Preparing Your Local Law 11 Report Safety in Numbers

 Local Law 11 inspection is a requirement of the New York City Department of  Buildings that every owner of a building higher than six stories must retain an  architect or engineer to inspect their façades. Based on this inspection, a report must be filed documenting findings and making  recommendations of any required repairs in order to maintain a building’s exterior in a safe condition. As part of the investigation, the architect or  engineer must perform at least one scaffolding drop on a street façade, which may require the assistance of a contractor. This inspection and  report is required every five years; the next cycle (Cycle 7) starts in  February 2010.  

 Façade conditions are classified as “safe,” “unsafe,” or “safe with a repair and maintenance program (SWARMP).” Unsafe conditions require immediate notification to the Department of Buildings,  protection of the public and remedial action to stabilize it or correct it. Any  SWARMP condition from the previous cycle (Cycle 6) that was not corrected will  automatically be classified as unsafe with the filing of a new report. SWARMP  conditions require repair from one to five years depending on the architect’s or engineer’s recommendation.  

 Preparing for your Local Law 11 investigation will require the following:  

 1. If you have not performed your obligated repairs from the previous report,  contact a qualified architect or engineer to prepare the required drawings for  bidding and DOB submission. The DOB will require building permit information  associated with the repairs that were completed from the previous Local Law 11  report.  

 2. Read your previous Local Law 11 cycle report and look at the conditions to  assure their correction. If you can’t find the report, contact your expeditor to obtain a copy of it from the  building department. You should do this well in advance of the actual filing  date to allow sufficient time to correct the conditions. Many times cracked  glass, loose store awnings, and other simple, miscellaneous items are excluded  from the restoration contractor’s work because the building management has committed to its repair. Assuring  corrections have been made will save the embarrassments of the inspector  classifying it as “unsafe.”  

 3. Buildings should have policies about wall air conditioners that extend beyond  the exterior wall. These protruding units should have exterior brackets as recommended by DOB.  Loose items on window sills that attempt to provide level base sitting areas  for these units will not be acceptable. This can be a problematic issue when  each unit owner installs their own units, each of which may differ in size and  attachment. The architect or engineer cannot classify this condition as safe if he or she  knows that it violates the DOB recommendation.  

 4. The building manager should ask building occupants to remove all flower pots  and other items from window sills, even in discreet areas such as rear or  courtyard facades. Loose debris should be removed from the roofs. Update any maintenance contracts and inspections with signage, lighting,  flagpole, satellite dishes, etc. prior to the Local Law 11 inspection, and  provide a copy of the report to the inspector.  

 5. Select a qualified architect or engineer to perform the Local Law 11  inspections and report. An experienced facade restoration architect and  engineer will be able to observe a condition and not over react or under react  to it. For example: a marginally deteriorated sealant joint around a window  perimeter, that is not causing leaks or deterioration of wall conditions, can  be mentioned in the report under water tightness of the façade, as opposed to being classified as a SWARMP condition, which may lead to an  expensive repair project. On the other hand, a deteriorated sealant joint with  rust stains at a protruding terra cotta cornice would justify correction of  this water entry point before the underlying steel becomes significantly  corroded.  

 To be assured of selecting an architectural or engineering firm that can provide  a comprehensive inspection that fulfills the Department of Building  requirements for Local Law 11, provides building owner with an overview of the  general state of the building façade and roof and specifically describes any defects that must or should be  required and a prioritization of repairs, the building management company  should request the following qualification:  

 • The architect or engineer should have of performed at least ten different façade restoration projects with construction values of at least $75,000 in the  last three years. It is important to retain a firm that specializes in façade restoration and not just preparation of Local Law 11 reports. There are many  firms that perform these reports every five years but are not experienced in façade restoration. Experience in façade restoration projects leads to the knowledge to evaluate the conditions  properly.  

 • The architect or engineer should be able to show the building manager at least  three reports from the previous cycle projects. These reports should be  prepared in a professional manner with schematic drawings, documenting  conditions and photographs to document conditions. Any required repairs should  be specifically described as to location, quantity and methodology.  

 • The architecture or engineering firm should provide the resume of one or two  licensed professionals, with relevant façade restoration and Local Law 11 inspection experience, who will actually be  performing the inspection. Beware of firms that send junior, inexperienced,  unlicensed individuals to perform the inspection.  

 The goal of the Local Law 11 inspection program from the point of view of the  City of New York is to assure safety to the public. The building owner as well subscribes to this concept but will be rewarded if he  proceeds in a manner that protects his investment. 

 Dom Diaz is an architect and president of Diaz Architects, a firm that  specializes in building envelope restoration.  

 

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Comments

  • Any chance it might be known if the Local law # 11 requirements have a similar framework or standards in the City of Yonkers? Looking at a facade project there, and am uncertain of the differences in the Yonkers DOB, etc. Thanks.