Behind the bricks: Understanding the technical details of Local Law 11 inspections

Project management
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June 19, 2023
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min read
Behind the bricks: Understanding the technical details of Local Law 11 inspections

In New York City, the awe-inspiring high-rises that fill the skyline are subject to unique rules to make sure they're both durable and safe. One critical regulation is Local Law 11, which requires timely facade inspections for buildings taller than six stories. This indispensable law keeps pedestrians and residents safe from potential hazards, preserving the beauty and safety of our city's buildings.

Getting the hang of these inspections is essential for condo and co-op board members, property managers, and building owners. In this blog post, we'll dive into the world of facade inspections, demystifying the process, what inspectors look for, and how they evaluate the building facade's condition. Let's take a closer look at New York City's amazing structures through the lens of Daisy's fresh and proactive approach.

Why facade inspections matter

Inspections under Local Law 11 serve three significant purposes for New York City's towering structures. First, they keep everyone safe by spotting potential hazards like loose masonry or structural issues, which helps avoid accidents involving pedestrians and residents. Second, inspections help maintain buildings' structural integrity by identifying problems that could worsen over time if left unchecked. Lastly, they ensure compliance with Local Law 11, helping building owners avoid fines and legal issues. Through these inspections, NYC aims to protect its residents, preserve its architectural heritage, and maintain its high standards.

Who's in charge of facade inspections?

Only licensed professional engineers or registered architects have what it takes to perform the comprehensive examinations these inspections require. These experts have the right mix of knowledge and experience to identify potential facade issues accurately and assess how serious they are. By putting this important task in their capable hands, the city ensures that inspections live up to the highest standards.

What are inspectors checking in an inspection?

When certified specialists carry out facade inspections, they take a close look at the building's exterior, searching for any problems that may pose a risk to safety or structural stability. They examine things like cracking masonry, rusted metals, and any loose or missing pieces that could become hazardous falling debris. They also assess balconies, terraces, and fire escapes, which are prone to damage from exposure.

New York City's unique urban setting brings additional concerns to the table. The wide range of weather conditions here, from frigid winters to sizzling summers, stresses building materials over time. Plus, busy city traffic causes pollution issues which can further damage facades, especially those made of limestone or marble. Inspectors consider these factors when assessing a building's facade, giving it a thorough inspection tailored to NYC's unique surroundings.

How do inspectors inspect facades?

During an inspection, an array of techniques is used, blending time-tested methods with innovative technology for a comprehensive assessment. It usually starts with a visual inspection, where inspectors examine the building's facade from various angles at ground level, upper floors, and near neighboring structures.

For hard-to-reach spots, physical evaluations come into play. Inspectors use swing stages, scaffolding, or powered platforms to access different sections. And for those really challenging buildings? They may use specialized rope access techniques to explore hard-to-reach areas.

Recently, technology has been an incredible resource for facade inspections. Drones with high-resolution cameras and thermal imaging can capture precise images of a building's facade, identifying potential issues our eyes might miss. This is especially handy when dealing with sky-high buildings where inspecting in person can be dangerous.

How serious are the issues they find?

Inspectors identify issues and assess their severity, which guides the appropriate response. Issues generally fall into one of three categories: Safe, Safe With a Repair and Maintenance Program (SWARMP), or Unsafe.

A 'Safe' classification means no concerns were found. 'SWARMP' implies that while the facade presents no immediate danger, some areas require repair or maintenance within a given timeframe. An 'Unsafe' classification points to a facade with immediate risk, requiring prompt action. This system helps building owners understand the urgency of repairs and plan an effective response.

Final thoughts

Understanding the ins and outs of facade inspections under Local Law 11 is about more than just compliance: it's about showing your commitment to the safety, durability, and value of your building. Each inspection component–spotting concerns, using proper methods, and assessing severity–is critical in maintaining your building's facade and safety for residents and passersby.

When you're well informed about the process, you can make better decisions about your building's maintenance. By prioritizing Local Law 11 compliance, we can all create a safer and more beautiful New York City.

Partnering with the right property manager to oversee your building’s Local Law inspection - and FISP project (should it be necessary) is key to an efficiently run project that’s within budget. Our experienced project management team creates thoughtful and strategic FISP plans that keep your building safe and compliant. Learn more about how Daisy can make your building healthier here.

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