Articles by Chet Vogel

New York City Completes Giant Step Towards a New Building Code

By Chet Vogel

New York City's Building Code is one of the most stringent in the country and has been praised for its high-density building standards. However, it also has been criticized as being convoluted and antiquated. The Code has not undergone a significant revision since 1968. In May 2003, a mayoral commission determined that the IBC 2003 edition and related I-Codes should become the basis of a new Building Code for the City of New York. And on December 1, 2005, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed Local Law 99/2005, which establishes a new Plumbing Code and contains administrative sections of the new Building Code.

Next summer, the Department of Buildings will submit a second bill to the City Council containing the remaining provisions of the new code--building, mechanical, fuel gas, and residential. The City Council must pass this second bill, known as the Completion Bill, before the new code can go into effect.

In the meantime, it is valuable to understand the process used to develop the new codes, as well as important changes made to the codes thus far.

Broad spectrum of A/E/C, real estate communities involved in revisions

To draft amendments to the IBC and I-Codes, the Model Code Program convened 13 technical committees and 8 advisory committees comprising over 400 engineering, architectural, labor, real estate and government leaders. The committees represent broad stakeholder and industry participation, and are organized so that consensus will be reached on all Building Code language. ACEC New York has been an ardent supporter of the revisions to the Building Code, with more than 50 of its members directly participating on committees, including four as chairpersons.

In order to draft the best code for New York City, the technical committees have been working for over two years and members have volunteered thousands of hours of their time--estimated to be worth over $16 million--to the City and Model Code Program. Conducting line-by-line reviews of the existing code and national standards, the advisory committees have provided recommendations on key public policy areas impacted by the Building Code.

An overview of the new codes

The following summarizes the work completed, to date, on both the Plumbing Code and the administrative sections of the Building Code.

Plumbing Code enhancements in Local Law 99/2005:

Administrative enhancements in Local Law 99/2005:

  1. Materials, Equipment and Devices. New materials and equipment that are accepted or evaluated by nationally recognized evaluation services (such as UL) may be approved in New York City without the need for separate approval by the Department of Buildings.
  2. Permits. A new provision allows for work permits to be issued for up to two years. A new category, Ordinary Plumbing Work, will allow a licensed plumber to report to the Department of Buildings, on a monthly basis, certain work performed in accordance with the Code. No filing of plans or permits will be required for such work.
  3. Construction Documents. To reflect increased construction costs, the monetary threshold for plumbing and fire suppression filings has been increased to $25,000. This eliminates the need to file a detailed statement for work under the $25,000 threshold.
  4. Fees. Required Department of Building fees are located in easy-to-read charts. Fee rebate incentives have been created to encourage energy and water savings in designing building systems.
  5. Inspections and Sign-off and Completed Work. Approved inspection agencies may be used as an alternative to Department of Building inspections for all but Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) inspections.

Local Law 99/2005 mandates that the new Building Code be updated every three years. Assuming passage of the completion bill, the new codes will be effective July 2007, with a phase-in period of one year.

Chet Vogel, P.E. is Principal of C.T. Vogel, PE Consulting Engineer, and former Managing Principal of M-E Engineers; Chairman of ACEC New York’s Mechanical Code Committee; and Mechanical/HVAC/Boiler Committee Chairman of the Model Code Program.