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New rule mandates annual parapet inspections for New York City buildings

Codes and Standards

New rule mandates annual parapet inspections for New York City buildings

Beginning January 1, 2024, New York City building owners must undertake a yearly inspection of parapet walls, then remedy any hazardous conditions.


By Hoffmann Architects | September 13, 2023
New rule mandates annual parapet inspections for New York City buildings Hoffmann Architects
Photo: Hoffmann Architects

In November 2021, New York City enacted Local Law 126 of 2021, which is well-known in the building industry for establishing new requirements for periodic parking garage inspections. At the same time, the legislation added a section to the NYC Administrative Code mandating periodic observation of building parapets.

To allow owners time to prepare, the City set the start date for the new parapet observations for January 1, 2024.

What is required?

All buildings in New York City with parapets facing a street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way must undergo a professional parapet observation every year.

Unlike the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), which excludes buildings under six stories, the parapet rule applies to all buildings, regardless of height, with the exception of detached single- or two-family homes. While FISP inspections are conducted on a five-year cycle, and parking garage inspections are required at least every six years, the newly mandated parapet observation must be done annually.

The good news: owners do not need to file the observation report with the Department of Buildings (DOB). Whereas facade and garage inspection reports follow prescriptive formats and must be electronically submitted, parapet reports need only be kept on file by the building owner. Archives of at least six years of parapet reports must be made available should the DOB request them.

What happens if there is a hazardous condition?

Immediately upon observing an unsafe condition, the professional performing the observation is required to notify the DOB. The building owner must promptly install public protection, such as sidewalk sheds, fences, and/or safety netting, which must remain in place until the problem is remedied. Unsafe conditions must be corrected within 90 days.

What is included in the observation report?

In contrast to the FISP and parking garage laws, the new parapet rule is not prescriptive as to report sections and format. However, the report does need to include:

  • Basic building information, including address and owner contact details;
  • Name and contact details for the professional performing the observation;
  • Date of the observation;
  • Location plan and construction information for the parapets, including material, height, and thickness;
  • Description of general conditions;
  • Unsafe conditions and actions taken to remedy them;
  • Repairs since the previous report; and
  • Dated photos documenting conditions.

Rather than filing the report with the DOB, the owner retains parapet observation reports for at least six years and must be prepared to furnish them to the DOB upon request.

What steps should owners take now?

With the requirements set to begin on the first of the year, owners have just a few months to plan. If a mandated FISP inspection is scheduled for 2024, adding a separate parapet observation report to that program may be a cost-effective strategy. Similarly, parapet observation can be incorporated into other planned exterior work, such as roof rehabilitation or facade cleaning.

A design professional can offer guidance on the simplest and most budget-conscious way to meet the new annual parapet requirements as part of existing maintenance and repair programs.

Resources

RCNY §103-15: Periodic Observation of Building Parapets

Local Law 126 of 2021 – see §28-301.1.1, p. 168

“Design Guide for Parapets: Safety, Continuity, and the Building Code,” Hoffmann Architects + Engineers JOURNAL

Hoffmann Architects + Engineers specializes in the rehabilitation of building exteriors.

Our design professionals have worked with hundreds of New York City building owners to meet inspection and repair requirements since the first facade law in 1980. We provide up-to-date guidance to help owners comply with the code and safely maintain their properties. Reach us at 212-789-9915 or hoffarch.com/contact.

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