Keeping Building Exteriors Safe

By Andrew J. Pisani 

Exteriors of buildings (commercial and residential)  aren’t always smooth brick walls. There are all sorts of indentations and protrusions, from terraces to stonework to cornices. There are also items that are not part of the building, but are affixed to it – window air conditioners, signs, antennas and satellite dishes, roof deck furniture, awnings, planters, solar panels… the list goes on and on.  If these items are poorly secured or loose, it could lead to disaster.

Although Local Law 11/98 addresses buildings greater than 6 stories, all buildings regardless of height must have a tight and secure façade.  An air conditioner falling from 4 stories can hurt or kill someone just the same as an air conditioner falling 15 stories.

Recent events only highlight the urgency of the situation. In May, a 2-year-old who was sitting on a bench with her grandmother outside a West End Avenue senior citizens’ residence when bricks and debris fell down from the building. The child was killed while her grandmother was injured.

In March, a 37-year-old women was killed when plywood ripped from fencing at a construction site and struck her, fatally slamming her into a wall. In September 2014, a window air conditioning unit plummeted from a sixth-floor window, hitting a pedestrian in the head and injuring her leg. Three  years ago a women fell to her death leaning on a balcony railing.

The DOB has zero tolerance for this, and the penalties are severe.  In one of the incidents, the engineer of record was charged with falsifying records and may receive 4 years of prison time.  If negligence is found, expect the building owners and property managers to face the music.

As winter approaches, we should all use common sense with regard to securing buildings. Take weather alerts and storm forecast seriously – remove bar-b-q’s and furniture from roofs an balconies. Make sure construction sites are secure –  including all materials and machinery.  After the storm, walk around the building and see if anything came loose, if so, remove it immediately.

Is it expensive to periodically  check your building facades and do the repairs?  Yes it is.  Is it expensive if defects are found to put up a sidewalk shed to protect the public? Yes it is. But he alternative can have catastrophic consequences for all involved.

Please, when it comes to securing building exteriors, think Safety First.