Tell thy Neighbor. Monitor the Neighbor Too.

By Austin Regan

Over the last year we have highlighted changes that occurred under the 2014 Code related to a variety of subjects. Some were significant, many were clarifications or corrections. Many changes did not have a direct impact on proposed buildings and designs.

One area of change that affects every project under construction and those that will enter the construction phase are the significant changes made to Chapter 33 – Safeguards During Construction or Demolition. Ignorance of some or all of these changes has caused significant delays and hardships for current projects under development. Owners contemplating building and contractors bidding on projects will find it time well spent thoroughly reading Chapter 33. Design professionals also would find it beneficial as actual component designs may change in order to avoid or adhere to some of the new requirements.

One significant change relates to the Code required notification of adjoining property owners in cases where construction operations requires the builder to enter the adjoining property. The traditional 10 day notice of construction commencement that has always been required to be sent to adjoining property owners is no longer sufficient if one must enter the adjoining property. Operations that involve underpinning the neighbors foundation are considered an action that constitutes access to the adjoining property. BC 3309.1.1 has been added to the 2014 Code and it calls for 60 days notice to the neighbors. See below:

§28.2-3309.1.1 Notification. Where a construction or demolition project will require access to adjoining property in accordance with this section, written notification shall be provided to the adjoining property owner at least 60 calendar days prior to the commencement of work. Such notification shall describe the nature of work, estimated schedule and duration, details of inspections or monitoring to be performed on the adjoining property, protection to be installed on the adjoining property, and contact information for the project. Where no response is received, a second written notification shall be made no more than 45 calendar days, and not less than 30 calendar days, prior to the commencement of work.

While the DOB does not require proof that this notification was done prior to issuing a permit, if a dispute arises with the neighbor the DOB will issue a Stop Work Order if the notice was not properly done.

It is always good practice to perform pre-construction surveys and create a monitoring program for the adjacent properties to ensure there is no unnatural shift or cracking that occurs during excavation operations. In the 2014 Code monitoring and the creation of a monitoring plan are now mandatory.

§28.2-3309.4.4 Monitoring. During the course of excavation work the following shall be monitored in accordance with Section 28.2-3309.16:

  1. Buildings that are within a distance from the edge of the excavation        that is equal to or less than the maximum depth of the excavation.
  2. Historic structures that are contiguous to or within a lateral distance of 90 feet (27 432 mm) from the edge of the lot where an excavation is occurring.

Per BC 3309.16 the plan must be designed by a licensed architect or engineer. Again the Department does not require the plan to be submitted prior to issuing a permit but the Foundation and Excavation Unit will expect that the plan is on site for their review. Lack of a plan and the monitoring elements will cause the unit to issue a Stop Work Order.