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Columbus Facade Ordinance

How you can ensure compliance for your buildings in Columbus



In Columbus, buildings 20 years old or older with a facade located within 10 feet of a public right-of-way, open pedestrian walkway, or plaza require a critical observation every five years.

The ordinance does not apply to one-, two-, or three-family residential buildings or their accessory structures.

In addition, an architect or registered professional engineer with expertise in structural engineering must perform critical observations for structures that meet the above requirements, are three floors tall or more, and are located in a designated downtown area.


The building owner is required to conduct, supervise, or contract for critical observation of all exterior walls and appurtenant structures.

A critical observation report should be detailed enough to allow subsequent reports to document any changes in the condition of the exterior walls and appurtenant structures. The report must be completed within 30 days of the required critical observation and kept and maintained on-site by the building owner, or it must be produced upon request of the building official or chief of the bureau of fire prevention.

When an imminently hazardous exterior wall or appurtenant structure condition is discovered, the owner must immediately begin repair, reinforcement, or precautionary measures to abate the immediate hazard and notify the building official within 24 hours.

Following that, the building owner must immediately hire an architect or a registered professional engineer who specializes in structural engineering to conduct a critical inspection and prepare a report. The building owner must provide the director of building and zoning with a complete copy of the said report.


Frequency: Every 5 years after the building becomes 20 years old.

For buildings that attained applicability status before July 1, 1985, the initial critical observation was to have been completed within the first 12 months of that date, with subsequent observations at least one time every five years afterward.

For buildings that attained applicability status before July 1, 1986, the initial critical observation was to have been completed within the first 12 months of reaching applicability status, with subsequent observations at least one time every five years afterward.

For buildings that attain or attained applicability status after July 1, 1986, the initial critical observation should be completed within 30 days of the date on which such building becomes applicable, with subsequent observations at least one time every five years afterward.

Buildings attain applicability status when they become 20 years old.



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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