Is a Reserve Study a “Building Envelope” Analysis?

This question came up twice last week, so it seemed like a good one to answer to a larger audience here in our blog. We believe Reserve Studies are a specialty. We have seen, over the last few years, some Architectural and Engineering (consulting and building envelope types) entering the field of Reserve Studies. Their strength is in other areas, and it appears that Reserve Studies have become a new service they can offer to community associations. So there are a few firms, primarily new entries to the field, preparing both Reserve Studies and building envelope analyses. These firms have sometimes mistakenly blurred the lines defining what a Reserve Study is. So is a Reserve Study a building envelope study?

We continue to hammer the point that per National Reserve Study Standards (not just my opinion), one gets three results in a Reserve Study:
1) A Reserve Component list that establishes the scope and schedule of upcoming Reserve projects
2) An evaluation of Reserve Fund Strength
3) a Recommended multi-yr Reserve Funding plan.

So that’s what one should expect to receive in their completed Reserve Study. One should therefore not expect to find in a Reserve Study an evaluation of the building envelope, articulating strengths and weaknesses of its design or its construction. If an association wants such an evaluation, they should commission such an investigation. A building envelope evaluation is by definition not part of a Reserve Study.

At Association Reserves we don’t do construction consulting, we don’t redesign decks, we don’t prepare maintenance plans, we don’t prepare insurance appraisals, and we don’t prepare building envelope evaluations. We leave those things to experts in those respective fields.

We are Reserve Study providers, problem solvers with respect to association capital budgeting. We help our clients get out of trouble with respect to their Reserves, and we help them stay out of Reserve trouble. We are very good at what we do, and to excellently provide independent counsel to our clients in this field we believe we can have no interest in doing other work for the association (painting, construction consulting, or building envelope evaluations), as any other work has at a minimum the appearance of being a conflict of interest. And because any of these possible conflicts dent the credibility of the Reserve Study provider’s findings and recommendations, any potential conflict of interest must be clearly disclosed to the client per National Reserve Study Standards. Click here to see for yourself (see p7, item #1).

Get a great Reserve Study, and if you need one, get a great building envelope analysis. But don’t expect them to be one and the same document!

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2 Responses to Is a Reserve Study a “Building Envelope” Analysis?

  1. Bill Leys says:

    Good points made-a building envelope inspection is a very specific inspection and usually should have air and leak testing done as well to verify that components are water resistant.

    I do agree with Roy Hesling, who’s advocated that after 20 years or so, a reserve study should also incorporate some destructive testing of components to assure they are in fact water tight and hidden areas are in fact structurally sound.

    Many times after pulling apart a small problem on a deck, we will often find hidden damages that are not accounted for in a reserve study.

    I’ve also seen instances where the assumption that a deck say will last 30 years is made based upon a manufacturer saying it will with proper maintenance. But that is also predicated on the structural deck being built in a sufficient manner to last 30 years-ie using 1 1/8 plywood instead of 5/8″, and 2×12″ joists instead of 2×8″ joists.

    Those assumptions go out the window when the structural portion is sagging and failing after 15-20 years.

    • Bill – good points. Keep in mind, though, that a Reserve Study does not prevent all surprises at an association, it is meant to reasonably limit surprises to events that could not have reasonably been anticipated. The National Reserve Study Standard four-part test goes a long way towards helping a professional and the association identify all the appropriate components.