Guest blog by Frank Scanlon, RA, AIA, Associate, CTA ARCHITECTS P.C.

Major changes are occurring with the New York City Department of Building’s (DOB) Façade Inspection and Safety Program (FISP), with new rules that will require additional checks, substantial penalties, and a more expansive, expensive process to improve safety in the city’s structures.

The agency had unveiled the proposed changes last year and held a Dec. 30 hearing, where industry participants voiced concerns over physical façade probe requirements, such as whether the new rules would apply to buildings with extensive completed repairs. On Jan. 28, the DOB ratified the new rule with few revisions, and it becomes official on Feb. 20, taking effect just before the Feb. 21 start of FISP Cycle 9, the next round of the program previously known as Local Law 11.

Building owners should prepare for significant changes under the amended rule, such as additional close-up inspections, known as “scaffold drops,” new physical probes of masonry cavity walls, increased qualifications and responsibilities for qualified exterior wall inspectors (QEWIs), and significantly higher and new civil penalties. The final rule is available for review on the DOB website.

The new rules follow several high-profile accidents caused by pieces of façades falling down and either injuring or killing pedestrians.