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New Building Codes Passed After Lessons From Hurricane Sandy

By: Scott Henson

Mireya Navarro reports for The New York Times.

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Acting on the recommendations of a task force convened after Hurricane Sandy, the City Council on Thursday approved new requirements that were expected to make buildings more sustaining during emergencies and prevent some of the hardships that New Yorkers endured after the storm last year.

One change requires residential buildings five stories or higher to add faucets in common areas like laundry rooms so that residents on higher floors have some access to water for drinking, flushing toilets and other uses. Upper floors lose water when electric pumps stop working during blackouts, a problem that worsened conditions and forced many people out of their buildings after the hurricane. The requirement applies immediately to new residential construction, while existing buildings have eight years to add the fixtures.

“It will make it much more possible to stay in a large building for an extended period without power,” said Russell Unger, chairman of the task force of more than 200 building experts, property owners and city officials that proposed the changes.

Another piece of legislation requires new and existing hospitals and nursing homes in flood zones to install hookups that would enable quick connection to temporary generators and boilers so that such facilities can maintain electricity and heating when the power is out. The law requiring the hookups is effective immediately for new buildings, but gives existing buildings 20 years to comply.

Another new law makes it easier to install backup generators and generators that run on natural gas, which is considered a cleaner and more reliable source of power than diesel fuel. And a fourth law allows temporary flood barriers on sidewalks.

Despite the costs to comply with the new requirements — a 20-story co-op could spend $16,000 for the required one-common-area faucet per 100 residents — property owners have been generally supportive because of the losses suffered during the storm.

“It’d help get buildings up and running faster,” Angela Pinsky, a senior vice president for the Real Estate Board of New York, said of some of the measures.


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