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The latest news on New York architecture.

  • Has Your Facade Been Inspected in the Past 5 Years?

    Has Your Facade Been Inspected in the Past 5 Years?

    NYC Department of Buildings law requires that all big buildings (6 stories and higher) must have their facades professionally inspected every five years. This law was formerly known as Local Law 11 and was renamed as Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP). The current filing window for Cycle 8 has closed as of February 2019. The upcoming five year Cycle 9 will begin in February 2020 and closes in February 2024.

    Background on FISP

    Originally named Local Law 10, the law was enacted in the early 1980s by then-Mayor Ed Koch after several people were tragically injured. The first person was a Barnard College student who was struck by a piece of falling terra cotta in 1979 and died on West 115th Street. In 1982, a 28-year-old lawyer was struck by a piece of falling masonry as she was walking in downtown Brooklyn. On her way to court that morning, she had returned to her office to retrieve her umbrella.

    Local Law 10 was reformed in 1997 after several incidents of collapse and falling masonry throughout NYC. While there were no immediate fatalities, the collapses catapulted Local Law 10 requirements to the public’s attention. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani called for the original law to be revised and renamed as the updated Local Law 11 in 1998.

    Does My Building Need a Facade Inspection?

    Any NYC building owner with a six-story or taller building must comply with the law. If you have not had your façade inspected by February 2019, your fines will start to add up. The fines begin at $250 per month for a late filing and can reach $1,000 per year for not filing at all.

    Who Can Perform FISP in Compliance with NYC Law?

    Scott Henson Architect specializes in exterior building inspections to ensure your building is in compliance with FISP. Our team of licensed architects has performed thousands of routine inspections and can help ensure that your building is ready to be inspected in upcoming Cycle 9. The exterior inspection requires a close, critical examination and must be completed by a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI). Your professional inspector must be a NYS licensed engineer or architect. We can perform the inspection and report to the NYC Department of Buildings your building conditions determining that it falls into one of the three following categories: SAFE, UNSAFE or SWARMP.

    • SAFE buildings require no repairs.
    • UNSAFE buildings require immediate repairs within 30 days. Building owners are responsible for providing sidewalk shields or similar protections for the public.
    • SWARMP (Safe With A Repair and Maintenance Program) conditions vary by building, your FISP facade inspector can provide detailed information describing exactly what needs to be repaired.

    Preserving New York City architecture is our passion at Scott Henson Architect. Keep up with the latest updates in NYC building regulations on our website. If you need to schedule your upcoming Cycle 9 FISP inspection, contact us and we’ll ensure your building is in compliance with NYC laws.

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  • The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    The Economics of Saving Old Windows

    A common mistake when performing repairs on historic properties has been to replace the original windows with modern windows. Because of this, it is rare to find properties that still have their original windows. When someone goes to purchase a property and they see that the windows are replaced, it takes away from the beauty and character of the historic building. Many buyers looking to buy these properties want the original windows still in place and are willing to pay more for it.

    They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To

    Historic windows were made differently than the windows found in stores today. The width and visual weight of sash components, depth and thickness of the frames and sills, even the color and the pattern of light reflecting off the glass was different than any windows manufactured today. Older windows tend to be larger and rounded unlike modern windows. Most were custom-built and did not respect standardized sizes as they do today, which can even change the amount of natural lighting inside the building. Choosing to repair and retrofit preserves integrity by keeping as much of the old window as possible.

    Historic Windows Were Built to Last

    When buildings were built long ago every component including the windows were built with great attention to detail. Builders did not do their work based on what would be the fastest and cheapest way to accomplish their goal. They made sure to use quality materials. Prior to 1940 wood windows were usually made from old growth wood. Old growth wood is stable and mills well. It holds paint and stains well. Insects are less attracted to old growth wood and it has a natural resistance to rot. Most of the time the wood was harvested locally, making it best suited for the local climate conditions.

    Modern windows typically have a warranty life of about 8-10 years. Because they are not designed to last longer than this, they are usually just replaced instead of repaired. Most historic residential windows have a proven longevity of over 100 years before needing repair and, when repaired, can be used for another 100 years.

    Historic Windows Can Be Repaired

    The replacement of these beautiful historic windows is often caused by peeling paint, broken glass or missing glazing putty. When these areas show signs of damage the windows tend to lose much of their beauty and eventually the window is often replaced. But with repair, and regular maintenance, these old windows will hold and last for years to come.

    When overseeing the restoration of a historic building or house, it is always better to repair the windows that are already in place. By repairing them, the original character and beauty of the building is maintained. Replacing them with modern windows, even for more energy efficient ones will, in a sense, decrease the value.

    A Common Misconception

    There is a common misconception when it comes to historic windows that they need to be replaced to help with energy saving. Even though replacing the original windows with more "energy efficient" windows may help save on expenses, it rarely makes a difference in the long run.

    The argument that modern windows are more energy efficient than older windows fails to consider the conservation of embodied energy and reduction of environmental cost. Although smart windows may seem very eco-friendly, even manufacturing new windows has a cost on the environment and leaves an old usable window to waste.

    Fittings ought to be used for as long as they are in working order, especially in these times when we are facing challenges of global warming. Most historic windows are made of durable material that can last for as long as the building itself with mere maintenance. Replacing the original windows in a historic building should always be a last resort.

    For more information on the restoration of historic windows contact Scott Henson Architect, where we specialize in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings.

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