Have you ever wondered why buildings are covered under scaffolding, often times for years? And this summer, it seems that scaffolding, also known as a sidewalk shed, is going up on every block. Well, summer is the season for exterior work. It is when buildings comply with the Façade Inspection & Safety Program (FISP), formerly known as Local Law 11. After months of planning and funding, this is when scaffolding goes up and lots of residents start living in darkness for months or even years.

The law requires that a Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector (QEWI), a licensed Registered Architect or Professional Engineer, conducts the inspection and submits a Report to the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) summarizing the building’s condition. All buildings greater than six stories must comply.

According to Habitat Magazine, Facade Inspection Regs Might Get [even] Tighter – and Costlier.

On their building’s last FISP-cycle, one Co-op board president got hand-delivered an anonymous letter from a resident in a building down the block stating that the scaffolding ruined his quality of life. Was it the fault of this co-op board president that the scaffolding was up slightly longer than usual? In addition to the required Local Law 11 repairs, this co-op replaced the 60-year old roof at the same time, installed solar PVs around the water tank, as well as upgraded the previously un-used roof with a fully landscaped green roof garden and deck for the residents to enjoy, reminiscent of The Highline.  

There are ample number of articles written on why our city is covered with scaffolding. New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has been advocating for reducing how long scaffolding can be up before the building will be fined. To better understand what goes into why scaffolding is covering our city, we’ve put together a typical recommended sample timeline:

1.       Plan & Fund:

a.       Engineering plans

b.       General Contractor (GC) bidding and selection

2.       Sign proposal & remit down-payment (this can often take months to process)

3.       Engineer files for building permits

4.       Department of Buildings (DOB) approves (one week)

5.       If the building is a landmark building, The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) approval takes 6-8 weeks

6.       Scaffolding goes up

7.       GC makes necessary repairs

8.       QEWI inspects and files its report with the DOB

9.       There are three conditions: Safe; Safe with Repair and Maintenance items (SWARMP); or Unsafe.

a.       A Safe building needs no further action and the scaffolding can be removed

b.       A building that is Safe With Repair And Maintenance (SWARMP) must make necessary repairs within five years following the report and the scaffolding can be removed

c.       An Unsafe building has conditions that must be repaired immediately or within one year and must provide immediate protection of the public which means that the scaffolding needs to stay for the duration of the repairs and further inspection and approval.

This entire process normally takes one to three years, at which time, it’s time to start planning for the next cycle of façade inspection.

So, that’s why scaffolding covers our sidewalks!  

Call us to talk about how we can reduce the cost of your next FISP.