By: Paola Rojas Boston
April 29th, 2022
In response to Boston’s aging building infrastructure, the City of Boston enacted a façade ordinance back in 1995. As the ordinance nears 30 years old, it is clear that the issues related to façade failures have not stopped. The purpose of the ordinance is to enforce a piece of the building code that is not often talked about; Building Owners are responsible to maintain their building facades to ensure the safety of the public.
While there are thousands of buildings in Boston, only about 1,000 meet the requirements of the Façade Ordinance. This doesn’t mean that Owners of smaller buildings are off the hook when it comes to keeping their facades maintained, but it does mean they won’t have to submit a report to the Inspectional Services Department every 5 years. For more on the actual requirements of the ordinance, check out our past article here.
The person or persons typically tasked with conducting the inspections are licensed, architects or engineers. It’s important to remember that a false or inaccurate report could cause a series of issues for the Building Owners, as well as jeopardize the safety of the public. If the architect or engineer neglects to report identified conditions to the Building Owner, there could be potential long-term issues, both financially and legally. The purpose of an ordinance report is to inform Building Owners of the status of their buildings so that they may respond to the requirements to address all conditions that require maintenance. It also may allow an opportunity for the Owner to prepare a capital improvement plan.
If there are unreported issues that are not captured in the report, these may require larger and more expensive repairs in the future, which could put Building Owners in a tight spot financially without a plan for implementation. For example, small repair items like mortar repointing and sealant replacement can result in extensive repairs down the road if left unaddressed for just one inspection cycle. In short, a small cost “savings”, in the short term, can translate to larger expenses in the future, depending on the accuracy of the inspection and report. The more thorough the ordinance report, the better the opportunity there is to implement an effective maintenance plan and ensure public safety.
Vague ordinance reports that do not provide detailed locations of all conditions, can cause difficulty during future cycles, especially if a different architect or engineer is performing the work. If the first licensed professional performing the inspection simply states that a condition is located in a general area without providing photos or an elevation with a specific window line to indicate the exact location, it may be difficult to locate during the next cycle. If the next licensed professional cannot locate this condition, there is no way to determine if the condition has worsened or requires remediation. A thorough report will indicate each condition and location; map out all specific conditions, locations, and window lines on a sketch building diagram; and include photos of all identified conditions. This detailed information allows the Building Owner to easily arrange a plan to address the immediate concern conditions, as well as allow for future Inspectors to evaluate the classification of the previous conditions observed.
Inaccurate reports conducted by people inexperienced with any of the exterior façade components can also be counterproductive and costly. Conditions that are incorrectly classified as unsafe may result in superfluous costs to the Building Owner. Building Owners should consider all potential financial implications when retaining a professional engineer or architect to perform an accurate façade ordinance inspection and be aware of the requirements of the ordinance in order to be in compliance, as well as provide detailed information for themselves and the building department.