by Ryan Cain, LEED AP, Senior Project Designer

Asset rehabilitation offers a sustainable approach to growing a development portfolio, providing an eco-friendly alternative to ground-up construction. However, buildings do not get better with age, and if the walls of a decades-old multi-family residential building could talk, they might have something to say about dry rot, mold, or utility deficiencies. The key to a successful project is hiring an architect that is experienced in multi-family housing rehabilitation. With three decades of rehabilitating multi-family residential projects under our belt, the Pinnacle team will shed light on the most common issues encountered in rehabilitation projects and explore effective mitigation strategies.


Tackling dry rot

Dry rot is a frequent lurking nightmare in rehabilitation projects. When left unaddressed, it can lead to a chain reaction of structural damage. At first glance, your building’s siding may look like it’s in good shape, but what your building looks like when it is fully wrapped is not necessarily indicative of what it looks like on the inside. By involving a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) and thoroughly assessing potential problem areas, we can mitigate scope creep and ensure a more accurate budgeting process. Detailed reviews of the project’s maintenance record, open communication between the owner and design team, and selective demolition at areas of concern during the project’s outset play a vital role in early detection and can prevent unexpected blows to your project budget.

Progress image of the rehabilitation of Bonita Villa in Tigard, Oregon. The building at the forefront has been renovated while the one in the background is still awaiting construction.


Overcoming electrical and mechanical deficiencies

There are some modern amenities that have come to be expected, and sometimes required, like elevators and EV charging stations. Aged buildings lead to dated infrastructure that is not adequate for today’s standards. Electrical and mechanical shortcomings are avoidable with timely inspections by electrical utilities and engineers. Our best practice is to walk the site with an engineer and inspector from the local utility at the schematic design phase, or earlier when we are working with clients on funding applications.


Managing necessary plumbing and sewer upgrades

Getting a plumbing engineer and sewer utility inspector onsite at the beginning of a project is also a good idea that is often overlooked. Frontloading the inspections can end up saving you tens of thousands of dollars. If you wait until construction starts to expose plumbing mains and ignore tell-tale signs of deficiencies like low water pressure, and frequently clogged toilets, you could end up with major construction delays while waiting for materials, permits, and engineering.


Navigating complicated jurisdictional requirements

Each permitting jurisdiction can interpret building codes differently, especially when it comes to renovation and rehabilitation projects. Since unforeseen code requirements can lead to major project delays, it’s a good idea to have a design team that builds relationships with plan reviewers in the local office and work with a design team that has recent rehabilitation experience within the jurisdiction of your project.

Image of Ariel South Apartments in Bend, Oregon before a rehabilitation

Image of Ariel South Apartments in Bend, Oregon after a rehabilitation


Addressing accessibility upgrades

Prioritizing site accessibility from the outset ensures the smooth integration of ramps, sidewalks, and other upgrades without impacting the project’s progress. This approach is not only rooted in equity but also safeguards against potential legal or funding complications down the road. Pinnacle recommends planning accessible routes to site amenities and to the public right of way from the beginning of the project. Picking the right units to perform interior accessibility upgrades is key. The easiest units to upgrade aren’t always the best. Where they are in the building and where they are on the site is just as important as how much interior rehab is needed to bring them up to code. Upgrading unit interiors to meet accessibility requirements often involves navigating load-bearing walls. Exploratory demolition investigations and structural assessments early on can help plan for these modifications more effectively. It is important to note that meeting minimum jurisdictional and funding requirements or getting exemptions from those requirements does not protect you from future litigation. Pinnacle provides upgrade recommendations unique to each project based on decades of experience in affordable housing rehabilitation design.


At the end of the day, your best ‘safeguard’ when entering a rehabilitation project is an appropriate contingency in the project budget. However, there is not one flat percentage or amount that can be used for every project. Early observation and exploration of the project site and existing structures allow the design team to determine potential issues and recommendations on contingency. Taking on a rehabilitation for your multi-family housing portfolio is undoubtedly a sustainable choice, but it comes with its share of challenges. By understanding and proactively addressing common issues, developers can transform aged buildings into vibrant, modern spaces while making a positive impact on both the environment and the lives of the occupants.

If you are ready to start your next rehabilitation project or want to make upgrades but don’t know where to start? Drop us a message by clicking this link – Contact


Ryan Cain HeadshotRyan Cain, LEED AP, Senior Project Designer

Ryan is knowledge, mission-driven, and client-focused. He works hand-in-hand with clients to find design solutions that meet their needs while staying within budget and on schedule. Ryan’s strength lies in his ability to problem solve while simultaneously understanding unique team dynamics on each project to make collaborative efforts more successful. His creativity paired with strong communication skills make him an excellent resource for his clients, team, consultants, and contractors. Ryan can be reached at (541) 388-9897 x17 or