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New York Proposes Stronger Building Codes; Owners Wary
Changes to New York City’s building code could be ready by the end of the year, ushering in a post-Sept. 11 construction era aimed at fortifying buildings against both accidents and attacks.
The New York City Buildings Department proposed changes that would require virtually every New York high-rise to undergo upgrades. Ranging from minor — such as the relocation of exit signs and evacuation procedures — to the major — such as requiring sprinkler systems — the changes are intended to reduce losses that could occur during accidental explosions, biological attacks and fires.
The proposed changes, discussed in a public hearing last month, focus on four main areas: structural strength, fire protection, emergency evacuation and mechanical systems.
The most sweeping proposal is a requirement that all of the city’s high-rise office buildings — facilities taller than 75 feet — be equipped with sprinkler systems. If approved, the requirement would be phased in over 15 years.
Real estate executives and owners are greeting the proposed changes cautiously.
“This is going to be a touchy subject for everybody,” says Steve Rizzo, an attorney with Charles Rizzo & Associates, a real estate firm in New York and a member of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International Advocacy and Legislative committees. “You don’t want a code that’s based on emotion.”
Owners also would be required to draft plans for evacuating all occupants from buildings taller than 75 feet. Proposed changes to the mechanical system call for controlled access to HVAC mechanical areas and above-grade location of air intakes.
TENANTS FLEXIBLE Money and location are still the main drivers in acquiring and retaining tenants, but flexible, attractive, comfortable workspaces can have a significant impact, notes the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International, which surveyed its members late last year. BOMA found that factors such as space flexibility and reliable power influence decisions. Space quality issues — access to daylight, individual temperature controls, attractive interiors and building amenities — collectively can play a significant role in leasing decisions.
BUDGET BOOSTS ENERGY SPENDING The U.S. House and Senate have moved forward on funding for energy efficiency programs in preliminary budget bills for fiscal year 2003. The House bill grants an 8 percent increase, and the Senate measure provides a 1 percent boost. The popular Energy Star® programs fare well in both bills. The House approved its bill; the Senate has scheduled a vote. The measures are separate from the National Energy Bill now in conference committee.
Public Art with Bottom-line Benefits
Public art installations are not frivolous or window dressing, says Bill Owen, general manager of Denver’s signature 52-story building, the Wells Fargo Center.
Owen knows from experience the impact art can have. He was involved in the recently completed hanging sculpture and glass works that were part of the Wells Fargo Center’s $1.5 million renovation of the atrium space. Most of the renovation’s cost was for the artwork by Ed Carpenter. It was money well spent, Owen says.
By offering the artwork to the public, Owen says, the building owner, Common Wealth Partners, believes that it’s giving something back to the community.
“They are, or should be, full of purpose and meaning, and chosen very carefully,” he says.
But it’s not all altruism. Owen says the artwork has helped attract and retain top-flight clients. “We have to operate the building as an investment,” he says. “The sculptures are here for our tenants and the public. They help keep the building the best address in Denver.”
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