By Joyce Jackson
As a young man, living in a building with widely varying indoor temperatures, Ronald Fields started on a path to owning and operating his own building. Located on Manhattan’s Riverside Drive, one side of the building (facing the Hudson River and its prevailing west wind) was often cold, while simultaneously the other side was too warm. Frustration with the imbalanced heating situation led to a tenant rent strike and eventually, Ronald’s decision to become his own building owner.
When a brownstone on the Upper West Side became available in 1978, Ronald was ready to buy. But as a new building owner, he had no real knowledge or experience with operating and maintaining a building. At the time, he either had to hire contractors or learn how to do the work himself. Luckily, Ronald developed a friendship with a superintendent down the block who taught him about repairing and maintaining his property. With the help of his new friend, Ronald was able to upgrade his building doing much of the work himself. He also took courses to learn how he could run his building more efficiently.
Having been an elementary teacher in the NY Public schools where he taught environmental science, Ronald was already aware of several ways to make his building environmentally friendly. Some of his first steps were to insulate the roof and to replace all of the lighting with LED lights. He also replaced an old boiler, which caused the building’s oil use to drop considerably and saved a bunch of money. Ronald also cleans his present boiler twice every year to maintain good efficiency.
So, why would an owner with so many years’ experience operating his building need a Building Operator Training (BOT) class? Even while he taking the BOT course in 2022, Ronald was able to implement a new practice that saves him 30-40 gallons of oil per delivery. During the BOT class discussion about proper boiler water level, Ronald realized his boiler was holding too much water. When he insisted that his boiler company lower the water to the level recommended by the manufacturer, performance improved saving a significant amount of oil—and money.
Ronald Fields began learning about buildings while living on Riverside Drive when he was younger. At the time, the building he lived in suffered from wide variances in temperature on the front of the building which faced the river and the back of the building, so people on the front of the building were too cold and people in the back were too hot. Ronald was one of the tenants who led a rent strike to try to get new double paned windows in the building. From this experience, Ronald decided that he did not want to deal with a landlord, but preferred to buy and maintain his own building and become his own landlord.
Ronald strongly recommends that superintendents and building managers take the class, especially if they are new to the position. But Ronald also knows that even a person with many years of experience can learn something new that is ‘good for the environment and good for the pocketbook‘.