By: Jimmy Monahan
June 24, 2021
As a follow up to our recently published article, “Large Complexes – Project Planning,” this article will be focusing on the planning, inspection and submission of FISP compliance reports for a multi-building complex or campus. If you are familiar with NYC’s robust FISP compliance program, you are aware of the mandatory inspections for buildings 6.5 stories and higher and the submission of the reports to the NYC Department of Buildings. Building Owners and Property Managers in the NYC area are well educated in this process and are aware of its challenges. The Owners and Property Managers of large complexes experience those challenges on an amplified scale.
The first step for an Owner and Property Manager is to retain a QEWI (Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector) that can perform the inspections for all of the required buildings. It is important for an Owner to ensure that the QEWI can accommodate, coordinate, and manage the entirety of the FISP process. Essentially, the QEWI should be able to complete all of the FISP reports and submit them by their due dates; this includes working with a contractor to coordinate the hands-on portion of the FISP inspection through the use of a boom lift, suspended scaffold, or through industrial rope access. The QEWI must determine if probes are required on each building they are inspecting. As per the new changes to Cycle 9, cavity wall buildings require probes to be performed during every odd cycle to ensure that the existing tiebacks are in fair condition.
Next, the QEWI, Property Manager and building Owner must develop a schedule to perform the hands-on inspections and building surveys. This requires the Owner to notify the respective residents so they are aware of the inspection dates and can prepare to assist the QEWI and contractor in performing the inspections; this may require making accommodations for parking, retaining a flagman for pedestrian traffic, and providing electric and power to the contractor. All of these tasks must be performed and coordinated while accounting for potential inclement weather conditions. Including potential rain dates in the project schedule will help protect against overall project delays.
After the field inspections are conducted, the QEWI must prepare a FISP report for each building. The QEWI will need to include inspection dates, riggers license information, work permit and sidewalk permit information, and identify any SWARMP or UNSAFE conditions. Part of the reporting process includes developing a key plan with the window lines noted to assist in the identification and specific locations for any required repairs. The aforementioned work is entirely achievable; however, the challenging part of managing the inspections for multiple buildings is the capture and organization all of the field data, and the successful compilation of that data into the FISP report to meet the DOB filing requirements. When performing multiple FISP inspections and submitting multiple reports, it is crucial that the QEWI have a robust server and filing system to retain the information. It is also useful to utilize additional software to aid in the planning of the inspections and submission of the reports. This is useful to help track the status of the report while it is being reviewed and uploaded to the DOB NOW website. Once uploaded, the QEWI must coordinate with the building Owner to ensure the compliance reports are reviewed and certified for each building’s report. These tasks can pile up, especially when you are working with a deadline. It is absolutely essential that the Owners and QEWIs allow themselves adequate time to inspect and prepare the report. Oddly enough, there are many similarities between FISP season and tax season. In this scenario, QEWIs are often filing reports right up against the deadline.
Once the FISP reports are filed and accepted, the next step is to track and organize the FISP related conditions and develop a capital improvement plan. Complexes with multiple buildings will likely require several years to fully plan, fund, design, and perform repairs during the 5-year FISP cycle. It is up to the QEWI to work with their client to help them prioritize repairs, prepare budgets, and ensure that those repairs are performed within the FISP cycle timeframe. Implementation is key, as any condition that is not repaired by the recommended date that is cited in the corresponding report will automatically become UNSAFE. Remobilizing to make additional repairs and installing additional sidewalk sheds are not only costly but, can delay future projects and inconvenience residents who have already lived through a construction project; this topic will be discussed in more detail in a subsequent article.
In order for the Owner(s) of large complexes to achieve success in the FISP inspection and submission process, it is essential that the Owner(s) retain a qualified QEWI with experience in managing multiple buildings, concurrently. Qualified QEWIs with exceptional organizational skills, a good command of FISP requirements, and capital planning capabilities, should help the Owner(s) set up for a successful FISP maintenance and repair program.