Game changer. There’s good news for co-ops and condos in their never-ending quest to comply with the city’s stringent Facade Inspection and Safety Program: The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) announced that imaging robots can be used to supplement facade inspections, which could mean significant savings in cost, time and liability for co-op and condo boards.
Well-oiled machine. “There was an obvious need for this,” says Akaash Kancharla, the founder and chief executive of the Ossining-based aRobotics Company. “The techniques and technology of facade inspections haven’t changed much in the past 15 to 20 years — even though the rules keep changing, and the work keeps getting more expensive.” The company’s Image-R robot is equipped with up to 16 cameras, which can take still photographs, videos and/or infrared (thermal) images that can detect leaks and moisture accumulation as well as measure the efficiency of a building’s insulation.
Because the robots, which can be lowered from the roof or raised from the ground, are guided by an operator on the ground, no worker is on a rig and no scaffolding or sidewalk shed are required. The robots have been proven to function well in high winds and on buildings with irregular facades.
Not a substitute. Robots do have their limits. “Hands-on inspections of facades facing public rights-of-way are still required,” says Andrew Rudansky, a DOB spokesman. “But on other facades where inspectors use binoculars, they can now use robots if they comply with the guidelines in our latest bulletin.” Physical probes of cavity walls are still required.
Bottom line. As for the potential savings, Kancharla says prices are typically 25% to 35% cheaper than a conventional manned roof drop. “Whatever rigging companies can do, we can do faster, with less equipment, less insurance cost and less overall risk,” he explains, adding that the required permits for robots cost just $75 and can usually be obtained in a day. “It’s a product that will make boards’ lives easier, safer and cheaper.”