One of the biggest – and costliest – challenges facing co-op and condo boards is the mandated inspection and repair of facades every five years on buildings of six stories or more. Formerly known as Local Law 11, it’s now called the Facade Inspection Safety Program, or FISP.
Brian Sullivan, a principal at Sullivan Engineering, sits on a Department of Buildings (DOB) advisory committee that proposes changes to FISP regulations. Here are some tweaks under consideration for Cycle 9, which begins in February 2020:
Probes to verify and document wall anchors in cavity-wall facades. In a cavity wall, there’s space between the structural wall and the brick skin, and the two are held together by metal anchors. “The idea of the probes is to make sure that there are sufficient anchors to prevent a facade collapse,” Sullivan says, “and to make sure the anchors are appropriately spaced and in good condition.”
The number of required closeup inspections might increase. Hands-on inspections (by workers on scaffolds or rappelling ropes) might be required at intervals of 60 feet or less on all facades above a public egress. “That change will affect only larger buildings and buildings with public egress in the rear yard,” Sullivan says.
A time frame to resolve unsafe conditions might be required, with a maximum of five years. “They want a date when you’re going to resolve unsafe conditions,” Sullivan says. “This way, sidewalk sheds won’t stay up for 10 years.”
The DOB might perform inspections before granting extension requests. “That’s a big deal,” Sullivan says, “because it will force the building to do what they said they were going to do. The DOB is trying to put more teeth into compliance.”
Boards might be required to display a FISP condition certificate – either “safe,” “safe with repair,” or “unsafe” – in the lobby. “It’s like restaurant letter grades,” Sullivan says. “That’s the biggest one for coops and condos because if you’re trying to sell your apartment and there’s a sign in the lobby that says the building is unsafe, the buyer is going to ask questions.”