Façade regulations have been getting a lot of attention recently. The December 2019 death of a pedestrian due to falling debris has spurred the Department of Buildings (DOB) to ramp up its enforcement policies around unsafe façades and the entire Façade Safety Inspection Program.
NYC’s Local Law 11 requires buildings taller than six stories to undergo façade inspections and repairs every five years — but there are now additional requirements.
Overall, the agency has strengthened its façade inspection process — enhancing protocols and enforcing swift consequences — and expanded its façade inspection staff.
Here are some of the key changes that are in effect as of February 2020 or earlier:
• The DOB is hiring 12 new staff positions for the facade inspection team — doubling the previous staff count and aiming for more frequent and thorough proactive inspections for properties taller than six stories.
• 25% of all buildings taller than six stories will be selected at random to receive safety compliance reviews.
• Buildings, where the façade’s condition is deemed unsafe or defective, will face potential enforcement actions, as well as receive additional proactive re-inspections to ensure proper pedestrian safety measures are in place. Additionally, if a building is issued a Class 1 façade violation, the agency will conduct follow-up inspections within 60 days to ensure that proper protection has been installed.
• If proper protection has not been installed, city contractors will be sent to perform the work at the owner’s expense. For Class 1 façade violations, the DOB will then perform a follow-up inspection after 90 days of the issuance (and every 90 days thereafter if issues persist) to ensure the protection is still in place and that work has commenced correcting the issue.
• At least one close-up inspection for every 60 feet of every public right-of-way frontage will be required. Under the old rules, one close-up inspection was required on every street frontage.
• Building owners will be required to post their façade status in their building lobby, much like the new energy-efficiency letter grades.
• Qualified exterior wall inspectors hired by property owners will need a minimum of seven years of relevant experience. They will also have to demonstrate familiarity with relevant laws and rules and an understanding of façade science.
• Inspectors will have to provide photographic evidence of close-up inspections in order to eliminate false filings. There are also stiff er civil penalties for non-compliance.
• Contractors and inspectors will be required to conduct at least one probe per close-up inspection interval to determine the condition and number of ties and shelves.
The DOB published many of these final rules on January 14. You can view them on the DOB’s website, in addition to their late January press release concerning façade enhancements.
It’s important now more than ever to discuss these changes with your façade vendor so you’re prepared for upcoming inspections. It’s also not a bad idea to plan ahead for your next round of façade inspections — it’s possible the process may take longer, and you’ll want to make sure you can still submit your reports before they’re due, avoiding any possible penalties.