Lakeview: An 84-Unit Success Story

PGT Horizontal Rollers Series 710

Astor Windows and Doors Scores 100% Customer Satisfaction At Lakeview Estates Condominiums

MIAMI, FLORIDA – Few multi-family window replacement jobs are more challenging than one recently completed by Astor Windows and Doors. Located on NW 119th Avenue, The Lakeview Condominium Association was constructed in the mid 1980s, and consists of 12 two-story buildings and 84 units. The most attractive features of this development include over 20 well manicured acres with lots of green space and a quarter-mile-long lake – hence the name Lakeview

The Issue at Hand

Lakeview residents were well aware of potential property damage from hurricane force winds. Rising wind storm insurance rates and maintenance problems with the original single pane windows and patio doors were issues that needed to be resolved. This prompted the Lakeview Board of Directors to launch an association-wide window and door replacement project.

The condominium board wanted to learn more about the benefits of impact glass, but a lot of questions need to be answered. Could it make their units more safe and secure from hurricane force winds, flying storm debris and water damage? Would impact windows help to stop burglaries? If so, how much would it cost? Will it take too long and disrupt our home life?

Windows and doors cannot be upgraded in existing buildings without meeting the current Miami-Dade building code – the most stringent in all of Florida. A presentation by Astor Windows and Doors proved that the cost of installing hurricane impact windows was nearly equal to that of conventional windows with shutters. With an upgrade to impact windows and doors, residents would have an unrestricted year-round view of the tranquil lake and grounds, and no shutter installation hassles during hurricane season.

Additionally, impact windows offered significant energy savings and UV protection for drapes and interior furnishings, plus built-in privacy for bathroom windows. All the aforementioned benefits of impact windows made a strong case for better hurricane protection and security, increased owner equity, and savings to help reduce monthly association fees.

The condominium board was also concerned about the effectiveness and unsightly appearance of burglar bars, installed by individual unit owners through the years. They were ugly and said to reduce property value. Moreover, the bars on bedroom windows did not meet current building department codes for egress in the event of a fire. Impact windows could enhance building security without bars, and give the property a renewed and more modern look.

Previous Experiences with Contractors

The Lakeview Condominium Association had experienced difficulties with building maintenance in years past. A decade ago it was nearly forced into bankruptcy by poor management, and a single meter water system with $12,000 per month bills. The solution: water meters for individual units. Regrettably, this major capital expense was troubled by lack of contractor performance. The board had to hire and fire three or four firms before the project was successfully completed. Working with new building management, the board resolved the water system problem and proved that the new meters conserved water and reduced owner cost. Most important, owner trust in the management of the property was restored.

Prior to beginning the window and door replacement project and selecting a window contractor, Lakeview was on a firm financial footing. The association was well managed, had money in the bank, and had not raised association fees for five years. This made it possible for the association to get a bank loan for the project, and demonstrate to the unit owners that no special assessments or increases in monthly fees were needed to retire the loan.

Bidding Process

When asked about contractor selection, Lakeview Board President, Susanne Allen said, “We interviewed several contractors. Astor Windows and Doors was our first choice….we were so impressed with the amount of detail in their presentation…it answered all of our questions and concerns. We had a list of references with contact names and phone numbers for follow up.”

Allen adds that a general meeting was held for a complete presentation to all unit owners by Astor General Manager, Carlos Paesano. “He was very organized…took extra time to answer every question about installation scheduling, payments, building code requirements, permit costs. Would impact glass cost less than shutters?”

When asked about owner concerns, Susanne Allen relates: “We struggled with the burglar bar issue…security is always a big concern …especially on the ground floor. The company brought a sample window to our general meeting so the men could try to break through the glass with a hammer.” They couldn’t break through the glass…some of the people still had concerns. It took a while to resolve this matter.”

According to Allen, a homeowner for 22 years, the meeting with unit owners went almost as smoothly as the initial presentation to the board. She adds, “The professionalism and detail of the presentation by Carlos Paesano gave us the confidence to select his company. Unfortunately we had to sit through some pretty bad presentations by other contractors to get multiple bids.” She adds, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that after hearing Carlos’ presentation, we knew his company would get the job. His presentation was outstanding!”

George Zarate, Lakeview Estates' property manager stated that “I am very picky in selecting contractors. I verify their license and insurance… make sure the permits are in order and collect all the inspection sign offs for the association’s records.” He adds, “References are very important…not just the good ones that contractors give (you)…of course, these are only the good ones. I check county and city records to verify everything…look for complaints on file with the building department.”

“I have to admit that I have learned from some bad experiences. Dealing with contractors can sometimes be a like a lottery…you win or loose. I don’t fool around if people don’t perform according to terms of a contract…break an agreement, and it goes straight to the lawyers.”

A 15-year veteran of property management, George Zarate handles financial reporting and accounting matters for several properties in addition to Lakewood. His briefcase bulges with monthly statements and reports. Checking contractor references and reviewing credentials is an important responsibility for George at Lakewood. According to Suzanne Allen, “George’s recommendations are respected by members of the board.” PGT Horizontal Rollers Series 710

The Installation Phase

Susanne Allen adds, “Confidence in our contractor increased every day that they were on the job…they were a team with good management skills. The installation of windows and doors went very smoothly and on schedule…workers were always on time…the crew was very experienced and hardworking. The only real problem that we had was when the workers could not get into a unit. Sometimes people forgot that they were coming, or no one was home to let them in.”

Allen compliments Astor Supervisor, Orlando Ontivero and Crew Forman, Victor Batista for their daily dedication to keeping the installation schedule on track. “They handled all the minor glitches for us…with help from people on our board.”

Most residents were very cooperative, but Allen attributes the overall success of the project to the dedication and hard work of her fellow board members. “Certain people had important roles to play. They gave us a lot of time and energy.” She singles out Board Secretary, Dionne Pollock for her attention to detail in coordinating daily installation activities.

Reminiscing about her years of experience at Lakeview, Suzanne Allen attributes much of their current success to Property Manager, George Zarate. “He has made it easy for us to take on a big project. If you don’t have someone like George …you worry about handing over almost half a million dollars,” says Allen. “George makes things easy for the board.”

Asked about his experience with Astor Windows and Doors, Zarate says, “We have had a great success on this project…there were no surprises and everything went according to schedule….pretty remarkable when you consider that they have to satisfy a lot of different people. The company was so easy to work with…always on the job for more than a month. There were just a few cases of people not being ready to open up their units.”

He added, “The Astor group did a lot of advance work and follow up during the installation that saved my time, and the board’s time. I get paid by the hour so efficiency and no hassles or wasted time is important for all my clients. Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with contractors. They don’t follow up or answer your calls – unless the next payment is due…. (I’m) kidding, but not really. I’ve have some serious performance problems with contractors on other jobs…even small jobs. Some people are very unprofessional. (You) are lucky to get 2% follow up.”

“We had excellent communication with the company”, he relates. “They completed all the permit and engineering requirements. They always knew what we needed…what problems were going to come up, and how they should be handled. I have to say, we are 100 percent satisfied…yes, so satisfied… just a couple of little calls for minor problems. With all those people, and so many units – it was amazing.”

According to Carlos Paesano, no one worked harder than Association Secretary, Dionne Pollock to make the Lakeview assignment a success. “She was courageous in addressing contentious issues like security and burglar bars. She was also most responsible for making it possible to complete the installation a month ahead of schedule.”

Others who contributed to this story are probably unaware of some of the debates about building security that Dionne Pollock successfully argued with fellow residents – like the guy who wanted to get his gun and shoot the sample window. Or, the unit owner that threatened to call a lawyer to keep her burglar bars. According to Dionne, this person “ended up loving the windows,” and no longer sees the need for window bars.

Pollock relates that she was able to convince security skeptics that it was easier for a burglar to tear off the bars than to break through impact glass. When locked as they should be when no one is home, impact windows have proven to be virtually impenetrable. In one discussion with concerned residents, she pointed out that “if a burglar was determined to get in, he would find an easier way than breaking through a locked impact window – like meeting you in the hallway with a gun and demanding that you unlock the door.”

Police and fire safety authorities make two basic points about burglar bars: First, the bars are often easy to penetrate during robberies. Secondly, most bar installations trap building residents in the event a fire and make firefighting more difficult.

According to Dionne Pollock, only one unit owner has reinstalled burglar bars. Her old exterior bars had to be tossed. New, permitted and inspected bars were installed on the inside of the windows in order to meet the current building and fire safety codes.

Regarding scheduling, Pollock states: “The original plan called for the completion of two units per day. After the first week, the hard-working crew was taking on three units per day. We agreed not to go any faster than in order to maintain quality control…and give the crew time to clean up demolition debris,” Pollock adds.

She agrees with Susanne Allen and George Zarate…”Astor scored nearly a ten…they beat the completion date and resolved all the issues.” Dionne continues, “Only one window had to be replaced because it did not fit….they helped us to address some owner concerns about window condensation.” She explains that once the leaky old windows were replaced, people noticed that the new energy-efficient ones were condensing shower moisture. Exhaust fans were not keeping up with it. A product data sheet from PGT Industries, the window manufacturer explained how this situation could be resolved by “cracking” bathroom windows while showering.

Some unit owners also were concerned about “rocking” when horizontal roller windows were pulled shut or opened. To address this concern, Astor prepared a drawing that explained how to correctly move the window – by grabbing it at the center, not the bottom while sliding it to open or close.

The project has been complete for more than two months, but the tenacious Pollock is still monitoring owner satisfaction and the promise of energy savings. She reports that her electric bill came down in March by more than fifteen dollars. She adds, “My AC now cycles less often and stays off at night. It looks like I could save more money when it starts getting really warm in June.”

Dionne Pollock has urged other owners to keep track of monthly electric bills, and suggested that they have a big party with the savings. “Even at fifteen dollars a month per unit for …and I expect that there will be more savings…do the math and you get over fifteen thousand (dollars)…in just one year for eighty-four units. That’s a big party.”

The board closed discussion of the windows project at its March 2009 meeting. No complaints were entered in the meeting minutes. Copies of the mitigation verification inspection form were to be distributed to unit owners so that they could send them to their insurance company, and qualify for a better rate on windstorm insurance – or qualify for the Florida State rebate program.

A Lakeview Association meeting is part business, and part social club – kind of a mutual admiration society. After many heart-felt greeting and a joke of two, meeting attendees settle down to serious business. They sit round a big dining room table, or take a seat on a nearby couch. The informal but organized atmosphere produces few disagreements and quick decision making -- so the laughter and hugs can resume before calling it a night. It’s pretty amazing for an enterprise with 84 units.

End of story. Meeting adjourned.

Background and commentary for this article was provided by the Lakeview Board of Directors and its property management company.

Susanne Allen, Board President
Dionne Pollock, Board Secretary
George Zarate, Property Manager

Product performance information is attributed to Carlos Paesano, General Manager, Astor Windows and Doors.
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