By: Ben Powell
March 24, 2021
As we enter the second quarter of 2021, it is an important time for building owners in New York City to begin thinking about the FISP status of their buildings. The buildings that are zoned in sub-cycle A must be filed in February 2022. It can be worthwhile to be proactive and retain a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI) to perform the necessary FISP inspections in a timely manner.
A Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector is a New York State Licensed Professional Engineer or Architect who is responsible for preparing and submitting all paperwork required for a FISP report. The QEWI will evaluate the safety of the premises by inspecting the building exterior and documenting all conditions and protective measures, including sidewalk sheds and construction fencing. Once an appropriate amount of information has been collected, the QEWI will determine if the building will be filed as Safe, Unsafe, or “SWARMP,” which is Safe with a Repair and Maintenance Program. We recommend that building owners retain a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector to perform the FISP inspections over the summer months, as this will help ensure there is enough time to schedule for an inspection and the preparation for a thorough report.
An Unsafe classification denotes that any issues or defects identified at the building may threaten public safety. A building may be catalogued as Unsafe due to a myriad of façade conditions. Some of the most common conditions are bulging and/or loose masonry, cracked terra cotta, leaning parapet walls, and severely deteriorated cornices to name a few. A building might also be considered Unsafe if the SWARMP conditions identified in the previous FISP filing cycle were not repaired prior to the start of the new cycle. Once a building is declared Unsafe, the unsafe conditions must be repaired within 90 days of filing the FISP report. Typically, a building owner must retain an Engineer/Architect to begin the process of developing design documents and a scope of work to address the conditions. If the repairs are not completed within 90 days of filing the FISP report, then a DOB filing extension may be submitted by the Engineer/Architect of Record to extend the 90 days as long as adequate safety measures are in place to protect the general public; accompanying the request for filing extension to complete the work there is typically a statement of the progress along with the expected date of completion.
If a Building Owner begins the FISP process late and their building is classified as Unsafe, they can open themselves up to possible violations and DOB issued fines. A 90-day window is often not enough time to complete the repairs of the Unsafe conditions. If there is not an DOB approved filing extension by an Engineer/Architect, every 90 days after the listed Unsafe due date, then fines will be levied against the property until the conditions are corrected and a new filing is submitted to the DOB. After Unsafe conditions are repaired, an amended filing must be completed with the DOB within 2 weeks. With that in mind, planning for summer FISP inspections not only provides enough time for the Engineer/Architect to file by the February 2022 deadline, but also helps to guarantee a window of time for weather-dependent work to be performed without weather delays, if Unsafe conditions are identified. Planning ahead will not only help promote a smooth construction process and diminish the impact of common delays, but may also significantly reduce the cost of the exterior restoration work, whether there are SWARMP repairs or possibly Unsafe conditions.
All buildings classified under sub-cycle A must be filed by February 21, 2022. If you are a building owner, determine if your building requires a FISP inspection and filing, plan, and be proactive; summer is around the corner!