This is the first in an occasional series of ‘A Day in the Life’ articles designed to give an insight into some of the weird and wonderful jobs that keep our city ticking over. Today we look at A Day in the Life of Building Manager Alistair Scott from Vantage Strata.
Talking to Alistair Scott you get the feeling that his job combines the talents of a detective, a project manager, a builder, a cleaner, a nurse-maid, a troubleshooter and a human relations practitioner.
From policing whether clothes have been left to dry on balconies to managing tradespeople and ensuring a building’s safety, the job is extremely varied and rarely dull.
“There is so much variety. There is a routine that you follow but no day is ever the same,” he said.
Alistair brings to the position his skills in working as a chef for 25 years – including at a two-hatted restaurant – and as the manager of a cleaning company.
“You have to be able to deal with people,” he said. “There’s the adage: you don’t know someone until you’ve lived with them. I live with 300 people daily – you know what’s happening, you know what’s going on.”
The 44-year-old father-of-two has been working for Vantage Strata for about one-and-a-half years and manages the 248 apartments in the Sentinel building in Benjamin Way, Belconnen and the 165 apartments split over three buildings which make up The Pier on the Kingston Foreshore.
Alistair’s job is one few people would really know about, but with more and more high-rise apartment buildings going up in Canberra it is becoming an essential part of city living.
As part of the building management agreement, Alistair is charged with monitoring and maintaining all the essential services of the building, coordinating all the tradespeople, monitoring the cleanliness of the building, and checking whether there are any faults or defects that need to be attended to.
Alistair essentially works for the owners’ corporations in each of the two buildings he manages and has regular contact with the executive committees of these organisations.
He also has regular contact with the Strata Manager of the two buildings, Sarah Weihrauch – another Vantage Strata employee who manages the two buildings’ finances, levies, official correspondence and the like.
Explaining the rules and being the ‘washing police’
A key part of Alistair’s job is also to understand all the rules and regulations relating to the two buildings in terms of things like safety requirements and also the boundaries for using common property – with Alistair then needing to translate these rules for the residents.
“Some buildings are very staunch about washing on balconies and so you end up being the washing police,” Alistair gave as an example.
“I always get a good laugh out of this job and you’ve got to be able to laugh with the residents as well as you don’t want to be stalwart.”
One of Alistair’s favourite stories is about a young lady in one of the buildings who was sent a letter asking her not to dry washing on her balcony. He recalls her asking him the reason behind this rule and he told her that the owners’ corporation felt the washing visually devalued the property by making it look cheaper.
“Her retort to that was – ‘yeah but all my stuff’s Chanel and so that can’t devalue the property’,” Alistair said.
It seems that one of the most common concerns among residents relates to car parking spaces.
“Stealing each other’s car parking spaces is an ongoing one and a difficult one to work with,” he said.
A typical day for Alistair
Alistair works five days a week and occasionally on Saturdays, with his days starting at 5:00 am each morning. He visits both the Sentinel and The Pier each day.
On arriving at the building, the first thing Alistair does is a full scout of the exterior looking to see if there is any graffiti, damage or signs of any break-ins as well as checking the general cleanliness.
He said that it is fairly common for people to try to break into the buildings he manages but it also seems to be common for them to get caught – with Alistair helping the police by providing CCTV footage.
Alistair next checks all of the common areas outside, followed by the most frequently used building areas such as the lift lobby and the waste enclosures – “to see if someone’s dumped something they shouldn’t have, which is a common problem in units”.
Then he checks the gymnasium, the barbecue area, the podium, the pump room and the pool (at the Sentinel only). He cleans anything that needs it and reports any other problems – recording everything on his shift log (which is also useful in terms of time management).
Next Alistair checks essential services and at the Sentinel this involves going on the roof (20 stories high) to check the plant – involving three computer-controlled pumps that run the building’s hot water reticulation system.
Then it’s back down into the office to go through the emails received overnight. What he does next depends on the day of the week.
For example, on Mondays the rubbish is collected and so Alistair needs to change all the bins over from underneath the chutes and put them out for the garbage collection.
“We make sure there’s nothing obstructive in the bins that’s going to damage the trucks – broom handles, or pieces of furniture, steel and that sort of thing,” he said.
After that’s done, Alistair attends to any small maintenance jobs that are on the list, does a quick check of the building and locks up.
It’s then time to head off to the other building to do all those things over again!
A job with a view
Throughout it all, Alistair is often taking a stream of phone calls and making use of the ‘Buildinglink’ online system to keep a record of everything he does. He can also see any maintenance issues that have been logged by the residents of the two buildings.
All in all, he has some busy days but Alistair loves his job and the lovely locations he works in.
“The view from both buildings is magnificent,” he said.