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Lookout Below: Falling Debris Kills

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As children, most of us often heard the old adage “look both ways before you cross the street.”  Sage advice, to be sure, but what if the danger you face comes from the front of a building and not a moving car?

Not all buildings are made with tidy brick walls.  They can have rather unique indentations, angles and extensions, from terraces and cornices to stonework, including sculpture, nevermind the ever-present window a/c units and television antennas that are prevalent throughout our urban cityscape.

In order to regulate exterior walls, Article 302, Maintenance of Exterior Walls, mandates inspection of a building’s exterior walls, including appurtenances, done by a design professional on behalf of the building’s owner.  The person inspecting should physically test all items that are affixed to the exterior walls and the roof.  Any item that may fall off the exterior or be blown off the roof should be removed immediately.  Following the inspection, a report must be submitted to the Department of Buildings within 60 days of the inspection.  Unlike the Façade Inspection Safety Program, which only requires buildings greater than six stories to undergo regular façade inspections, the regulations pertaining to maintenance of exterior walls apply to all buildings. A failure to do so may result in violations and additional enforcement by the DOB.

Any unsafe conditions reported must be corrected within 90 days.  A new report must be submitted within two weeks of the 90 day deadline.  While building owners can get an extension of up to 90 days, they can only do so by order of the building commissioner.

What can your building do to ensure code compliance and safety?  Stay on top of weather alerts, especially those involving high winds.  Building staff should be generally aware of any items that may pose a problem in a high wind scenario, like furniture on a terrace or roof deck.  Building staff should also keep an eye out for and inspect items like improperly installed a/c window units and attachment connections for any element that is affixed to the surface of the building.  Typically, any items such as a sign or other element that needs to be secured to an exterior wall or a roof should be designed by an engineer licensed in New York State.

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