Working with the New Building Codes Keeping New York City Buildings Safe

If you’re part of a co-op and condo community, you’ve definitely had to deal with the New York City’s Building Codes. They’re a complex set of regulations, documents, amendments, local laws and more, regulating all sorts of things, from boiler maintenance to elevators to exterior walls.

On top of it all, there are several versions of the individual building codes—one in 1938, another in 1968 and a new construction code effective in 2008. Each one of these sets of codes has been amended any number of times. What may have been perfectly acceptable several decades ago may be illegal now and could lead to thousands of dollars in fines.

While the codes your building follows often depends on when it was constructed, in the event of a major renovation—you may be instructed to “bring it up to [current] code.”

A Little History

The formal codification of safety measures for New York City’s human occupancy and structural edifices dates back to the 17th century, when the first set of fire-prevention principles were established. In 1860, the city created a “superintendent of buildings” within the Fire Department, which then became a full-fledged Department of Buildings in 1936.

The 1936 codes were formulated to meet the growing number of skyscrapers and apartment houses, and the 1968 revisions were meant to address new technologies and building practices. Then less than four decades later, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed an order to study the possibilities of a new code in 2002.


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  • The writer did a nice job with his research. However, the Architect perpares the plans. Condo/Co-Op Boards should hire a Building/Fire Code Consultant to review the plans for both code compliance and to make sure that they are not spending more than they need to. The Consultant can also represent the Board when a Code official issues a citation. They are not always correct.
  • My 6 story co-op loft just completed a major renovation including replacing the water tank with a mechanized system in the basement. Now it seems there are many compliance issues with the sprinkler system. In some units lofts which included mezzanines which were built in the 70's or early 80's without extending sprinklers to the underneath area of that space were, it seems, illegal structures. Who is responsible for bringing these areas up to code? The tenant who purchased in the 90's? The co-op who is essence, is the owner?
  • Thank you for a well explained article about the changing codes. It was just what I was searching for.