By: Kevin Duffy
Is it December already? I bet most of you have thought that at some point within the past couple of weeks. Time certainly does fly, especially for insanely busy property or facility managers. For this exact reason, it’s important to have a good understanding of what’s involved in the planning and execution of a successful building envelope restoration project. Even industry professionals with years of experience might benefit from an outline of a project’s stages.
Having inspections or investigations performed and comprehensive and detailed reports prepared is the first step in any restoration project. Often, that report is a FISP (Façade Inspection Safety Program, formerly Local Law 11/98) report. If the building is not part of the FISP Universe, a building envelope survey or property condition assessment is an invaluable resource. These reports help ownership understand what needs to be fixed, as well as offer an approximate budget for planning purposes. Depending on the complexities of the building, and the time of year, a report can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks to complete.
A design is the next step in a successful building envelope restoration project. Depending on the building type and existing conditions, probes might need to be performed to determine possible underlying causes of damage or deterioration, and the extent of necessary repairs to the structural elements. Typically, this process takes about 6 weeks; however, if probes or additional testing are conducted, it could take as long as 10. Additionally, if any hazardous material testing must be performed, more time should be anticipated.
After the design phase, Ownership usually elects to bid the project out to several contractors. Again, depending on the size and complexity of the project, this typically takes between 2 and 4 weeks. Once the bids are received, the Owner must select which contractor to move forward with. Now, depending on the Owner’s decision-making process, it could take 2 weeks to 2 months to award the project to a bidder.
If the project requires filing with any regulatory agencies such as the DOB, DOT, LPC, etc., be ready to wait… up to 6 weeks for the expediting, review and approval process. In spring, this might take up to 8 weeks. The NYC DOB has hired additional plan examiners this year, however, to expedite the drawing review process. It’s important to remember that a permit cannot be pulled unless any required abatement is first performed, or a variance allowing work in a limited capacity is applied for.
Once the permit is approved, the project can begin; however, depending on the size of the project, site safety oversight might be a requirement. In general, if a building is 14 or more stories, it will require site safety. Having a site safety plan approved and retaining a site safety manager can delay the process; however, the site safety coordination and the DOB filing can often be accomplished concurrently.
Next up is the construction phase, which really depends on the project scope and size. A project can range in duration from a few days to a few years. It is important to be open and honest with residents and occupants so they know how long to expect sidewalk bridges or scaffolding to be present. Sullivan Engineering’s current record for longest restoration project duration is 4 years, while our shortest is 1 week. Those projects are outliers, as most building envelope restoration projects can be performed in one season, from March to November.
The final phase of a building envelope restoration project is a project close out/DOB sign off, which generally takes 4 to 6 weeks. This process involves the engineer/architect of record signing off on all required inspections, and ownership verifying the cost of the project with the DOB.
In summary, the planning, design, regulatory filing and contractor selection phases can take anywhere from 18 to 36 weeks. Although some of these items can be condensed or combined to reduce this time frame, the main point is it usually takes considerably longer than most property owners anticipate. We urge anyone considering a building envelope restoration project in 2017 to start as soon as possible. Besides negotiating our hectic personal holiday schedules, everyone in the industry is very busy this time of year. Property managers are planning next year’s budgets. Engineers and architects are designing 2017 projects. While pushing to meet schedule deadlines and secure job sites before winter, contractors are putting together bids for these projects. Is the building envelope restoration work you are hoping to accomplish in 2017 among these projects?