Determining the age of the building is required for virtually every assessment report we create.  Most reports feature various remaining useful life estimates including one for the building as a whole.  If the site contact does not know when the building was built, there are several ways to get a good idea as to the construction date.  The most obvious is the original building permit and/or certificate of occupancy, but some municipalities don’t have accurate or complete records.

Another good way to get a ballpark age for a building is to review historic aerial photos.  Google Earth has a great feature – click on the clock icon at the top of the screen – that allows you to look at historical imagery of a given location. It’s a good way to verify when roofing was replaced or the pavement was last seal coated as well.

In addition, while at the site there are several components that point to the age of the building:

  • Fire hydrants throughout the property usually have a manufacture date and were typically installed at the time that the site was developed.
  • Main electrical equipment frequently has a manufacture date indicated on the label and was usually installed at the time that the building was originally constructed.
  • Serial number indicated on label of original HVAC equipment or water heaters will tell you the age of the equipment and potentially the building as a result.
  • Main fire sprinkler riser piping typically has a manufacture date, and more times than not, it was installed at the time the building was originally constructed.

Between these, you can usually get at least one or two fairly accurate estimates to use in the report.  I’m sure there are more ways, but between these it is almost always possible to get a good idea of the building age.  And, if when you’re not really sure of the date, it never hurts to add a “circa” in front of the estimated date to indicate you’re making an educated guess.