As long as there have been residential buildings, there has been maintenance personnel—be that a superintendent, a chief engineer, or a collection of reliable individuals. They're charged with the all-important task of ensuring that operations run smoothly. Whether it’s an underperforming HVAC system, a maintenance emergency, or simply a light bulb past its expiration date, the responsibilities can run the gamut on a daily basis. And over the years, the job description has changed along with expectations from association managers, board members, and residents.
“Over the last few decades the role of a superintendent has changed tremendously,” says Peter Grech, a resident manager and the director of educational services at the Superintendents Technical Association of New York City. “We need to keep abreast of changing technologies such as email and cell phones, and also with building system controls such as boilers and other automated systems.”
"Technology has immensely improved the communication between supers and managers," echoes Elaine Warga-Murray, CEO of Regency Management Group in Howell, New Jersey. "The immediacy spurred by text is fantastic. Instead of laboring to explain a situation over the phone, a super can just send us a picture. Rather than telling us that, say, a stairwell looks 'fine,' they can just let us see for ourselves."
Dan Wurtzel, president of FirstService Residential New York, says he's seen the role of a super go through myriad changes—even down to personal appearance. “If you go back to 40 or 50 years ago, a superintendent was considered more of a blue-collar type of employee, with a tool belt who was able to fix things; he didn’t have good customer service skills, but knew how to deal with the heart of the house issues,” Wurtzel continues. “The role has evolved. Today, a superintendent, some of whom wear suits and ties, has to have knowledge of building systems. They also have to be excellent managers and communicators who oversee staff.”
Grech adds that in many cases, including his own, the title of superintendent has evolved to ‘resident manager.’ “Some of the changes which I mentioned have been around for about ten years, but this industry is forever evolving,” says Grech. “The older you are the harder the transition. It’s not impossible, but some people are used to doing things the old fashioned way.”