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NYC pushes through massive overhaul of construction codes

NYC pushes through massive overhaul of construction codes

The New York City Department of Buildings today marked the official passage of major legislation in the City Council to update the city’s Construction Codes.

The revision to the Codes contains over 600 major updates, and thousands of smaller changes, intended to improve safety for New Yorkers, and incorporate the latest in building technologies.

The new Codes use the highest international standards for the design, construction and maintenance of buildings as a baseline, while continuing our city’s proud tradition of implementing additional enhancements to ensure we have among the strongest building regulations anywhere in the world.


“These updated Codes provide a solid foundation on which the future of our city will be built,” said Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca. “I want to thank my colleagues at DOB, along with the hundreds of government and industry experts that volunteered their time on our Code Revision Committees, who worked tirelessly to advance these Codes. Those efforts will make our built environment safer for everyone living, working and visiting in our great city. Looking further afield, it is my hope that these Codes will also serve as a model for other cities, looking to build their own more resilient and sustainable future.”

New York City’s Building Code is one of the nation’s earliest and most comprehensive set of rules regarding construction in both new and existing buildings. Updated regularly, the Codes set a framework for how buildings are designed and maintained.

The code revisions approved today are the first holistic update to the entire set of NYC Administrative, Plumbing, Building, Mechanical and Fuel Gas Codes since 2014. The revisions were drafted by technical committees comprised of engineers, architects, attorneys, planners, tradespeople, representatives of the construction industry, labor, real estate industry, utility companies, as well as DOB and interagency stakeholders. Regulations in our Codes in New York City frequently inform model codes on the national and international levels.

Revision highlights included in the updated Codes:

Emergency Response Enhancements

  • Increases the minimum required dimensions of the elevator emergency hatch.
  • Permits the use of batteries as the required secondary power source for the FDNY endorsed Auxiliary Radio Communication System (ARCS).
  • Expands number of high-rise residential buildings that require emergency voice communication systems.

Fire Protection Enhancements

  • Mandates that whenever exits discharge directly outside and not through a protected area or vestibule, that FDNY access be provided to the exit stairway either from the protected area or within a minimum distance of it.

Vertical Transportation and Accessibility Enhancements

  • Establishes clear compliance criteria for elevator systems to ensure greater accessibility and usability for building occupants with physical and intellectual/developmental disabilities.
  • Requires door locking monitoring in all Limited Use/Limited Application lifts (LULA) in order to minimize the risk of people and objects becoming caught.

Elevator and Boiler Safety Enhancements

  • Requires the same elevator-in-readiness to serve all floors to reduce building evacuation times in the event of an emergency.
  • Amends inspection timeframes for elevators and boilers to bring them back into service faster.

Protecting Tenants, Streamlining Building Occupancy and Promoting Increased Affordable Housing

  • Requires new special inspection of buildings undergoing construction to ensure the protection of tenants.
  • Clarifies what construction documentation is required to receive a new Certificate of Occupancy (CO).
  • Reduces the required 8ft basement clearance height for two-family homes to 7ft to increase affordable housing opportunities.

Construction Safety Enhancements

  • Permits the use of netting, low barriers, and chain link fencing in lieu of requiring only solid fencing that creates blind tunnels for pedestrians.
  • Creates a new license type for advanced crane technology, such as articulating boom cranes and roto-telehandlers, to ensure these cranes are operated in a safe manner.
  • Improves the safety and consistency of the underpinning of existing buildings.

Building System Construction and Inspection Enhancements

  • Requires smoke tests for special gas vents to ensure the safety of building occupants.
  • Requires all pipes, tubings, and fittings in the mechanical system to comply with the applicable reference safety standard.
  • Codifies maintenance, condition assessment, and reporting requirements for parking structures.

Sustainability and Resiliency Enhancements

  • Expands the applicability of flood zone requirements of the 100-year flood hazard area to all critical facilities (including fire, rescue, ambulance, police stations, and designated emergency shelters) located in the 500-year flood zone.
  • Mandates annual visual inspections of dry floodproofing systems and triennial full-scale deployment of dry floodproofing in the presence of a special inspection agency.
  • Permits and supports the use of alternative energy production processes, including hydrogen fuel cells.
  • Increases the material choices available to builders by expanding the use of sustainable building materials such as cross-laminated timber and structural composite lumber.

Code requirements set forth in the updated revision will go into effect next year, with some regulations taking effect on January 1, 2022. To support the implementation of the code updates, DOB will be conducting training and outreach regarding the new requirements.

The article was published on rew-online.com