From the time Brooks Tower was built and opened for occupancy in 1968, the plumbing behind the walls had been relatively trouble free. But as the building entered its fortieth decade, the relatively few problems that were to be expected began to increase. For the most part, patchwork repairs were done by Brooks Tower’s Maintenance staff.
Beginning in 2009, the building’s largest single owner, the Bonfils Foundation/Denver Center for the Performing Arts took on a full remodel of the units it owns on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors. Going behind the walls, the construction crews provided the first full-scale evaluation of the hot and cold water lines, as well as the sanitary/sewer and HVAC lines. While replacing sections of pipe, workers found significant corrosion on the outside, as well as deposits of rust within, along with decayed food, and other debris clogging the sewer lines. Limited sections of piping were replaced.
Bonfils/DCPA’s representative on the HOA Board alerted fellow Board members of the conditions and was authorized to undertake a study of the overall condition of the pipes. The news from a consulting engineer was not very good. It concluded that some of the pipe systems were at risk of failure in the next few years and recommended replacement of all three systems plus the venting lines.
The Board hired a consulting engineering firm to evaluate options and develop a recommendation on how the HOA should proceed. Based on that recommendation in 2017, the Board presented to Owners a “worst case” scenario in which dozens of Residents would need to be moved out for a period of 60 to 90 days, housed elsewhere while the walls were removed, and the pipes replaced. The total cost for this project was estimated at 44 million dollars. Understandably, Owners were determined to find other options.
A group of Owners, volunteering their time and expertise, looked for contractors with specific expertise in replacing pipes in high rise residential communities. At the same time, this group sought out a project management firm which could represent the Owners’ interest and act as a liaison as the work progressed. Before contractors were identified and contracts signed, in 2017 Brooks Tower’s Owners approved a one year 20% assessment to cover some of the initial start-up costs. The Bergeman Group was hired to be Brooks Tower’s Owners’ Representative. Then, in 2018, and by a substantial margin, Owners approved a project with a total cost of more than thirty million dollars. But this wasn’t the only vote of confidence Owners gave to the project. They also elected one of the prime movers in the selection process to a seat on the HOA Board.
After a competitive bidding process lasting several months, in late 2018 the HOA Board and Bergeman Group selected sageWater Construction as the firm for the Riser/Re-Piping work. The decision was based, in part on sageWater’s track record of comparable work on high rise residences from the East Coast to Hawaii over two decades. sageWater and Bergeman Group assisted Brooks Tower’s management team to put together a financial package with several options available to meet the needs of individual owners.
Work on the first units began in April, 2019. From the beginning, the work has proven to be challenging, both for contractors and for Owners alike. For those charged with removing and replacing the pipes, the learning curve was steep. Very quickly they discovered that sometimes what was behind the walls didn’t match up with the architectural and mechanical drawings. They also learned that Brooks Tower Owners very much liked to customize their units, often making the construction model subject to revisions or wholesale changes. Owners quickly discovered that it would be necessary to adapt to changes and disruptions in their daily routine, but with the work now going into its second year, both the contractors and the Owners seem to have hit a rhythm and each has adapted.