Local Law 11 also known as FISP requires facade inspections to be performed by a licensed architect or engineer who is also qualified as a QEWI. A QEWI is a Registered Architect or Professional Engineer who is certified by the New York City Department of Buildings as a “Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector”.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of NYC based architecture firm Fontan Architect. In this post, I will be reviewing the general responsibilities of an architect with regards to Local Law 11 or FISP.
What is Local Law 11?
Local Law 11 or FISP is the Facade Inspection Safety Program. This is a set of laws and regulations that require a building owner to hire a licensed professional to inspect their buildings over 6 stories tall. If you want to read more about FISP we have another post where I review the broader scope of the NYC Facade Inspection Safety Program.
Local Law 11 Architect
The architect’s role with regards to FISP, Local Law 11 begins with the assessment of the building conditions.
The architects role in Local Law 11 begins with an initial assessment of the building facades. The architect must submit a FISP Report which is filed electronically with the Department of Buildings. The FISP Report identifies the building in one of three categories:
- SWARMP (Safe With Repair and Maintenance Program)
The architect’s service begins with an assessment of the building. These requirements are often changing, for example in 2020, they added a requirement of one close up inspection for every 60 feet of facade facing a public right of way. Another example is, if a building has a cavity wall it requires a probe on every odd numbered cycle.
In the architect’s report, they will map any UNSAFE or SWARMP conditions. The architect will identify the type of public protection to be provided in the case of unsafe conditions, the architect will also outline recommendations for repair of deficiencies found.
If a building facade is designated by the architect as SAFE it does not need any further work for the given cycle but must be reviewed again in the following 5 year cycle. A facade is considered SAFE if it is not expected to become UNSAFE in the next five years.
If a building is designated as Safe With Repair and Maintenance Program or SWARMP the architect must outline a repair and maintenance protocol and submit to the Department of Buildings. SWARMP conditions that are not completely resolved by the end of the cycle will be upgraded to UNSAFE in the following cycle.
An architect will consider a facade SWARMP if it is currently safe but will require some repair over the next five years, but not less than one year. Any facade requiring repair within a year is to be classified as UNSAFE. If SWARMP conditions reoccur after repair this can be upgraded to UNSAFE.
If the Building is UNSAFE the architect must submit a repair protocol and repairs are to begin immediately. UNSAFE condition repairs are to be completed within 90 days. An additional 90 day extension can be requested if the work cannot be completed within 90 days.
When the repairs of UNSAFE buildings are complete, the architect will submit an amended report in order to reclassify the building as either SWARMP or SAFE depending on the condition. Protection must remain as long as the building is classified as unsafe.
Underlying Causes of Deficiencies
One important aspect of the architect’s role in facade inspections and facade repair is determining the underlying cause of a problem. For example, if there is cracking in a brick wall, it is not sufficient to simply repair the brick wall cracks. The architect must figure out why it is cracking and fix that problem as well. Sometimes the bricks will have to be removed in order to see inside the wall to determine the underlying cause.
Facade repair is not meant to be patchwork solutions but to be a permanent repair to prevent future problems. Understanding and determining underlying causes to be repaired is critical for safety.
Penalties for Not Filing FISP Reports
There are many civil penalties that can be placed on a building owner for not filing their FISP reports and for not rectifying the building deficiencies.
Local Law 11 Architectural Services
The architect plays an important role assessing buildings, identifying deficiencies, determining underlying problems, and submitting reports with proposed repairs. The architect will then prepare documentation, drawings, specifications, and file for permits to complete any necessary work require for the repairs. The architect will inspect and perform construction administration during the restoration process. At completion, the architect will submit an amended report.
Local Law 11 (FISP) regulations are complicated, this post is a general overview of the architect’s services during this period. This is not meant to be a complete explanation of the Facade Inspection Safety Program. These regulations are constantly changing, and I am sure there will be more changes to come.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on the NYC Local Law 11 Architects Roles and Responsibilities.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.