The board of any residential community has two prime directives: to maintain the financial health of the association, and to maintain the structural health of the property. Both require a broad array of knowledge — much of which the average board member may not necessarily possess. For that reason, most board members rely heavily on experts for guidance and counsel in both areas — but in order to think critically about the needs of their building(s) and act prudently on behalf of their constituents, boards should also have some baseline knowledge about how their property is constructed, and the terms used to discuss it. In this piece, we’ll explore some of the main exterior elements common to many associations.
Building Exteriors 101
Major multifamily exterior components include things like roofs, parapets, bulkheads, exterior walls, balconies and terraces, windows and doors, retaining walls and fencing, sidewalks and driveways, parking lots, and garages. The design and composition of these systems may be different based on location, the age of the community, and construction type. So, urban high-rise apartment buildings might be of concrete and steel construction with a glass or masonry façade, while a suburban townhouse community or an HOA of single-family homes would more likely be of wood construction. An apartment building would also likely have a different type of roof than a wood-frame townhouse community.
No matter your board’s level of expertise otherwise, knowing the names and functions of basic exterior elements helps a lot when it comes time to discuss any maintenance or repair work. For example:
The façade of a building provides structural integrity, creates a waterproof envelope around the property, and is a key factor in both a building’s energy efficiency (or inefficiency) and code compliance.
The roof serves a similar purpose as the façade does, topping off the building and providing structural integrity, protection from the elements, and energy efficiency and compliance. The efficiency and integrity of both façades and roofs are dependent on the quality of their materials, installation, and regular upkeep and maintenance.