Signs of the Times

By Brian Redlein

2015 was, by most measures, a crazy year.  One need only look at some of the lavish Christmas parties being thrown to get the sense that this year brought in a huge amount of work and capital.  For an industry given to riding the waves, 2015 looked like a peak of sorts.  With all that work though, we faced a lot of headache.

The 421a tax deadline set a record for permits issued and had some of us scrambling at the DOB right up until the stroke of Midnight on June 15th – only to find out it’s been “extended” and lives in an undead state as it ambles through the assembly halls in Albany and around the negotiating tables here in NYC.  Impossible to say what exactly the “new” 421a will look like come next year but I’m sure we’ll all be getting used to it by summer.

The path to Energy Code compliance is brighter and clearer now than ever before, but all the illumination has done is reveal the extent of how much work remains.  I’ve written at length on Energy Code this year and the market is starting to wake up to the fact once a building is compliant it might as well be considered a “green building.”  If I have to spend tens of thousands on an energy model to show my curtain wall building complies, what’s to stop me from sending that same energy model out to get the building LEED certified?  Even in residential buildings green is more in fashion then ever and we’ll see a lot more buildings going for their green credentials come the New Year.

Perhaps the biggest change though is the rise of computers. A few years back, the DOB started the Hub program which is so different from how regular DOB works it might as well be a borough unto itself.

Hub is comprised of three parts: The Development Hub, Hub Full Service, and Hub Self-Service and all of them rely on internet uploads and emails to do 90% of the work.  A lot of the industry never really gets to interface with Hub because the Dev Hub is closed off to anything but New Buildings and Major Alteration-1s, and Hub Full Service is limited by computer to single-work type applications such as sprinklers and builders’ paving plans.

That said, with the kinks eventually worked out Hub Full Service could become the nexus for all applications running through DOB.  Plan review will go from in-person sits at borough offices to web cam meetings.  Plans will no longer have to be printed in triplicate, “wet stamped,”and folded, but will live in the cloud as PDFs.

This shift to digital could easily be the biggest change to how we do things since the Dev Hub was started and it’s pretty clear that’s the direction we’re moving in.  As for the advent of the other major digital procedure change, Inspection Ready, that too will continue to evolve as the industry and the Department adapt to a system that no longer relies on contractors to call for inspections but on architects, engineers and owners to log on and request them.

Impossible to say is how much of this change will hit us in 2016 but the future is increasingly looking like a digital and energy efficient one.  For someone whose been in this niche of the industry for two decades these are some very fast times.