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By: Michael Frech

The Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), commonly referred to as Local Law 11/98, was created to protect pedestrians from debris falling from the deteriorated facades of buildings. In reaction to the tragic death of a Barnard College student from falling terra cotta in 1979, the façade maintenance program was established. It has been revised and amended over the years to even further protect the public.

By law, building owners are required to have a Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) periodically perform inspections and file a report that contains recommendations that must be implemented. This required continued maintenance not only protects the public but also has a financial benefit to building owners. Because a building is required to undergo a comprehensive inspection and any necessary restoration every 7 years, small inexpensive problems are less likely to grow into much larger and costly ones.

Parapet maintenance is a good example of this. Since both sides of the wall are exposed to the elements, the parapet is often the first building component to deteriorate. The need for deteriorated mortar repointing, brick replacement, waterproofing, etc. would be discovered during the inspection. The recommendations for this repair work would be reported and mandated to be performed by a certain date determined by the QEWI. When discovered early, this type of maintenance is routine and the restoration costs are relatively low. However, if these minor defects are not addressed, they can grow into much larger problems. For instance, water can infiltrate the parapet and come to rest on the nearest steel spandrel beam; causing decay that is no visible until the steel has been compromised. Now, instead of a simple repair, ownership is looking at additional brick removal/replacement to expose the deteriorated beam, additional fees to design the repair and perform special inspections, as well as additional expediting and filing fees to the DOB.

Decorative/ornamental masonry buildings also benefit from this mandatory scheduled inspection and required restoration. Many beautiful decorative masonry features can be damaged irreparably if not maintained regularly. Scheduled inspections would reveal repointing, small masonry repairs, sealant replacement and possible coating as minor low-end cost repairs. Again, if left unaddressed, these minor defects can grow into cracked, displaced stone that must be replaced. These issues are compounded if the building is located in a Landmarks District or is a historical building. This can be very costly, as many ornamental masonry pieces are created by only a handful of suppliers. In addition, there may be long lead times for these specialty items.

Regular inspections will reveal the need for minor repairs and restoration. These minor repairs can be completed within a smaller budget on a regular basis. However, if these inspections are not comprehensive, or, the inspection repair and restoration recommendations are ignored, then ultimately the necessary repairs will be much larger in scope and the cost may greatly exceed the cumulative cost of routine minor repairs. The FISP currently makes sure that buildings are on track for regular maintenance that may result in many small budget repairs. While the public’s safety is the reason for the law, it also assists building owners by ensuring that large scale, big budget restoration projects do not sneak up and surprise them.

These tips were provided as a courtesy to our friends and colleagues in the industry. Proper safety plans and building maintenance schedules should be in place for all buildings. For more information on this topic or to discuss any issue further, please feel free to contact me at mfrech@sullivanengineeringllc.com

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About Sullivan Engineering, A Rimkus Company

Sullivan Engineering provides high-quality building envelope restoration and compliance solutions.

We partner with facilities managers and account executives to provide technical expertise and project management for building envelope restoration, compliance, and maintenance.

Our solutions reduce the overall building life cycle maintenance costs by creating long-lasting, high-quality work for years to come.