The Meter is Running
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Costs may soon be going up for Local Law 11 facade inspections.
AUTHORKathryn Farrell and Bendix Anderson
The city Department of Buildings (DOB) is considering imminent changes to the Facade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), also known as Local Law 11, which requires owners of buildings taller than six stories to inspect and repair their facades every five years. If approved, the changes are sure to increase the cost of maintaining building facades, beginning as soon as February 2020. There was a hearing at the end of December 2019 at which the public offered comments.
The 20 pages of proposed changes to facade-inspection rules are posted on the DOB website. (bit.ly/FISPrules)
Industry experts are concerned about two major proposed changes, both dealing with the qualifications of inspectors. First, the requirements for the architect or engineer in charge of the facade inspection, known as a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI), would jump from one year of relevant experience to seven years. Additionally, the proposed rules will require potential inspectors to submit previous work related to facade inspection, design, or repair, ideally on FISP-related projects where they were working under the direction of an already qualified QEWI. They will also have to take a written or oral exam to demonstrate familiarity with relevant laws and rules and an understanding of facade science. Today, according to Gene Ferrara, president of JMA Consultants, an engineering company, a qualified inspector would earn $8000 to examine a 15-story building. Under the new rules, he predicts, this would jump to between $20,000 and $30,000. “It's going to cost too much money and the people are going to be broke doing repairs,” he says.
The proposed qualifications for staff appointed to assist QEWIs would also change. The current rules state that people working under the QEWI may be delegated to perform some inspection tasks if they are employees or subcontractors of the QEWI. The proposed rules, however, limit that delegation to licensed architects and engineers. This, according to experts, would drastically reduce the number of QEWI assistants currently approved, which in turn would drive up costs and prolong inspections.
The next FISP cycle begins on February 21, but industry experts are unsure if the proposed rules will be complete or in effect by then.