SuperMen & SuperWomen! Importance of Building Superintendents and Chief Engineers

When corporate engineer Michael O’Hare of AKAM On-Site in Boca Raton arrives at work each morning, he first checks in with security for any possible situations that have come up during the night. He then reviews any outstanding work orders and walks the property, making sure that all of the building mechanicals—such as the cooling towers, boilers, pool, etc., are all running properly. If anything is wrong, he takes time to log in the problems. He then meets with his staff, divides the work orders for the daily and holds daily, weekly, and monthly meetings to follow up and make sure everything is running smoothly.

In the past, the responsibilities of a chief engineer or corporate engineer could have been described as ‘it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it.” O’Hare gets his hands dirty from time to time, but nothing compared to the way his job was 20 years ago. Think back to how chief engineers, also known as ‘supers’ or ‘resident managers’ in other parts of the country—were portrayed on television or in movies. They were the guys with the huge crowded key ring who were greased up and dirty from the repairs they made. Remember Schneider from “One Day at a Time?” He didn’t really have authority to do more than basic repairs (although Schneider was a special case). Oh, how times have changed.

O’Hare started in the business more than 20 years ago as a facilities and maintenance manager at Calder Casino and Race Course in Miami Gardens. When he moved over to AKAM he was responsible for one property. Today, he is responsible for maintaining high-rise condominiums and property grounds, including all building systems, including elevators, fire alarms, fire pumps, sprinklers, emergency generators, electrical, domestic water, boilers, irrigation, HVAC systems and all associated equipment, swimming pools and Jacuzzis, gym equipment and health club amenities. He is also responsible for inspections and repairs as needed, working with vendors and hiring and training maintenance personnel.

Wendy Murray, CEO and president of Associa Gulf Coast in Fort Myers and Naples, says that her chief engineers, also known as operations managers, are responsible for facilities management and maintenance. “That means routine and preventative maintenance, inspections and scheduling,” she says. “They see if there is unusual wear and tear on the building and discuss things with other engineers or contractors.”

Julio Chiroldes was just recently promoted to regional chief engineer at Atlantic | Pacific Management in Bay Harbor Islands. Chiroldes came to the job with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and started his career in the hotel industry. He later became the assistant director of engineering in a hospital, where he says he performed detailed inspections on all the equipment. In 2008, he started as chief engineer at one of the properties and was then promoted in July.

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