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The Blue Print – April 2021

posted by MC

Letter from the President

April showers bring…water infiltration woes.  This is the time of year to focus on preventative maintenance that can minimize the potential for water infiltration.  There is a grim reality to the value of cost avoidance that proactive maintenance measures provide compared to the high cost and resident dissatisfaction with repair work.

J. Hershey Building Consultants is proud of our success in helping many management companies identify the root cause of water infiltration issues.  We also proactively include issue identification in our reserve studies and property assessments.  We showcase our superior construction and maintenance understanding in our reporting, hence our “autographed with excellence” slogan. 

As always, for all your consulting, design, construction and community association needs please do not hesitate to contact me at 844-543-7743 or 



John Hershey, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, RS, CAI Educated Business Partner
“My satisfaction comes from solving complex issues and being the “go to” professional for our Clients’ needs.”

Water Infiltration/Forensic Property Evaluation

The pictures below are good examples of why advanced construction understanding and a thorough approach to any site visit is a hallmark of J. Hershey Building Consultants and a benefit to our clients.

Water has to flow across a structure, within a structure, and around a structure.  The type of brick cladding below is very commonly used.  There is an air space between the brick and the wall structure which allows water when it gets in (via cracks, mortar, etc) to flow down and exit via weep holes.  In the examples below the water would have moved down to the overhead garage door (left) and the window (right), hit the flashing and wicked out between the lip of the flashing and the brick.  Water that found an entrance would have also found an exit. However, in these examples the space between the lip of the flashing and the brick was caulked closed.  A common mistake, but one that will trap water in between the brick and the interior wall, leaving the water to find another way out and likely leading to interior wall damage.

Another example is shown below to highlight the need to pay attention not only to the path of water, but to the rate of movement.  The garage roof below is likely ponding because there is debris blocking the drain system. Note the tree overhanging the garage, which is an attractive feature, but does mean the roof drain will require more frequent cleaning to ensure water can drain easily.  Excessive ponding shortens the useful life of any roof.

Below are examples where we have proactively flagged poor ground waterflow.  In the left picture the swale is still intact, collecting water between the houses so it moves away from foundations in that area.  However, the garden feature prevents water from flowing out toward front yards.  The second picture shows the absence of a swale, and a sideways slope down toward the foundation.

J. Hershey Building Consultants has helped many clients understand their water infiltration issues.   We can observe these situations as part of a full Reserve Study or as a separate inspection.   Our site visits are followed up by a written report detailing our findings and recommendations for repair.

Reserve & Transition Studies

J. Hershey Building Consultants fully understands the importance of water movement and ground maintenance to presenting an attractive property which stabilizes and even builds property values.  Our reserve studies routinely include a thorough inspection of the grounds and exterior beyond residential structures.  Many properties now include a retention pond to offset loss of ground to absorb water as a result of building.  The perimeter of the retention pond below is not adequately edged to prevent erosion.  Over time sediment build up in the pond will require costly dredging.  If the shoreline is finished with a stone riprap,  the pond will be more attractive and erosion will be prevented, maintaining property value and reducing risk of future costs.

Continuing our examples related to water movement through property, below are examples of storm drain placement.  Inspections to ensure water flows well through the property is essential to avoid standing water issues.  These storm drains are from left to right; positioned too low, too close to a mulched landscaped bed, and in concrete without adequate control joints. These conditions which will require extra maintenance can easily be avoided.  J. Hershey Building Consultants regularly flag opportunities to reduce or avoid maintenance issues in addition to identifying maintenance to plan funds toward.

Below are examples of asphalt in need of attention. Pavement settlement and heaving are issues which contribute to safety and liability concerns.  We often assist communities with the engineering documents for pavement repairs which need to consider the resident experience during maintenance, safety, and potential phasing of repair in keeping with the reserve budget.

Contact us today at 844-543-7743 or simply fill out our online Reserve/Transition Study Request Form. With budget season right around the corner, now is the time to complete your Reserve or Transition Study so you have an accurate and detailed funding plan.  We perform Reserve and Transition Studies on all sizes of community associations from single family HOAs to high rise condominiums and every residential building type in between!

Fortunately, there were no serious injuries when cars drove into these buildings.  The accidents did present unique structural considerations vs the more usual renovation project.  J. Hershey Architecture can provide timely analyses and structural designs for the necessary repairs and permitting for your restaurant, home, or townhome.

While we certainly hope these situations remain rare, we offer the expertise and understanding to help clients with atypical structural issues. 


The Blue Print – August 2023

posted by MC

The weather extremes have made for an “interesting” summer, haven’t they? Any weather should remind us to be proactive with our properties. For properties that have been experiencing high heat and drought let’s keep an eye on our foundations and balcony supports. Uneven settlement can happen when the ground dries out and cracks. For properties experiencing heavy rain let’s check and be sure those flat roofs aren’t holding puddles and that the property site is successfully draining. Those challenged with smoke from wildfires should be aware that when windows have to stay closed, AC stays on so let’s make sure AC unit condensation is not creating issues. Like the old saying about the mail deliverer, neither smoke, nor heat, nor rain can stop us from diligently maintaining properties!

Transition Studies Pay for Themselves

J. Hershey Building Consultants regularly conducts transition studies which help negotiate fair expectations for developer completion. A recent transition study found multiple areas of failed or missing landscaping which impact the overall appeal of the property and can add up to significant costs.

Pictures below show examples of trees and shrubs found to be dead, unhealthy, or not adequately supported. With over 1000 planted trees, replacement can be costly.

A transition study highlights those last items to be addressed by a contractor and saves the Association from spending unnecessary dollars.

Preventing Balcony Failure

J. Hershey Building Consultants completed a balcony evaluation for an Association concerned about the state of their balconies. Findings from the study pointed to cost efficiency by fully replacing balconies and stairs instead of doing repairs in pieces which would ultimately have cost more. Below left pic shows the balcony and stair design for over 25 homes. Below right shows one of the balcony floors, clearly weatherworn with a bowed front rail and warped deck boards.

Above left picture shows a split and warped step, which is a safety concern. Above right shows multiple split rails which lead to unstable handrails, also a safety concern. Ultimately a majority of components would need replaced such that we recommended full replacement, which would also allow for improving some of the construction details.

Reserve Studies Should Include Bodies of Water

J. Hershey Building Consultants conduct reserve studies on all types of properties and encourage any reserve study to include a review of all bodies of water on the property. Importantly, if a property has water accessible to residents the Association and management company should speak with legal counsel to understand life safety issues any liability to the Association.

Our review of the property below identified sand and sediment along the shorelines, which could ultimately flow into and impact the storage capacity (important for detention and retention ponds) of any body of water.

Sandy beaches on a property often lead to frequent dredging. For homes immediately on lakes or retention ponds we recommend implementing standards for residents to limit the number of sandy beaches as well as lawn chemical treatments from flowing into the water.
Remember, reserve studies should have a 10 or 20 year view – reducing future maintenance is as important as identifying immediate needs.

What is wrong with the picture below?

Let’s continue to improve our ability to proactively maintain our properties!

Answer: Fire hydrants need to be fully accessible with at least a 3 foot clearance. Note this includes any snow accumulation! Click on the hydrant to go to the National Fire Protection Association to review relevant codes and save the link for future reference.
NFPA 1, Fire Code, 18.5.7 Clear Space Around Hydrants.

Rebuilding a Garage After a Fire

Thankfully, nobody was injured in this garage fire. J. Hershey Architecture is working with the Association and Property Management to update the original garage plans to provide permit and construction drawings. The bottom right picture shows the fully cleared space ready for new building to begin.

Our easy online Request For Proposal Forms can be accessed at the top right of the JHersheyGroup home page.


The Blue Print – December 2022

posted by MC

For many of us, this part of our calendar finds us planning out what we can or should tackle in the coming year.  These planning conversations are better if they are informed by a fairly recent reserve study. Otherwise, a board risks using an outdated needs list or even prioritizing pet projects, whether consciously or not.

This planning task is even harder for a board that is accepting transfer of property management from a developer. The hope is that the property would have little or no obvious needs, but without a transition study the new board is moving forward with fixes that should be funded by the developer and are uninformed on what needs the next 5 – 10 years might hold.

See below for a some examples that may have been avoidable or easier to plan for if these boards had the benefit of a transition study.

***We at J. Hershey Group wish you all health and happiness in 2023!**

Avoidable Balcony Repair

J. Hershey Building Consultants recently worked with a property needing balcony assessment and repair. The balconies were not very old and were already rotting. Our evaluation uncovered lack of a transition study, which could have identified issues earlier and saved the board this particular expense. In addition to inferior use of materials, these balconies were not built to code, and importantly had insufficient support for the front rail.

Below left is an example of the “before” balcony showing long stretch of rail needing additional support. These balconies were redesigned to be replaced with improved support and used composite materials. Below right shows a completed balcony example used to get village approval before proceeding.

Above left shows the front center newel post fastened securely to the balcony structure. Above right shows the new composite material and addition of posts at the wall where earlier the sides simply screwed into the building. Happily, this property now has balconies that are safer, to code, and built to last.

J. Hershey Building Consultants regularly work with local municipalities governing building code requirements on behalf of their clients. This helps the board make sure work abides to code and helps the construction company get the approvals they need.

Inadequate Guardrails Present a Life Safety Concern

J. Hershey Building Consultants completed a reserve study for a fairly new development located on beautiful wooded land with hills. The site visit revealed what we consider to be inadequate deterrants over high retaining walls in multiple places. If this board had the benefit of a transition study many of these issues would have been identified for the developer to address prior to transitioning management to the board.

The picture below left shows a retaining wall that is already starting to fail, likely due to lack of weep holes to allow water through. Below right shows fencing meant to be a deterrant but the distance between fence posts is too far to prevent the fence from folding over.

Above left picture fencing atop the retaining wall that should span the full length of the wall. Above right is yet another example of fencing used. This fencing needs more post supports or it will simply fold down.

We perform Reserve and Transition Studies on all sizes of community associations from single family HOAs to high rise condominiums and every residential building type in between.

What is Wrong with The Picture Below?

Let’s continue to improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: End pillar is separating from main wall, likely a result of inadequate reinforcement. Long/tall brick walls require more structural support. Otherwise, wind or ground movement stresses on the wall will cause separation, which will only get worse over time.

Now is the time to complete your Reserve or Transition Study so you have an accurate and detailed funding plan to improve or maintain your properties. We perform Reserve and Transition Studies on all sizes of community associations from single family HOAs to high rise condominiums and every residential building type in between.

The Blue Print – October 2022

posted by MC

There are times when having property reviewed by an objective and expert third party is necessary. Outside expertise protects both sides in property related issues. An expert delivering a direct and unbiased assessment can eliminate future surprises, ensure a board is not taking on (or ignoring) necessary repairs, and even put to bed an ongoing grievance or concern.

This issue of The Blue Print highlights recent projects where J. Hershey Building Consultants have helped community associations by resolving issues, preventing unnecessary spending, or confirming construction quality.

**We at the J. Hershey Group have had the people of Florida very much on our minds. Sending best wishes and positive energy to colleagues and friends impacted by the recent hurricanes. **

Structural Evaluation to Settle Dispute

This condo board discovered that a second floor unit owner had removed two interior walls without permit or following the prescribed process. J. Hershey Building Consultants was hired to review the work and ensure structural integrity, especially that the roof of the building was still adequately supported. The picture below left shows this unit entry as the top floor of the building. Below right shows the final result of removing the interior walls that had defined the kitchen space.

J. Hershey Building Consultants not only assess structural integrity in cases like these, but understand association by-laws, governing building code requirements, and the typical legal process. This enables us to efficiently move these conversations to pragmatic next steps.

Persistent Water Infiltration Finally Resolved

J. Hershey Building Consultants was hired by a single unit owner to analyze a persistent leak in the mechanical closet. This leak had been going for over 15 months and across multiple contractors and many attempts to resolve. The unit entry floor was badly damaged, as well as the ceiling and walls of the mechanical closet. Both the unit owner and the board were frustrated.

The picture below right shows the building, the mechanical closet was leaking on the 4th floor. The unit immediately above showed no water infiltration. Below right you see the damage to the entry floor of the unit.

Above right shows a picture of the unit owner’s attempt to capture water by affixing a funnel to the mechanical room ceiling to catch the drip. Above right shows an active drip on the outside of insulated hose which is part of the mechanical chase. The source of the leak was identified as coming from a leak or hole in the common mechanical chase originating above this unit. The chase bends (see above right) right above this 4th floor mechanical room unit, allowing water to travel down the chase and dripping off the bend. If the chase did not bend the leak would simply follow the lines down to the chase drainage in the basement garage.

J. Hershey Building Consultants have a very strong track record of identifying the genesis of water infiltration, leading to successful resolution. To learn more about water infiltration, listen to a podcast via the link at the bottom of the newsletter. We also offer NCARB approved training on Water Infiltration.

Transition Study Enables Transparency

Transition studies should be done whenever property ownership is being transferred from the developer to the association. Detailed findings enable negotiation of repairs/maintenance to be done before full transition, otherwise the association will be responsible for unplanned repairs. In this case a new property was transitioning from builder to community association oversight. Small and large issues were identified which enabled the association to push for improved quality or additional repair work and, importantly, corrected documentation.

The picture below left shows cracking and evidence of water infiltration in the entry sign to this development. Left unchecked, this sign would need constant repair to the stone facade and would not present an indication of ideal quality of the development. Below right picture shows the mailboxes were moved but the concrete slab not repaired.

The picture above left shows the barrier between the playground pea gravel and the landscaping mulch already coming up. These small maintenance issues can add up! Above right shows a retention pond that has no erosion control measures. In addition, this pond highlighted that the site map of the property was incorrect.

J. Hershey Building Consultants’ transition studies provide the nitty gritty detail needed to have a robust transition discussion. Our construction method expertise and perspective on reasonable expectations of quality to deliver full transparency and will help avoid unanticipated maintenance

What is Wrong with The Picture Below?

Let’s continue to improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: Life safety hazard. Retaining walls over 30″* should have some form of deterrent to prevent potential of falling over the edge to the sidewalk below. *Minimum wall height depends on governing code.

Now is the time to complete your Reserve or Transition Study so you have an accurate and detailed funding plan to improve or maintain your properties. We perform Reserve and Transition Studies on all sizes of community associations from single family HOAs to high rise condominiums and every residential building type in between.

The Blue Print – July 2022

posted by MC

In general, we are seeing actions taken by community associations to protect residents from tragedies such as with the Champlain Towers in Surfside. Recent changes in lending criteria encourage us all to be focused on maintenance needs in the interest of keeping the door open to loans to soften those expenses.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, collectively relied upon by lenders to purchase or guarantee their loans, have updated the standards that must be met to secure a loan. Buildings with deferred maintenance will likely be ineligible to borrow the money to fix their problems and will have to rely on special assessments. This also means that board members “kicking the can” and choosing to avoid structural evaluations or reserve studies which would make transparent the bigger maintenance needs of the property are potentially setting future owners up for an unpleasant, or even impossible, special assessment experience.

I’ve always advocated for Community managers to have bigger roles in board decisions and the training to do so. There is a bias with board members, especially when they know decisions increase their own assessments and don’t perceive their own “renter” mentality. We encourage Association Managers to be more vocal in highlighting the risk to losing the option of a loan to ease the cost of bigger maintenance needs and protecting the value of the property.

This issue of the J. Hershey Blueprint highlights a few examples of creative maintenance approaches designed to work within reserve limitations.

Handling Repairs in Phases

Phasing larger projects over a number of years is a good financial solution to avoid a special assessment or to spread reserves across multiple projects. This approach offsets a large one-time hit to the reserves. The balcony repair project below required new railing installations and sealing of the cantilevered concrete platforms. The more urgent balconies were repaired in the first year, the balance of balconies repaired in year 2 and 3. J. Hershey Building Consultants performed the initial evaluation, repair drawings, and construction monitoring.

Exterior parking areas are usually a work in progress during the best of times. The project below phased the parking area repair by laying new asphalt in half of the lot one year, and completing the lot in year 2.

J. Hershey Building Consultants work with you and your board to prioritize projects and balance existing reserves against current and future needs. We believe reserve studies are not complete without a reasonable action plan of next steps and work with boards to design a pragmatic maintenance and repair schedule.

Installation and Maintenance Expertise Matters with Composite Materials

We see many communities shifting to use composite decking materials in effort to reduce maintenance needs. Composite materials are not all created equal, and have specific installation and maintenance approaches that must be adhered to if you want to avoid issues such as noted below. Below left side pictures show splitting and softening of the boards which can happen if the outer material is not kept properly sealed and the inner material has wood fiber content. Below right pictures show splitting and softening which can happen if the composite boards are not given space to expand and contract, are not properly sealed, or installed close to horizontal surfaces where water accumulates.

J. Hershey Building Consultants recommend that installation and maintenance of composite deck components and building trim boards include identifying a point person on the board that understands the manufacturer warranty and recommended methods for ongoing maintenance.

Structural Assessment Needed for Multi-story crack

J. Hershey Building Consultants and one of our consulting structural engineers is assessing the resolution to a vertical crack in a building stairwell. Cracks may appear in structures as a result of movement, but when the crack extends up through multiple floors there needs to be a structural assessment done to understand cause of the crack and make sure the repair is appropriate to rectify the cause. The pictures below center and right show the crack at two different stairway levels.

What is Wrong with the Picture Below?

Let’s all improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: Some of the vinyl siding is warped. This is likely due to the heat from a barbeque grill used too close to the building. While the siding can be replaced, this was indeed a fire hazard. Local building codes may cover required distance that a grill must be from a structure, typically 10 feet away. Associations should include grill use rules in their agreements. In addition, the homeowner should be encouraged to understand their own homeowners/renters insurance coverage limitations regarding accidents that result from grill use.

More Family Room, Less Basement!

J. Hershey Architecture is continuing work with a client on a full basement remodel. While the project is not yet complete, the “close to after” picture on the right showcases how the remodel plan was able to capture the charm of the existing arched window and elevate the space to what will soon be a lovely family room. Note that the pipes have disappeared from the ceiling. Adjacent spaces include a study, laundry room, and full bathroom.


The Blue Print – May 2022

posted by MC

I am a big advocate of requiring Association Managers to frequently visit the properties they manage. We can learn a lot about the property and the resident experience if we visit association grounds in all types of weather. Spring showers bring an opportunity to see how water flows through the property and what our residents face getting from building to car or walking the dog in such weather. I invite you to “Canvas sneaker test” your properties in the rain. Wear a pair of canvas gym shoes and walk your property when it’s raining. How often are you hopping over puddles? If you walk around the building, do mud and standing pools of rainwater create an obstacle course for you? Is the water moving toward a drain or standing still? If we are taking care of the property and grounds, then water is draining as it should and our sneakers should prove out superior maintenance. Dirty sneakers means we have some work to do. Maintenance needs and resident experiences require attention year round. I’d love to hear what you learned on your own “canvas sneaker test!”

Pay Attention to Downspout Placement

Gutters and downspouts are meant to channel water off a roof and move it away from the building. J. Hershey Building Consultants see all manner of downspout solutions while walking properties. Making sure downspouts properly move the water away from the building is easy maintenance if done correctly, and create a host of problems if not. Below left shows downspout water that clearly runs across the front walk of this unit and has eroded the concrete. Below right picture shows downspout water that shifts mulch from a plant bed onto that unit’s entry path.

The picture above left shows downspouts that empty on to rocks to diffuse the water flow and reduce splash. In this case, water flows efficiently down a swale between the buildings into a storm drain right outside the picture. Above right, this downspout moves water into an underground drain system, which minimizes ground water in that area and helps the wood stair realize more useful years.

Residential Properties and ADA Code

The American Disabilities Act was put in place to create environments more conducive to differing mobility levels. Buildings already built when the ADA was made policy were not expected to immediately remodel to meet code compliance, but as replacements or repairs are made buildings may need to come up to code. Broadly, ADA code compliance is specific to commercial buildings, or commercial components of residential buildings.

Gatehouses are a good example of when ADA code might apply to a residential property. If a gatehouse is purely decorative then there is no need to build the structure ADA compliant. If, however, there is an employee staffing the gatehouse then it would be defined as a commercial component and require ADA compliance.

J. Hershey Building Consultants flag any risk to code violations in our reports and take pride in the depth of our code understanding. This expertise helps our clients proactively plan for code compliance rather than face the expensive issues that result from fines and reactive construction as a result of code violation.

Allow Ventilation Behind Brick and Stone Wall Cladding

While it may feel counterintuitive to have a “hole” in a stone wall or opening around a window, these features enable any water or condensation to evaporate out from between the layers. Without escape, moisture can cause damage to internal parts of the structure in the form of mold or rust.

Below left shows stone cladding falling away from the base of the retaining wall due to trapped moisture. The picture below right shows brick efflorescence, which happens when moisture has to come through the brick to escape.

Sealant should be used when dissimilar materials abut, but should not be used to fill weep holes that are meant to allow moisture to escape. J. Hershey Building Consultants observe misuse of sealant frequently.

The picture above left shows sealant around a door frame. The sealant correctly seals the sides of the frame and beneath the steel lintel which runs along the very top of the frame. There is no sealant above the lintel, which is correct as above the lintel is a long weep hole serving to move water across and away from the frame. The picture above right also shows correct placement of sealant, but in this case the cracking indicates the sealant is soon to fail and needs to be replaced.

What is Wrong with the Picture Below?

We try to fit in some education into our newsletters and reports, so we are adding a new section where we will show a picture and explain what is amiss. Let’s all improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: Dryer vent fire hazard. The curved plastic piece on the underside of the soffit is the output for the dryer vent. The design is likely meant to keep wildlife out of the vent. That said, there is clear buildup of lint in the vent. Lint buildup in dryer vents is one of the leading causes of fires in condo buildings. Associations need to have a plan specific to mitigating this kind of fire hazard: 1) An Association can remind residents to clean their dryer vents but must also conduct physical inspections of all unit vents themselves OR 2) An Association can have unit vents cleaned 2x/year and include the cost in assessments or bill back residents. J Hershey Building Consultants routinely see buildup in dryer vents when conducting reserve studies. An ounce of prevention is needed here!

Designing a Solution to a Sagging Floor

J. Hershey Architecture is working with a unit owner on a structural issue resulting in a sagging second floor. Using a laser level and measuring distance from ceiling to the level line, it was clear the ceiling is not level. J. Hershey Architecture will determine the cause and design the recommended repairs which are the responsibility of the Association in this case.

**Many thanks to our clients, our association and management company partners, our industry colleagues and project partners, and the team for another fantastic year of creating healthy and beautiful environments together. Thank you!**


The Blue Print – March 2022

posted by MC

Our work has seen both ends of the association spectrum recently. We are helping an established association with $0 in reserves to prioritize and plan maintenance needs and requisite funding, on the other hand, we are also working with a board who is being very proactive about making sure their property is attractive to the next generation of condo owners by adding sound deadening elements and tankless water heaters. Both projects have been richly rewarding because the boards are problem solving and not avoiding property maintenance. Most of our clients are somewhere between the two examples above. I invite you to take a beat and reflect on where in that continuum of property stewardship your association might sit? Let’s work together to improve, no matter where you sit on the range. Your properties will thank you!

Standard Maintenance with an Eye to the Future

In preparation for the replacement of water heaters at this property, this board opted to think about the attractiveness of energy efficiency to the next generation of condo buyers. J. Hershey Building Consultants was hired to assess the existing structure and design for each type of condo unit the appropriate work needed to adapt to a tankless water heater in each space. Tankless water heaters take up less space, heat water on demand, are energy efficient, and tend to have a longer useful life.

Click on the picture to understand more about this type of tank on the website.

Prioritizing Repair Work

J. Hershey Building Consultants understands that repair and maintenance cannot all be funded at once. It is very common to have an ongoing list of property needs! Better to have a list and work on the priorities than to be unaware of potential issues until they become an immediate and burdensome expense. We identified top issues for this property which included repair to their concrete roads and safety measures around bodies of water on the property.

Below left picture shows a failing timber rail fence. This fence is meant to discourage persons from walking near the railroad tracks nearby. Below right shows a culvert which has a large, unprotected opening which is considered a life safety hazard for curious children.

Serving as the Objective Third Party, Starting with a Transition Study

J. Hershey Building Consultants frequently serve as an objective third party and collaborate with attorneys and associations to seek corrective actions or funds from developers. A transition study we recently completed identified structural and code issues with a property which recently transitioned to the association. Additional work is required to improve on the current property condition. The picture below left shows new downspouts draining directly onto pavement rather than being tied into underground drainage, creating ponding and, if frozen, hazardous footing. Below right transformers should be protected from vehicular damage.

This serves as a reminder of the importance of thorough transition studies. Soon after property is turned over from a developer to an association, a qualified and objective third party should should make transparent the condition of the property to provide confidence to the association as they move forward.

RFP form for a transition study with J. Hershey Building Consultants is on our website in our consulting dropdown menu.

External Stairs, Adapting a Design and Enabling Completion

J Hershey Building Consultants was asked to step in to manage completion of a construction project. We assessed work done to date, redesigned to meet code where necessary and worked with a new contractor to complete these exterior stairs. We were happy to partner with this association and very glad to have work completed in time for good weather!

Below left photo shows one of multiple stairs and balconies which were beyond their useful life and not code compliant. Below right shows stairs nearing completion.

What is Wrong with the Picture Below?

We try to fit in some education into our newsletters and reports, so we are adding a new section where we will show a picture and explain what is amiss. Let’s all improve our ability to spot property needs!

Answer: Rock salt on concrete is not recommended. Concrete can be a lasting material if well maintained, but can be expensive to replace. Using rock salt instead of Calcium Chloride will accelerate damage to your concrete walks, roads, and steps and create need for repair or replacement sooner. Calcium Chloride will look like little white balls or pellets rather than the rough rock salt crystals you see in the picture.

Fire Damaged Building Before and In-Progress

J. Hershey Architecture was chosen to design the repair work and provide construction management for a fire damaged building. J. Hershey Architecture recommended improvements to the original building design such as adding roof overhangs to prevent water from running down exterior walls and taller trusses so more insulation could be added for energy efficiency. See picture below right for project in progress.


The Blue Print – February 2022

posted by MC

Let’s start our year on a more serious note. Our call to action for 2022 is a call for courage. I am asking my colleagues, my partners, and my clients to be better advocates for their properties. Less avoiding conflict, more loyalty to what the structures and grounds would ask of us if they were able to speak. It is only through the lens of current needs vs future property goals we are being fair to our roles and avoiding “kicking the can down the road” for someone else to deal with what we ignored.

I was honored to have an article published in the Wisconsin CAI Fall Newsletter titled “Learning from Disaster: A Look at Board Behaviors.”

Please use the link below to read or share the article and begin your courageous year.

Converted Commercial Properties – Codes Matter

When assessing your converted property, be sure you are working with a firm well versed on state and local codes. J. Hershey Building Consultants flagged potential code violations in a recent reserve study for a property that was converted commercial space.

Above left stairs are fine, assuming there are other access points that are ADA compliant. This building did not offer compliant access, which is a potential legal issue. Above right parking structure is in good shape, but parking space codes for commercial are different than for residential. We recommended a legal review for both issues. Note in this case not knowing is not adequate defense!
Above left, terrace areas above ground level present life safety hazards if furniture is placed near to a guardrail. Above right is a more significant issue, where we saw HVAC ducts routed through steel beams. Steel beams are there for structural support and should be respected and remain uncompromised. Addressing these issues proactively helps the Association mitigate risk.

Recommending a Less Aggressive Repair – Sometimes Less is More!

At a different property, J. Hershey Building Consultants assessed building conditions against existing recommendations for extensive balcony repair. Our findings concluded that much less work was needed to improve safety and performance without compromising the useful life of the balconies.

Below left shows that portions of the wear coating is missing and the concrete balcony surface is exposed. Concrete is a porous material. Moisture has been penetrating the concrete slab of these two balconies and passing down through the metal decking. This repeated moisture is the likely cause of the corrosion which we observed at the steel structure which supports the balconies in the pictures above.
the above right picture shows a coating present over the top surface of the concrete patios for other units in the same building. The wear coating appears to be in generally fair to good condition. It is likely that the presence of coating on this balcony has prevented corrosion as indicated by the lack of observed corrosion at the supporting structure.

These findings resulted in greatly reducing the anticipated expense for this Association, allowing them to shift funds to other priorities.

Serving as the Objective Third Party

J. Hershey Building Consultants was asked to assess a litany of complaints by a condo resident who was engaging legal counsel. An evaluation for a single unit was performed, resulting in major savings for the board as we found no evidence of significant maintenance needs. In this we were proud to be expert, objective, and thorough in reporting the needs of the property to both parties.

J. Hershey Building Consultants is happy to partner with boards and advise on the needs of the property. We walk the talk and practice objectivity and courage in our reports. From code compliance to life safety to when extensive repair is NOT needed, our deep expertise allows for solid understanding of what needs to be done.

Growing Home for a Growing Family – Progress

We are helping a family realize full utility of their home so they can stay in a location that delights them even while their needs have changed. This basement remodel will significantly increase the livable space. The picture below right shows the addition of below slab waste lines for new plumbing fixtures.

Moving forward with a High Rise Remodel

We have finalized the design and are working with the city of Chicago for permit of a complete renovation.


Learning from Disaster: A Look at Board Behaviors

posted by MC

By John Hershey, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, RS, CAI Educated Business Partner

Published in Wisconsin CAI Fall 2021 Newsletter

First and foremost, my deepest condolences and compassion go out to all those who lost loved ones or were impacted by the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside, Florida.  We all continue to learn more and more about how that happened, but the truth is we simply wish it had not happened at all. 

One good way to honor those who lost everything is to reflect on our own understanding and behaviors and face opportunities to improve.  What can we do to prevent this from happening again?   While not at all intended to suggest blame – that is not my message here – there are common problematic behaviors that we should all address right away.

Buildings and property require maintenance.  Community associations need to have boards and community managers that take a firmer stance on maintenance needs.  I have witnessed boards that avoid maintenance reality many times.  Too many.  I serve on boards myself, I get it.  We are volunteers and at the end of a long day it is hard to steel yourself to be the one to push for unpopular but necessary action items but we really need to get better at it or acknowledge that we are being negligent in our passivity.

That’s the first behavior I’ll flag here; too often, boards, HOAs, and even management companies avoid detailed assessments of the state of their properties.   There are many reasons for this but primarily there is concern that disclosure leads to liability.  There is a worry that there will be maintenance needs that are not within the budget.  There may be someone on the board with some expertise that will feel threatened if another professional is hired to review their property.  Maintenance as a topic triggers the residents to complain, etc.   Not knowing the detailed status of a property does not make it safer or less prone to decline.   Postponing maintenance simply creates a bigger problem down the road.   Do you really know what your property needs in the next 5 years, the next 10? 

The next behavior is that of prioritizing cosmetic property improvements over “ugly” maintenance.  This is another area of avoidance and where the budget really should lead.  “Ugly” maintenance can be disruptive and lead to resident complaints as compared to the new garden improvements which the residents will love.  Visually attractive property is a pleasure to come home to and the optics of these improvements serve as a good reminder to residents of an attentive management company and board.  If these cosmetics come at the cost of necessary “ugly” maintenance there needs to be some tougher conversations in board meetings. 

There is an opportunity to make sure the boards represent a diversity of life stages.  There are numerous studies to show diversity on teams leads to better problem solving and better business.  On boards, this could mean different views of investment and progress or more openness to change.  Board members that are motivated to hold assessments flat need to be balanced with those that prioritize improvements.  And for goodness sakes, if there is a bully on the board that needs to be addressed as it prevents open communication.

Finally, community management companies need to help their managers improve influencing skills and become more assertive in board meetings.   Managers might be doing a great job serving the residents, but are they serving the property?  Community Association Managers can approach board issues with a more objective lens, with experience of what other properties have done right or wrong.  I would also push here for more physical visits to the properties they manage so they are as familiar with the property as a resident as that carries weight when discussing property needs.  Property maintenance and protecting property value should be part of a community association manager job description if it isn’t already.  Management companies should work to offer more continuity with staffing against properties because history with a property enables better relationships with the board and more impact.  Association managers in board meetings should have a stronger voice and company support to do so.

Most boards, HOAs, and most CAMs do not have backgrounds that enable comprehensive and holistic expertise in structural property maintenance.  This is why property assessments should be done regularly and comprehensively by outside experts.  Experts that offer this service are doing so because they have a passion for extending the useful life of existing structures and properties and will tell you what you need to know.

 John M. Hershey is president of J. Hershey Building Consultants with over 30 years of experience in design, property evaluation, and construction management.


The Blue Print – September 2021

posted by MC

Water features on properties create visual beauty, convey openness and space between dwellings, and of course can deliver important functional benefits related to water movement and capture. These benefits do not come without maintenance and safety concerns that, if left ignored, can create extensive issues related to cost and life safety. We have assessed properties across multiple states with varying sizes of water bodies. Please read below for our most commonly identified opportunities for improvement.

Storm Drain Openings Should Have Grates That Allow Proper Water Flow

This is a situation where we really are trying to avoid disaster. Storm drains lacking any kind of screen or grate present life safety hazards. Even the grating in the top right picture below is an improvement but still not optimal to prevent a small child from accessing the drain. Ideally drain covers would look more like the photo in the bottom right which clearly allows water flow and better safety.

In addition to basic life safety, the addition of inlet protection to these drains should be considered to help with silt management, because that carries added benefit of controlling sediment and silt flow into the waterways, which enables better ongoing performance of water level management on the property. There are covers specifically designed for this purpose.

Retaining Walls Should Have Guardrails

Retaining walls are frequently employed to transform a slope to a flat area or to contain erosion. These features are very common across all types of properties. At a certain height these walls should include either guardrails or deterrent plantings such as hedges or bushes to prevent falls.

While both walls below are visually attractive, the wall on the right as a hedge which adds safety.

Walls around bodies of water are especially hazardous as it is natural to want to peer over into the water at any age. The picture above right shows a fence which, while optimally would have smaller spacing, does add a deterrent to potential falls into the water below.

Ponds and Lakes Should Be Edged to Prevent Erosion and Increase Safety

Erosion into a pond or lake can throw off the balance of water nutrients which can result in an unsightly algae bloom. Erosion can also clog waterways and prevent rainwater from draining in time, causing flooding. Either stone rip rap or deep rooted natural plantings can maintain shore integrity and discourage easy access to the water.

The photo below on the top right shows stone rip rap lining a storm drain swale to a body of water. Stone controls erosion and deters children from walking or playing near the water as stone is not easy to walk across.

Maintenance planning for bodies of water on community property, of any size, should be as relevant in property management and reserve planning as evaluations of building structures. The entirety of the property should be regularly assessed, maintained, and improved.

J. Hershey Building Consultants has the expertise to evaluate community properties in their entirety: internal and external review, water movement and containment, roadways and pavement. Our focus is always on a quality solution that minimizes cost and homeowner disruption while protecting property value.

While it may seem like red tape, permits and building codes are meant to keep us safe. Not having a permit before work begins can lead to a host of problems which can include having the city request work done be removed. J. Hershey Architecture has been engaged often to help get building and repair work on the right side of the law. Some examples from the past year:

  • J. Hershey Architecture spoke to a municipality on behalf of an association to accelerate the permit process so construction could begin.
  • When balcony repairs were performed without drawings and a permit we successfully coordinated with the local building department to provide balcony repair documents for permit.
  • In a similar situation, masonry privacy wall repair work was done without a permit. J. Hershey Architecture coordinated with that local building department to evaluate work and provide documents which resulted in a post facto permit.

There are also many occasions when J. Hershey Architecture h as worked on behalf of Associations with local municipality and influenced those building departments regarding existing code to the benefit of the client:

  • J. Hershey Architecture pointed out national building code requirements to a city building commissioner which resulted in interpretation changes regarding roof insulation requirements. This benefited a client who otherwise would have had to modify roof insulation work.
  • When the retention ponds in a community association were not draining properly, J. Hershey Architecture ultimately determined there were blockages in the storm drain, met with local planning officials and pointed out this was the city’s responsibility. The city cleared the drains at their own expense.

We are proud to offer this expertise to our clients. You’d be surprised how often this understanding is needed!


The Blue Print – August 2021

posted by MC

It’s balcony season! Or, more appropriately, it’s settlement season! Now is the time of year we see many balcony and foundation issues as the ground dries out to reveal soil settlement and erosion. As with the quality of materials, design, and workmanship in the creation of a built structure, the quality of soil matters. In many ways this remains a blind spot with boards and community associations.

From balconies to retention ponds to parking pavement, J. Hershey Building Consultants offer experience beyond standard reserve studies. There are few in the industry with our breadth and depth of experience in residential construction. We are thrilled to help our clients build and maintain their communities.

Solving for Settled Balconies

J. Hershey Building Consultants was called in to investigate balconies that were not level. Our inspection identified multiple concrete pier foundations that had settled, causing balconies to shift. Due to the number of pier foundations that had moved, we recommended soil borings to check stability of the soil. This inexpensive practice ensures the correct repairs are made. If the soil is not stable as can frequently happen with “fill” soil, balcony instability and repair will be a constant battle and can create a cost burden. Soil borings reveal the soil condition so balcony repair can move forward as needed while taking direction from the soil borings learning. An ounce of prevention!!

Above pictures show concrete pier shifts such that balcony support is no longer plumb, causing balcony floor movement. It is likely that the piers shifted due to soil “organics” created by tree roots and decomposition. This is fairly common but when multiple points of shifting occur the soil composition should be evaluated.

Leveling the Floor of a Single Condo Unit

Old warehouses converted to condos is a great re-purposing of existing structures and make for living spaces with character. However, on this occasion the building was not re-engineered to consider what is deemed acceptable by a homeowner for a level floor. J. Hershey Building Consultants collaborated with a structural engineer on a plan to level the floor without significantly impacting existing plumbing, saving the association from more costly repairs.

Our collaborative design also enabled the floor to be raised incrementally over a series of days rather than weeks or months, which can reduce project time, cost, and homeowner disruption considerably. Above left you see final I beams installed to support the raised floor that do not impact existing utilities. On the right you see the final leveled floor.

Foundation Repair Single Unit in HOA

This foundation showed significant cracking, potentially a result of being located on a man made slope adjacent to a retention pond.

J. Hershey Building Consultants collaborated with a structural engineer for a solution that involved installation of steel piers to stabilize the foundation. Rebar, sealant, and an epoxy injection were used to remedy the cracks and deliver an attractive resolution. J. Hershey provides a full range of services including competitie cost bidding and construction managment.

J. Hershey Building Consultants is happy to partner with boards to problem solve single unit issues such as the examples above. Our focus is always on a quality solution that minimizes cost and homeowner disruption. The repair work for this project was completed within one week.

Rebuilding After Fire Damage

Thankfully, everyone evacuated safely from this condo building when the fire happened. J. Hershey Architecture has been contracted to help this association rebuild the fire damaged portions of the building. When something like this happens there is need to first make sure what remains is structurally sound. Additionally, the impacted spaces cannot be rebuilt as they were, they must be brought up to current structural, plumbing, mechanical, and life safety codes. J. Hershey Architecture is adept at working with local authorities to meet code requirements and get proper permits to rebuild. We look forward to featuring completed project pictures in a future newsletter.

Location, Location, Location!

When a family is outgrowing a home but love the area they are in J. Hershey Architecture has been happy to assist in building onto the existing home structure. See a few before and after examples below.

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