The NYC Department of Buildings has issued guidelines for facade safety and the requirements for filing inspection reports. The department is responsible for issues of public safety where building facades and appurtenances can pose a risk to the public. The department mandates a five-year cycle of exterior inspections for building owners.
Owners of buildings greater than six stories are required to hire a private qualified exterior wall inspector (QEWI) every five years, according to a rotating yearly scale based on building number. This private inspector verifies that no element of the facade has deteriorated or become unsafe, and has no risk of detaching, falling, and becoming dangerous to residents or the public on the streets below. Even strong materials such as brick, masonry, and tile can become degraded or damaged after exposure to pollutants and the weather, and some issues, such as water incursions into the facade, are not easily visible to the naked eye.
QEWI inspectors are required to submit either a Safe, Safe with Repair and Maintenance, or Unsafe report. If the report meets reporting requirements, it is accepted by the department and further action is scheduled. Any unsafe report has a scheduled DOB inspector visit the site and make recommendations for the building owner. When repairs are made, an amended report is filed, and another DOB inspector is scheduled.
In addition, a DOB inspector schedules an inspection visit when a facade report is not filed when due or a shed removal request is made. It is a common fine for building owners to not file the facade report on time for their building, and this oversight comes with significant monetary fines which are ongoing until the situation is corrected. There are also significant fines associated with unsafe facades which are not repaired and re-inspected as required.
Violations written by the Department of Buildings for facade safety violations are serious, but also suggest that the building owner is at risk for liability issues if a member of the public is injured when the owner is not in compliance with requirements. Knowing when the building is due for an inspection, filing reports in a timely manner, and meeting various requirements for facade safety is a complex process that is critical for building owners.
Can we assist in a facade issue? Please contact us for more information, or to make an appointment.
The Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), previously known as Local Law 11, requires owners of buildings six stories and up to schedule an inspection of the exterior walls and appurtenances by a New York State licensed architect or engineer every five years. Depending on the building’s level of deterioration, a building owner may be required to coordinate a second inspection so that the architect or engineer may verify the progress of corrective measures.
Now that you understand what FISP is, perhaps you’re wondering why it exists. Unfortunately, most building code is written because of an unfortunate event. In the case of FISP, this is also true. In 1980, a pedestrian was killed when a piece of masonry fell from the facade of a building in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In order to prevent similar tragedies from occurring, New York City Council amended the building code to provide for periodic inspections of street facades and appurtenances. Later, in 1997 and 1998, there were several more exterior wall failures in New York City. As a result, the city passed New York City Local Law 11 of 1998, which required inspections and maintenance of the façades of buildings greater than six stories in height.
Owners of such buildings are required to have a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer, known as a “qualified exterior wall inspector,” to perform a visual and close-up inspection of the entire building envelope, including side and rear facing walls. This inspection also includes the examination fire escapes, railings, parapets and roof. Appurtenances such as air conditioners, canopies, satellite dishes, and antennae are also subject to inspection.
After the inspection, the qualified exterior wall inspector will prepare the drawings and file with the Department of Buildings (DOB). Buildings may be classified as safe, safe with a repair and maintenance program (SWARMP), or unsafe. A building classified as SWARMP, must be repaired in a timely fashion, while an unsafe building is dangerous and requires immediate attention.
Unsafe conditions may include items such as loose bricks, cracked windows, leaning walls, or improperly secured air conditioners, as well as other conditions which may be dangerous to pedestrians below. Unsafe conditions must be dealt with immediately, within a 30-day period, and an amended report must be filed confirming the repairs. Extensions of up to 90 days may be granted if necessary.
Regular facade inspections help identify potential problems such as water infiltration and heat loss for tenants and keeps people safe on the street below. For more information, please contact us.