Monday, May 22, 2006

Is the "1% Rule" still accepted by the NYC DOB?

Q: Is the "1% Rule" still accepted by the NYC DOB?

A: The "1% Rule" was used in the past by Architects to enable a minor addition to an existing building which had not been enlarged previously, even if there was no available FAR left. This was typically granted as a Reconsideration by the Borough Commissioner.

However, there is nothing within the NYC Zoning Resolution to support this "1% Rule", and it was ultimately found by the DOB to be indefensible. The DOB has since stopped granting this Reconsideration.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Can I exhaust a Mechanical Unit out the Lot Line wall of a building?

Q: Can I exhaust a Mechanical Unit out the Lot Line wall of a building?

A: No. Per the below Code Section, from BC RS 13-1, "Installation of Air Conditioning and Ventilating Systems", an exhaust duct to the exterior shall terminate at or above the Roof of the building, or in an exterior wall adjoining a street, yard, or court.

However, where the Lot Line adjoins an adjacent lot that shall not be developed (eg: a Landmark Church or similar), it may be worthwhile to seek a Reconsideration, since there is little or no chance that the adjacent lot will be developed further.

Refer to excerpt from RS 13-1 below for full details:

2-3.4.3 To minimize the hazard from fires in other structures, an exhaust duct to the outdoor air shall terminate at or above the roof of the building or in an exterior wall adjoining a street, yard or court.

When terminated in an exterior wall, the exhaust duct shall be at least 10 feet above the sidewalk or ground and shall terminate at least 10 feet from any window in another building or from any window in a residential portion of the same building, or from any fire escape, exterior stair, or balcony.

No exhaust duct or outdoor air intake shall be located where conflict with the operation of an existing intake or other ventilating opening. Exhaust openings shall be provided with vanes or louvers constructed so as to direct the air away from windows, other openings, and pedestrians.

An outdoor air intake opening with gross area of more than 144 square inches shall be provided with fire dampers when such opening is located as follows:
(a) Less than 30 feet above grade.
(b) Less than 30 feet in any direction from any opening in another building.
(c) Less than 15 feet from a lot line.
(d) Less than 50 feet above and less than 50 feet in any direction from a roof of combustible material or a building in which the exterior walls are constructed wholly or partly of wood.

When required by the commissioner, approved heat actuated devices shall be installed at intake openings to shut down fans in case of an exterior fire.

Old Code Class 3-Non-Fireproof Construction

Q: What is the Definition of Old Code Class 3-Non-Fireproof Structures?

A: Old Code Class 3-Non-Fireproof Structures are structures made of incombustible materials or assemblies of materials inadequate to meet the fire resistive rating requiremetns of Class1 or Class 2 Structures:

-Exterior Walls are Masonry or Reinforced Concrete,-Interior Framing is partly ot wholly of wood or unprotected iron or steel.

3-hours: Exterior Bearing Walls, Floor construction above the Cellar or Basement including Columns (except in Residence structures 3 stories+Basement or less in height, and in other structures not over 4 stories or 40' in height).

2-hours: Exterior Non-Bearing Walls, where protection is required, Shafts & Required Stairways over 4 stories/40' in height.

1-hour: Exterior Non-bearing Walls, Shafts & Required Stairways in structures not over 4 stories or 40' in height

This section does not apply to private dwellings of 40' and 4 stories or less in height.Exterior walls of private dwellings of Class 3 Non-Fireproof constructionmay be constructed of incombustible materials having a fire resistive rating of at least 1-hour, provided the building does not exceed 1 story in height and is separated at least 4' from any lot line and from any building.

Old Code Class 2-Fire Protected Structures

Q: What is the Definition of Old Code Class 2-Fire Protected Structures?

A: Walls and Structural members are made of incombustible materials with the following minimum Fire Resistive Ratings:

3 Hours: Bearing Walls and Exterior Walls.

1 Hour: Structural Members which support walls or columns, Structural members in walls, Shafts (except as provided in C26-646.0), Bearing walls in Residence Structures not exceeding 35', Exterior Panel Walls, and Permanent Interior Partitions.

Old Code Class 1-Fireproof Construction

Q: What is the Definition of Old Code Class 1-Fireproof Construction?

A: Walls and Structural members are made of incombustible materials with the following minimum Fire Resistive Ratings:

4 Hours:Exterior Walls, Fire Walls, Party Walls, Piers, Columns, Girders carrying columns.

3 Hours:Other Girders, Fire Partitions, Floors including their Beams and Girders, Beams, Roofs, and Floor Fillings, Required Stairway enclosures (other than in Schools and structures under 100' high).

2 Hours:Exterior Panel Walls, Exterior Bearing Walls in Private Dwellings 35' or less in ht, and Required Stairways in Schools and structures less than 100' in height.

Permanent interior partitions shall be constructed of incombustible materials. The degree of fire resistance of other construction features in Fireproof Structures and acceptable materials shall be as per Article 11.

What is the largest Entry Foyer permitted in an Apartment?

Q: What types of spaces may be declared as a Foyer, with no Windows? What is the maximum size of an Entry Foyer?

A: Entrance Foyers to Dwelling Units do not require Legal Windows provided that they comply with MDL , Title 3, Light & Air, Section 31.5, excerpted below:

5. A portion of any apartment used as an entrance hall to such apartment may be designated as a foyer. Such a foyer shall not be considered a room if the department shall so permit and if either:

a. Its floor area does not exceed ten per centum of the total floor area of such apartment, or
b. Every room in such apartment exceeds in area the minimum required area of such room by more than twenty per centum and the floor area of such foyer does not exceed twenty per centum of the floor area of such apartment.

An entrance foyer is not a Code Habitable Room. Definition of Code Habitable Room is below from NYC BC Definitions:

A residential room or space, having the minimum dimensions required by §27-751 of article six of subchapter twelve of this chapter in which the ordinary functions of domestic life are carried on, and which includes bedrooms, living rooms, studies, recreation rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and other similar spaces, but does not include closets, halls, stairs, laundry rooms, or bathrooms.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bicycle Racks

Q: I am a property owner. I wish to install a Bicycle Rack on the Public Sidewalk, for the use of the public. What kind of approval is required? What is the agency & application process?

A: CityRacks is a program through NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) which allows private owners to request the installation of a bicycle rack on the sidewalk. There is an online application form to be filled-in by the Owner, with full permit instructions.

It's the Law: Women need more toilets than men!

Q: What are the requirements for Women's Toilet Rooms in Places of Assembly? How many additional fixtures are required for Women?

A: See Local Law 57/2005 for full details. The Plumbing Fixture Count has been amended so that the requirement for the number of Womens's Toilets serving most Places of Assembly is generally twice that of Men.

The amended count is a change to Plumbing Fixture Table RS 16-5 (Minimum number of required Plumbing Fixtures).

Unisex Toilet Rooms may be used to satisfy the total number of required Plumbing Fixtures for Women.

Greenhouse in a Rear Yard?

Q: What are the requirements dictating the construction of a Greenhouse in a Rear Yard?

A: The below is a summary of a DOB Memo by Irving Minkin, dated 4/8/77 outlining the criteria for Greenhouses. I believe this is still in force:

1. Greenhouse & structure to which it is attached shall be non-commercial.
2. Greenhouse may project a maximum of 6' into the required Rear Yard, measured from the exterior face of the building wall.
3. Greenhouse may rest directly upon Grade level or be supported by columns.
4. No offensive dust or odors may be created by such use.
5. The Greenhouse together with its supports, is permanently constructed of non-combustible materials.
6. Glazing is with plain or wire glass.Slow-burning plastic is not permitted. A 'Greenhouse-Type glass constructed rood must be built as part of the enclosure.
7. The Greenhouse floor construction shall be capable of sustaining a minimum Live Load of 75 lbs.
8. The enclosed Greenhouse shall contribute to the Zoning Floor Area of the building.
9. The Greenhouse shall contain operable windows providing light and ventilation. 10% windows required for the combined area of the Greenhouse and any interior room being served by the windows.
10. The depth of the Greenhouse shall not be included in the maximum permitted depth of a room without a window.

What information is required on a Final Survey?

Q: What information is required on a Final Survey?

A: A Final Survey is required by the NYC Department of Buildings as part of the Final Certificate of Occupancy process. Final Surveys are required for New Buildings and for vertical or horisontal building additions. They may be waived by the Commissioner for small structures (see Code Section below). The Final Survey must be prepared, signed & sealed by a Licensed Land Surveyor. It must be reviewed and certified by the New Building Architect or Engineer of Record.

The purpose of the Final Survey is to ensure that the building complies with bulk regulations (since this cannot be done by the DOB Inspector at the site), does not encroach onto adjacent property lines, has proper grading at the sidewalk, has proper storm drainage, has the required amount of street trees, etc.

The NYC Building Code specifies the plan requirements for Final Surveys in BC Section
§ 27-219, excerpted below:

"27-219 Applications for Certificates of Cccupancy:

All applications for Certificates of Occupancy shall be submitted on forms furnished by the department. Each application shall be accompanied by an accurate and complete lot survey made by a licensed surveyor showing the location of any new building and/or any extension to an existing building, the elevation of the first tier of beams or the first floor, the finished grades of all open spaces on the lot, the location and controlling grades of watercourses, paved swales and similar above grade methods of storm water disposal when permitted by this code, the locations of all catch basins on the property, the established curb level, and the location of all other structures and impervious surfaces, as defined in subdivision (a) of section P110.2 of reference standard RS-16, on the lot. Such lot survey shall also show the location and boundaries of the lot or plot upon which such buildings and structures are located. The commissioner may waive the requirement of such survey in the case of small sheds, stands, signs, and similar small structures. In addition, prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy the department shall confirm by inspection that all work relating to the installation of the part of the storm water drainage system which shall lie outside of such property, if and as required by section 24-526 of this code, has been satisfactorily completed."

Monday, April 24, 2006

My Professionally Certified Application was Audited!

Q: I filed my application as Professionally Certified. The Application was Audited and Objections were issued. What is the process to resolve? Or, my Work Permits were already revoked & I need them to be reinstated.

A: If Audit Objections were issued, they will need to be addressed or the Work Permits could be revoked by DOB. If the Permits have already been revoked, but you are able to demonstrate that the Objections can be removed (eg: you have obtained a Reconsideration that addresses the Objections), the following procedure is to be followed, per DOB reg's:

1. Prepare a Post Approval Amendment (PAA) PW-1 (an original and two copies). In the comments section, state "This PAA is filed to answer the Audit Objections". If amended drawings are involved also list them in Section #16. FOR A REVOKED APPLICATION, a PAA to Reinstate the application must also be filed and the required fees paid.

2. See the DOB Audit Examiner with the PAA. The Audit Examiner will note on the PW-1 that it is OK to Lift the Hold so that the document can be entered.

3. Go to the Borough Commissioner's Office ahd have them lift the Hold on the application. This will enable the applicant or Filing Rep to enter the PAA Document. Make sure a copy of this document is put in the DOB Job Folder.

4. Bring a copy of the PAA to the Borough Manager's Office so that the PAA Document can be entered.

5. When all of the above items are completed, and the PAA Document has been entered in BIS, make an appointment with the DOB Audit Examiner so that the document that was originally audited and the PAA to answer the Audit Objections can be ACCEPTED in the Computer.

6. The Auditor will then take the DOB Folder to the Borough Commissioner;'s Office and they will send out a LETTER OF RECISSION, signifying that the Audit has been lifted.

Are Exit Signs Required in Residential Apartment Buildings?

Q: Are Exit Signs required at each floor in Residential Apartment Buildings or One-or Two-Family Residences?

A: No. Per BC Section 27-383, the Code makes an exception in the Exit Sign Requirement for Apartment Buildings (J-2) and One- or Two-Family Residences. Exit Signs are not required at each floor in J-2 or J-3 Buildings. See below Code Section:
"§27-383 REQUIREMENTS. Except in occupancy groups J-2 and J-3, the location of every exit on every floor and every opening from a room classified in occupancy group J-1 and containing cubicles shall be clearly indicated by exit signs. Such signs shall be placed at an angle with the exit opening if such placement is required for the signs to serve their purpose. In long corridors, in open floor areas, and in all other situations where the location of the exit may not be readily visible or understood, directional signs shall be provided to serve as guides from all portions of the corridor or floor."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What is little E? Is it near Little Italy?

Q: What is the little 'E' Designation on the Zoning Map? What is required?

A: In addition to Little Italy, NYC also has places called 'little E'. But it's not a hip new neighborhood. It is a site where industrial contaminants may exist.

"The E Designation is applied to certain properties that have been re-zoned, where the projected use may lead to increased environmental risk, as when a site zoned for manufacturing is re-zoned to residential use. Developers, owners and tenants on such sites may have to do environmental investigation before they can get their construction plans approved. In some cases, remediation (cleanup) may also be required and/or special measures built into the project to protect occupants or construction workers against environmental hazards. At the very least, this means delay. It can also result in added cost" - Joseph Horowitz, PE

Carbon Monoxide Detector Affidavits

Q: I am processing Certificate of Occupancy issuance for a building, and have been asked to provide a Carbon Monoxide Detector Affidavit by DOB. When is this required by Code? What is the Law for Carbon Monoxide Detectors? Where can I find more information?

A: Carbon Monoxide Detectors are now required in certain Occupancy Groups per Local Law 7/2004. They are required in J-3 (Single- and Two-Family Residences), J-2 (Multiple Dwellings), J-1 (Hotels), G (Educational/School), and H-2 (Hospitals) Occupancies.

For Residential buildings, a CO Detector is required within 15' of the entrance to Sleeping Rooms, and also in the vicinity of Fossil-Fuel Burning Equipment (such as in a Boiler Room, Parking Garage, Laundry Room with Gas Dryers).

For G and H-2, at least one CO Detector shall be installed in the vicinity of Fossil-Fuel Burning Equipment.

An Affidavit for the installation of CO Detectors will be requested by the Construction Division at the time of TCO/CO issuance or TCO Renewal (unless already on file).

Full Local Law 7/2004

Temporary Place of Assembly Permits

Q: What is the procedure to obtain a Temporary Place of Assembly Permit (TPA)? What are the submission requirements?

A: Check out TPPN 7/96, which outlines the submission requirements. TPA's should be filed at least 10 business days prior to the TPA event. TPA's are required where a space does not have a PA Permit and event is planned for the space which exceeds 75 persons. A TPA Permit is also required where an existing Place of Assembly will be occupied in a special way (eg: more Occupants that that which is approved) for a one day event.

The DOB fee for submission (as of 1/2005) is $250, plus a $100 late fee for each day less than 10 days prior to the event.

What are "Air Rights"? How does it work?

Q: What are Air Rights? How do I know if Air Rights are available? What does that mean?

A: "Air Rights" is the term used when a Building Owner sells/transfers his unbuilt Zoning Floor Area to another Building Owner or Developer. This may happen, for instance, where a Landmarked structure, such as a Church, is located in a high-density Residential or Commercial District. The Church could be located in a Zoning District with an FAR of 10, but might only be using a fraction of this. They could sell their unbuilt Zoning Floor Area to an adjacent Owner/Developer. This would constitute an "Air Rights Transfer" or "Zoning Floor Area Transfer". The Church benefits because they receive compensation for the sale of Potential or Unrealized Real Estate. The Developer benefits because they can then incorporate this additional Zoning Floor Area into their building.

Most Commonly, the Development Lot and the Underbuilt Lot are adjacent to one another. The Tax Lots are declared to be a single Zoning Lot. This would be formalized as an agreement, and filed with the County Clerk's Office, similar to a Deed. Thus, an Air Rights Transfer or Zon ing Lot Agreement of this type should be retrievable by a Title Search or an in -house ACRIS search of Department of Finance records.

In addition, when properly done, a statement will be found on the Certificate of Occupancy stating "This Zoning Lot is comprised of Tax Lots (1), (2), and (3)", signifying that multiple Tax Lots are being treated jointly as one Zoning Lot for a Zoning benefit.

Do Flags and Banners Require Work Permits?

Q: Is DOB Approval required to hang a banner or a flag on an existing or new flagpole? How are flags and banners treated?

A: A flag or banner is a Sign, and requires a DOB Sign application and compliance with the non-illuminated sign provisions of Zoning. If both sides of the flag are identical, then the area does not need to be counted twice. If a new Flagpole is proposed, this shall be filed under a separate application from the Sign, with structural connection details. Flagpoles may project across the front property line up to 2' within the curb, and shall be a minimum of 15' above the street level. Flags on Community Facility buldings which represent such facility are permitted without area limitation.

Demolition or Alteration Permit?

Q: I want to demolish a portion of my building. Do I need a Demolition Permit? Do I need to file with the BEST Squad?

A:It is necessary to file for a Demolition Permit when the scope of building demolition is 50% of the building or more. Demolition less than 50% may be filed under an Alteration Application (Alt-II, Directive-2).

General Contractor's DOB Tracking Number

Q: What are the minimum Insurance Certificate requirements to establish a General Contractor's Tracking Number? What is the format accepted by the Department of Buildings? Where is the information submitted?

A: Insurance Certificates must be submitted for Worker's Compensation and Disability Insurance to obtain a General Contractor Tracking Number. They may be submitted in any DOB Borough Office. Certificates must be originals. DOB must be listed as Certificate Holder. New Building and Construction Fence Work Permits require Street Obstruction Bond and Liability Insurance Certificates in addition to the above.

If the individual is a sole practitioner and claims he/she does not require Worker's Compensation or Disability Insurance because they have no employees, then a WC/DB100 Form (Affidavit for NY Business that does not require Worker's Compensation and/or Disability) must be submitted in lieu of the required insurances. The form must be sealed by the Worker's Compensation Board. If the GC is out-of-state, then a DB101 Form is required.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Wheelchair Accessible Viewing Positions

Q: How do I calculate the Minimum Number of Wheelchair Accessble Viewing Positions required for a Place of Assembly or Temporary Place of Assembly? What is the minimum dimension

A: Refer to Building Code Section §27-531(a)(1)(h): Performance viewing positions shall be provided for persons who use wheelchairs in accordance with the following schedule:
Capacity of Assembly Space Number of Viewing Positions
75 to 100=4 min
101 to 150= 5 min
151 to 200=6 min
201 to 300=7 min
301 to 400=8 min
401 to 500=9 min
501 to 1000=2 percent of total
Over 1000=20 plus 1 for each 100 over 1000

Minimum Dimensions of Viewing Position = 30" wide x 48" deep

These positions shall be located so as not to interfere with egress from any row of seats and shall be reachable by means of ramps and/or elevators. Steps shall not be allowed in line of travel from the main approach entry to the designated locations. Size and placement of wheelchair locations, surfaces, access to performing area and listening systems where required, shall comply with the provisions of reference standard RS-4-6. These positions may be utilized by persons who do not use wheelchairs provided that the positions are delineated on the approved seating plans, the seating is readily removable and the positions are unsold one full working day before the performance.

Regular Review versus Professional Certification

Q: What is the diffrerence between Regular Review and Professional Certification? What is Professional Certification of Objections?

A: Regular Review is when the DOB Plan Examiner reviews the plans, and issues approval or Objections which must be resolved by the Archtect or Engineer prior to approval.
Professional Certification is when the Architect or Engineer assumes the role of DOB Plan Examiner by Certifying that their plans & applications comply with the Building Code and Zoning Resolution. The Architect is liable for the accuracy of this statement.
The DOB audits about 20% of the Professionally Certified applications (randomly), and reviews them after issuance of the Work Permit to verify compliance. If a non-compliance is issued, a Letter of Revocation is issued, and the project may be placed on hold until the Audit is resolved. Lack of resolution may result in the permit being revoked.

Refer to DOB OPPN 7/1995. Some details have changed since the issuance of this initial document. Refer to DOB OPPN 1/04 for the updates.

No CO on file

Q: I am filing for Alterations to an exisitng building which requires an Amendment to the Certificate of Occupancy. However, the existing building has no Certificate of Occupancy (CO) on file. What is required?

A: For Buildings three stories or less, a new Certificate of Occupancy is required. For Buildings over 3 stories, refer to DOB Memorandum dated July 13, 1981; Item 19: Temporary or Final Certificates of Occupancy for Buildings (exceeding 3 stories) without a Prior Certificate of Occupancy. The following are required:A. The changed use shall not exceed 20% of the total floor area of the building.B. All of the requirements set forth in the DOB memorandum are to be complied with.C. If over six (6) stories in height, there is an operating Standpipe System.D. If either Fireproof or, if not, there is an operating Sprinkler System throughout the entire building.E. Two (2) independent means of egress are available on each floor to all of the tenants, conforming with applicable law.

What type of Mechanical Equipment requires an Equipment Use Permit (EUP)?

Q: What type of Mechanical Equipment requires an Equipment Use Permit (EUP)?

A: Roof Mounted Mech Equipment that has a compressor 1 Hp & above. Ceiling Mounted Mechanical Equipment that has a compressor 1 Hp & above, where such ceiling is directly beneath any roof. Generally, Condensers require EUP's. Fans, Pumps, Air Handlers do not.

Combining Apartments

Q: Does a Certificate of Occupancy need to be amended when I combine Apartments?

A: No. Combination of Apartments can be filed as an Alt-II, provided that they result in a lower overall number of Dwelling Units. If the units are condominiums, an application must be filed with the Department of Finance to reflect the condo tax lot merger. One of the two kitchens in the apartment must be removed.

What is a Mechanical Deduction?

Q: What is a Mechanical Deduction?

A: A Mechanical Deduction is a floor area deduction where the area used for Mechanical Equipment is subtracted from the Total Zoning Floor Area of a proposed building. When planning a building, Mechanical Deductions should be taken to ensure that the maximum Zoning Floor Area for a site is achieved. Mechanical Deductions should not exceed 2% of the area of the building. Mechanical Deductions may include Plumbing Shafts, Mechanical Equipment Rooms, and similar areas. Key Plans illustrating the location, dimension, and area of each Mechanical Deduction must be provided and tabulated to satisfy DOB requirements.

What is the difference between an Alteration Type-I Application and an Alteration Type-II Application?

Q: What is the difference between an Alteration Type-I Application and an Alteration Type-II Application?

A: An Alteration Type-I Application is required when there is a change to the Certificate of Occupancy of a building, due to an interior conversion of the building or a space within a building, or due to a building addition. Most commonly, an Alteration Type-I Application will be used to change the Maximum Number of Persons for a space, to change the Occupancy or Use Group of a space, and/or to change the Description of a space.

An Alteration Type-II Application may be used when there is no change to the Certificate of Occupancy due to the proposed alterations, such as with an interior fitout or an apartment alteration. When an Alteration Type-II is filed under Directive-14 (such is the case 99% of the time), the Applicant or other NYS Registered PE/RA may signoff the application with a Directive-14 Final Inspection. An Alteration Type-II, Directive-14 Application must include the statement "No Change to Use, Egress, or Occupancy under this Application" on the Title Sheet.