Applying New Code Standards to Prior-Code Structures: Exceptions
By Austin Regan, R.A. and John Lashley
Often, a fundamental challenge in New York City construction code compliance lies in determining which code requirements to follow. This article is the first of a series that identifies instances when certain renovations in older buildings trigger compliance with the 2014 NYC Building Code.
Section 28-101.4.3 of the New York City Administrative Code (AC) covers “Optional use of the 1968 building code for work on prior code buildings.” This provision states:
At the option of the owner, and subject to applicable provisions of this code, work on prior code buildings may be performed in accordance with the requirements and standards set forth in the 1968 building code, or where the 1968 code so authorizes, the code in effect prior to December 6, 1968.
That said, three types of construction projects require at least partial adherence to the current construction codes.
Application of 2014 Code
Generally speaking, only one situation requires a complete overhaul to bring a prior code building in compliance with current construction codes. This requirement kicks in when proposed renovations would increase the Floor Surface Area by more than 110%, per Section 18-101.4.5 of the New York City Administrative Code (AC).
Two other triggers that will require either a portion of a building or the entire building to upgrade to the 2014 code are:
- Changes in use or occupancy require updating fire safety systems and building accessibility, as well as compliance with current energy code.
- When renovation costs exceed a certain percentage of the building’s market value, this situation also calls for upgrading fire safety systems and accessibility requirements, in addition to compliance with the latest standards for flood-resistant construction.
AC Section 28-101.4.3 also identifies a number of exceptions in which proposed projects must comply with the 2014 code.
Prior Code Buildings
Except for a few specific cases, any building that was filed prior to July 1, 2009, is considered a prior code building. Per AC Section 28-101.4.3, prior code buildings undergoing renovations can follow the 1968 code. Of course, there is a caveat that specific areas of the 2014 code must always be followed. The same section of the administrative code lists those exceptions:
- Fuel, gas, plumbing and mechanical work. Installation of—and work on—all appliances, equipment, and systems governed by the city’s fuel gas code, plumbing code, and mechanical code will be governed by applicable provisions of those codes with respect to new and existing installations.
- Fire protection systems. As stated above, changes of use or occupancy, as well as building alterations, are subject to Chapter 9 of the New York City building code, subject to special provisions for prior code buildings as set forth therein.
- Elevators, conveyors and amusement rides. Installation of—and work on—such equipment are subject to the requirements of Chapter 30 and Appendix K of the New York City building code and rules of the Department of Buildings (DOB), subject to special provisions for prior code buildings as set forth therein.
- Safety during construction operations. Safety measures to protect the public and property during construction, including demolition, are governed by Chapter 33 of the New York City building code.
- Building alterations and changes of use or occupancy are subject to the requirements of Chapter 11 of the New York City building code, subject to special provisions for prior code buildings as set forth therein.
- Encroachments into the public right of way. Encroachments onto public right of way must adhere to Chapter 32 of the New York City building code.
- Administration and enforcement. Unless otherwise limited by the DOB commissioner, administration and enforcement of the 1968 building code shall be governed by this code, including construction document approval, issuance of permits and certificates of occupancy, tests and inspections, and penalties.
- Special inspections. “Controlled” and “semi-controlled” inspections referenced in the 1968 building code shall be considered “special inspections” and subject to the provisions of this code with regard to special inspections.
- Materials that are regulated in usage by the 1968 code are subject to applicable provisions of the current code.
- Security grilles. Installation and replacement of security grilles must comply with Section 1188.8.131.52 of the New York City building code.
- Energy efficiency. All energy efficiency work must comply with the New York City Energy Conservation Code.
- Roof recovering and replacements.
- Installation and materials. Proposed work that involves recovering or replacing an existing roof covering is subject to the provisions of Sections 1510.1 through 1510.6 of the New York City building code.
- Cool roofs. Work involving recovering or replacing an existing roof covering must comply with Section 1504.9 of the New York City building code, unless the affected area is less than 50% of the total roof area and less than 500 ft2 (46 m2).
- Green roofs. Regardless of whether the applicant uses the 1968 building code or another prior code, work involving green roof systems and container gardens will be subject to Chapter 15 of the New York City building code.
- For alterations that include adding or replacing an entire stair enclosure, including stairs, handrails must comply with Sections 1009.12 and 1012 of the New York City building code. For alterations that involve adding or replacing ramps, handrails must comply with Sections 1010.8 and 1012.
- Alterations and repairs that involve adding or replacing guards must comply with Sections 1013 and 1607.7 of the New York City building code.
- Areas of special flood hazard. For special flood hazard areas identified in Section 28-104.9.4, work for any activity regulated by Appendix G of the New York City building code must comply with the requirements of that appendix.
- Use of load resistance factor design (LRFD), calculation of live loads, and applicability of seismic and wind loads mist comply with special provisions for prior code buildings in Section 1601.2 of the New York City building code.
- Emergency and standby power systems. Installation of—and work on—emergency and standby power systems must comply with Section 2702.1 of the New York City building code.
- Parking garages and open parking lots. For construction projects that increase the size of electric service in parking garages or open parking lots, alterations must include provisions for installation of electric vehicle charging stations, in compliance with Sections 406.2.11 or 406.7.11 of the New York City building code, as applicable.
- Mold protection. Alterations must comply with the requirements of Sections 2506 and 2509 of the New York City building code with respect to areas affected by moisture or water damage.
Future articles will cover other, specific instances in which buildings governed by previous building codes must comply with current standards.
If you have questions about how these requirements affect your specific property, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.