By: Brian Sullivan
On Monday, April 18, 2016, the NYC DOB FISP (Facade Inspection Safety Program) team held another industry session for firms involved with FISP (formerly Local Law 11/98) inspections. The head of the NYC DOB’s FISP team, Timothy Lynch, provided updates on the FISP unit’s areas of focus and concern. This included recent trends, as well as thoughts on future regulations. The large turnout of 100 +/- QEWI’s (Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector’s) clearly indicates a growing interest in and demand for facade inspection and regulation in NYC. Some items of note from the meeting are described below.
The objectives of the FISP unit were defined as:
aTo protect the public who live and work in New York City in and around its large population of buildings from falling pieces of the facade (+/- 1M bldgs, 14K > 6 stories FISP buildings)
To educate our audience on how to recognize the FISP population of buildings. In particular, to help identify when the buildings are not maintained and the risks associated with Failure to Maintain, incorrect filings with the DOB.
To direct our audience to free websites for codes, laws and regulatory filings with the Department.
Intent of FISP
The city made clear that the intent of FISP is to maintain buildings as aSafea rather than as recurring or prolonged statuses of SWARMP (Safe With a Repair and Maintenance Program). They emphasized the importance of establishing a repair and maintenance program that it brings buildings back to a “Safe” status rather than only addressing issues required to get to another SWARMP status in the next cycle. The following sections of the NYC Administrative Code and Rules of the City of New York were cited:
NYC Administrative Code 28-301.1: Owneras Responsibilities: All buildings and all parts thereof and all other structures shall be maintained in a safe condition
RCNY 103.04.b.1 All facades must be maintained safely by Owners
The DOB is also hiring additional inspectors for the FISP unit to audit reports filed, perform their own field inspections and reduce the number of NRFas (No Report Filed). Currently, there are 700 buildings from the 7th cycle that have not filed. The DOB also recommended that QEWIas reach out to building owners if they are aware of unsafe conditions, statuses and/or NRFs in an attempt to resolve these issues immediately and avoid potential penalties. The fines for these conditions were reiterated:
Late Penalty $250/month a Civil Penalty
Late Filing $1,000 annually
Failure to correct unsafe condition $1,000 monthly
Unsafe Status, Public Protection
Obviously, public safety is at the core of the FISP program. Discussion regarding the installation of sidewalk sheds reiterated this point. When a facade inspection reveals an unsafe condition, the DOBA requires public protection be installed immediately. This public protection may not be removed until the repairs are completed and an acceptable amended report is filed. The QEWI must request permission to remove the sidewalk shed when the facade is made safe. If the protection is removed prior to permission being granted, fines may be assessed.
One Size Does Not Fit All
The DOB FISP unit is increasing its focus on evaluating the number of drops performed on a building, as one drop may not be sufficient for all buildings. Similarly, the type of construction will be factored into the report review as further investigation may be required before a building can be classified (e.g. probes in cavity wall facades). Furthermore, the type of facade material may drive the number of drops, probes, etc. For example, terracotta stone facades often require more up close inspections than brick masonry.
The FISP team reiterated the DOBas stance on balcony enclosures, as stated in the FISP Cycle 8 Industry Meeting on November 19, 2014. All balcony enclosures must be permitted. All structurally stable balcony enclosures that do not have a valid permit must be classified as SWARMP. Building owners will then be required to obtain a permit for the enclosure or have it removed within the SWARMP timeline to avoid an unsafe classification.
One item of note concerned me, and should certainly concern building owners. According to records, more than 500 professionals submitted reports during the 7th cycle; however, it appears that only around 100 perform these inspections as a primary focus of their services. Many submit less than a handful of reports per cycle and have no regular involvement with the FISP unit. Building owners attempting to comply with the law and properly identify exterior conditions in need of maintenance may be inadvertently hiring an inspector whoas investigative and reporting services may be insufficient.
Fortunately, the FISP team will continue to hold these industry sessions to keep QEWIas informed. In turn, we will offer assistance to building owners to encourage their compliance with the cityas requirements, and most importantly, their promotion of public safety. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 973-706-8584.