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More U.S. cities throughout are requiring façade inspections through local ordinances enacted by city councils. Some cities, like New York City, exclude buildings less than six stories or 60 feet in height. Generally, this eliminates approximately 90 percent of the buildings in the overall building stock, leaving the larger buildings with more professional property management staff and an operating budget more capable of absorbing the associated costs of a façade inspection. Other cities, like Pittsburgh, have a more inclusive ordinance requiring all buildings with greater than two units to be inspected on a regular interval. The typical inspection interval is five years.
Reporting requirements related to façade inspections also vary from city to city. Cities such as New York and Boston have a rigid framework for the façade inspections, with specific forms to be completed, deadlines for both the façade inspections and any repair work, etc. In other cities, the specifics of the facade inspection and associated reporting are left to the discretion of the building owner. Until recently, these types of ordinances have been lightly enforced due to the limited resources of the city’s governmental staff. However, due to several recent building façade collapses or ornamental failures, some cities that previously had limited enforcement have stepped up enforcement by requiring building owners to produce their records of the required building façade inspections.
It’s important for building owners to understand the benefits of a façade inspection. First, the façade inspection can identify any loose, missing, or otherwise damaged building façade elements that need to be repaired immediately or in the near-term. This helps to maintain a safe building for the occupants and building users, as well as to protect passersby on the sidewalks or roadways adjacent to the building from any potential for falling debris.
Second, the façade inspection can identify more nuanced water infiltration issues or other façade deficiencies for the building owner. This allows building owners to be proactive in their maintenance efforts and eliminate small problems before they become large problems. It’s much easier and less costly to replace the joint sealants on a building façade elevation, or retrofit a metal flashing over an open façade joint, than to perform costly mold remediation and interior repairs related to water infiltration through the building façade.
Third, façade inspections help to reduce the liability of the building owner. By identifying building façade concerns early, the risk of falling debris and unknown water infiltration are reduced. This in turn can reduce the cost of associated insurance premiums for the property.
Finally, façade inspections are an integral part of the effective facility management of any well-maintained building or facility. They help the facility or property manager have a clear picture of the capital expense costs associated with the exterior of the building. This knowledge allows for more accurate forecasting of capital expense budgets and alleviates needs for emergency repairs. Additionally, with the building façade repairs completed as part of a comprehensive building maintenance program, more economical pricing and better coordination for the repairs from façade repair contractors can be obtained when the repairs are a non-emergency requirement.