NYCDOB Update

This recent change affects filed projects and their activity or more importantly, their lack of activity.
1. If a job was disapproved and there has been no activity for 12 months, the job is considered abandoned and it must be re-filed and all fees re-paid.

2, If a job was approved and there has been no activity for 12 months, the job is considered abandoned and it must be re-filed and all fees re-paid. Upon good cause, the job will be reinstated for an additional 12 months and the full fee will be re-instated. The process can be repeated for an additional 12 months, but cannot exceed three years.

3. If a job has been approved and applicant is issued a permit, after 12 months has passed with no activity, a $100 reinstatement fee and a $100 renewal fee will be assessed. If a job has been approved and applicant is issued a permit, after 24 months has passed with no activity, the job may be reinstated with a full or partial fee, plus a $100 renewal fee.

Prior to this summer, once a project received approval, the applicant could take their time before pulling the permit. Not any more.

A quirk in the sidewalk shed law

Section 3307.6.2 of the NYC Building Code states:

A sidewalk shed shall extend 5 feet past the building when the building is less than 100 feet in height, and 20 feet past the building when the building is over 100 feet in height.

I’ll bet you thought that 20 feet past the building being repaired was required no matter what.
Here’s the rub. What do you do if you have to repair a cornice corner above a sidewalk on a building 90 feet in height? Perhaps a townhouse is next door and people walk in and out directly below the work area. Clearly, not enough protection is provided if you follow the law.

It doesn’t matter what the law says….you should provide the protection that is necessary to safe guard the public. That is the spirit of the law.

My recommendation….Boards and property managers must refrain from engaging the services of the shed companies. Always, let the contractor that will perform the repairs also hire the shed company. The shed company, if hired by the board or property manager, will price and install a shed to the minimum required by law, regardless of the scope of the work.

So if the shed only extends beyond the corner cornice repair by 5 feet and there is a tragedy, the Board and property manager have criminal exposure. Because they ‘technically knew the scope and breadth of the project and should have provided this information to the shed company, even if it wasn’t requested.’

Is a sidewalk shed required for LL-11 inspections?

No …. according to the DOB, unless probes or in depth examination is required in order to understand the underlying cause of the defect:

When the inspection involves probing, removal of wall or appurtenance material, safety netting on all open sides of the scaffold drop or other observation platform shall be provided. In addition, adequate protection at the sidewalk or public space below shall be provided. This may be in the form of roping off part of the sidewalk, installation of a partial sidewalk shed or any other method determined by the professional to be adequate for the safety of the public and property. Necessary permits must be obtained from appropriate authorities.

A person with a valid New York City Rigger’s License must supervise the operation of the scaffolding, following all safety procedures as required.

The Unintended Consequences of White Roofs

The recent push in NYC and elsewhere to make roofing membranes white, must have been thought of during the summer.  Because in the winter, black is the way to go.
My recent investigations of roof deflections due to snow accumulation yielded an interesting observation….white roofs had more snow on them than black roofs.  Even in a literally ‘side by side’ situation of white versus black….the white roof had more snow.
We know that the color white reflects heat and the color black absorbs heat, so it stands to reason that in the winter, snow will accumulate faster on a white roof, since there is little or no latent heat.  A sunny day after the snow event would require the solar energy to penetrate more snow depth on a white roof than a black roof.  And, since most melting begins at the edges, this can’t happen on a white roof since the membrane is turned up the parapet.

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Snow Loads on Roofs

Here is a quick primer on snow loads for flat or low slope roofs, and whether or not you should be concerned:
  • Water weighs 5.2 lbs per inch of depth.
  • Fluffy snow, the type we get during very cold temperatures, is the lightest and is about 3% water.  12” of fluffy snow is equivalent to 0.36 inches of water or 1.9 pounds per square foot
  • Wet snow may contain 33% water.  Using the same math, wet snow 1 foot in depth may weigh 20.6 lbs.
Wet snow is common in our area and 12” of snow weighs 20.6 lbs per square foot.
Two feet of wet snow will weigh approximately 41.2 psf.
In NYC, your roof has a capacity of 40 psf for Live Load.   Large retail spaces are afforded a Live Load Reduction  which results in a capacity less than 40 psf….closer to 30 psf.   (For the purposes of this discussion, snow may be considered Live Load, because of its expected duration.)

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Forensic Engineer Looks UP

In New York City, there is plenty to see: museums, parks, broadway shows and interesting people.  But with over 11,000 buildings taller than 6 stories, there is also plenty to see by looking up.  That is where Eric W. Cowley, PE, and his firm Cowley Engineering, comes in.  “Since 1980, the City of New York has had a Façade Ordinance requiring the exterior inspection of all buildings taller than 6 stories.  My firm has been doing these inspections for over 20 years, so nothing surprises me anymore,” says Cowley.  Cowley is providing his expertise to smaller cities, and helping them customize an effective façade ordinance.  “The objective is proactive maintenance to ensure safety.  The first step is to craft a law that suits the local area, and is sensitive to the area’s economic viability.  The second step is to set up the controls and procedures to implement and monitor the program.  And the third step is to track the repairs.  We provide the consultation and our own database software that monitors and charts the process,” says Cowley.

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