not part of these projects, we spoke about internet access in the building. With its younger population, internet penetration at 21 is 93 percent. This adds weight to my observations on age. In my building, with its vastly older population, less than 60 percent utilize the internet.
Like many high-rises, 21 is being courted by AT&T, who’s been required to do some penance as part of their DirectTV merger. The building is negotiating with AT&T to rewire their building with ultra-fast fiber optic to run in tandem with Time-Warner Cable. The building is evaluating whether it’s feasible to bulk buy internet services as they do cable TV.
Washers and Dryers?
Nearing the end, when we were all more comfortable, I asked THE question. “What about in-unit washers and dryers?” Because, you know … they’re not allowed … and I’ve given the building stick about that in the past. Turns out they’ve looked at the issue six ways from Sunday, and it may be a Dallas problem more than a 21 problem. The building simply wasn’t built with the drains and dryer ventilation required.
However there is a vast difference between a hugely water-hungry 50-gallon/load top-load model still available today and an ultra-efficient, smaller-capacity front loader. For example, today’s Miele washing machines consume 0.8 gallons of water per pound of laundry, a 55 percent decrease in water consumption just since 1990. Bosch washers, exceeding Energy Star 2015 guidelines, use less than 13 gallons per load. That’s less than the average shower, which I’m sure are more clustered at the same time (mornings) than people’s clothes washing schedules.
Dryers have their own issues. There is no central exhaust, so dryers would require ventless dryers or in-home ventilation. Another wrinkle is that with no 220v power available, dryers will take longer to dry a load.
The building took their case to the building department and were rejected. Some engineers hinted that it was the City of Dallas who was behind the times on understanding new technology, not the math provided by 21.
So they wait.
Similarly-aged sister-buildings should take note of 21’s successes. There are definitely things to be learned and not just about money savings. Sometimes the gains are beyond the money. This building has made their homeowners happy – happy they went through the cost and inconvenience because the outcome has been glorious.
They spoke about the very long-range reserve plan they paid an expert to develop with near reverence. It has put them on an unavoidable path of continual renewal and rejuvenation of building assets and infrastructure. One board member said that in 20 years, owners will look back at this planning with admiration.
Finally, when I asked the HOA members what was next for 21, they said they were now concentrating on exterior beautification and landscaping. The heavy lifting is done.
Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! firstname.lastname@example.org