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Chicago Facade Ordinance

How you can ensure compliance for your buildings in Chicago



The city of Chicago requires building enclosures and exterior walls that are 80 feet or more in height to be inspected by a licensed design professional every five years.

The ordinance term “exterior walls and enclosures” refers to the exterior envelope of a building or structure, or any part thereof. With regard to “appurtenances,” including balconies, fire escapes, chimneys, hanging air-conditioners, marquees, at-grade canopies, signs, flagpoles, fire escapes, and window washing and exterior maintenance systems.

Buildings are divided into four categories based on their exterior wall attachment system and the corrosion potential of any metal in direct contact with the exterior wall materials. The inspection intervals and scope of the inspection are determined by the building classification.


Under the March 1, 2016 Rules and Regulations, owners may choose to file Ongoing Inspection and Repair Program (“Short Form”) reports every second year and not file Critical Examination Program reports at category mandated frequencies, regardless of building category, provided that none of the following criteria apply:

The building is vacant or subject to registration as required by Section 13-12-125 or 13-12-126 of the Code

The building is the subject of an active case in the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings or an outstanding order of compliance by the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings for a violation of sections 13-196-033 through 13-196-038 of the Code; or is the subject of an active case by the City in the Circuit of Cook County or an outstanding order of compliance or consent decree by the Circuit Court of Cook County for violations of the Code

The building has been classified as “unsafe and imminently hazardous” in the most recently filed report

The owner of the building is more than one year delinquent in filing an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Report “Short Forms”

Owners of a building that meets any of the above criteria are ineligible to file an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Report “Short Form” and should be required to file a Critical Examination Report.

The inspector must classify the facade as Safe in the report for either the critical inspection or the ongoing inspection.

Safe with Repair and Maintenance Program, or Unsafe and Imminently Hazardous. A special form is required for submission of an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Program report and a special format is required for the Critical Examination Program report.


Building enclosures and exterior walls that are eighty feet or more in height are to be inspected by a licensed design professional every 5 years.

Critical examinations, which require hands-on inspection on one 24-foot-long scaffolding per elevation, are required at four, eight, or twelve years depending on the building classification. Critical examinations also require one inspection opening per elevation on buildings 50 years or older for cladding that consists of masonry, stone, or terra cotta that is affixed to the building structure with concealed corrodible or corrosion-resistant metal fasteners.

Building owners are also required to submit an ongoing inspection and repair program report to the city at the halfway point of the critical examination cycle. Hands-on inspections of the facade are not required for the ongoing inspection.



Failure to perform any act required by this Article or performance of any action which is prohibited by this Article should constitute a violation thereof.

Every day on which a violation exists should constitute a separate violation and a separate offense. Any person violating any of the provisions of this Article should be subject to a fine of not less than $1,000.00 nor more than $2,000.00 for each offense in addition to any other fine, penalty, or remedy provided in this Code.

The Commissioner of Planning and Development or his designee may issue a notice of violation for any violation of this Article, and such notice may be prosecuted in either the Department of Administrative Hearings as provided in Chapter 2-14 or in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Why it’s important to stay in compliance

Staying in compliance is essential for adhering to the legal requirement enforced by the Department of Licenses and Inspections. 

Additionally, having a building up to code ensures the safety, health, and welfare of all occupants inside the building as well as the general public. Periodic building envelope inspections also empowers building owners to preventatively address facade and roof-related concerns before the conditions lead to much costlier restoration. Without routine inspections, your building poses a risk to surrounding residents and structures while having to deal with fines, potential offenses, and more.


Sullivan Engineering recommends partnering with an architecture or engineering firm that specializes in exterior restoration services when you are ready to have your building inspected. A professional firm like Sullivan Engineering will know exactly what to look for and be able to identify conditions such as superficial cracks and deterioration. They will ensure that these conditions will not be mislabeled, and more importantly, that unsafe conditions posing threats to public safety will not go unnoticed and unreported.

Sullivan Engineering’s partnership approach, focusing on proactive communication and fast turnaround times, combined with our budget management expertise and our ability to leverage technology gives our clients an exceptional experience they can’t find anywhere else. To learn more about us and our core values and determine if we are the right partner for you, visit our About Us page.

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