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Building safety and Local Law 126 webinar

Hosted by Super, Brick Underground, and O&S Associates
April 27, 2023
Building safety and Local Law 126 webinar

Catch the highlights from Super and Brick Underground's webinar on building safety and Local Law 126 with O&S Associates.

The tragic collapse of 57 Ann St has crystallized importance of the many safety checks required by New York City—including the recent rollout of Local Law 126 specific to the periodic inspections of parking structures. To help unpack critical building safety checks, including new Local Laws such as LL126, Super partnered with Brick Underground and architecture firm O&S Associates for an emergency webinar. Here are the top highlights from the webinar, featuring O&S principals, Suchi Jayasena and Prabhu Perumalsamy.

The number one cause of structural weakening? It's not age or weight.

Age is not a direct issue that affects building structure. And contrary to much of the commentary and critique of the Ann Street garage load, the volume of cars or load—even though cars are getting heavier, especially with EVs—is not a primary cause of load issues. These are what put loads at risk: public assembly (e.g. hosting an event), storage, planters, delivery vehicles, construction vehicles, and piling snow.

But by far the biggest cause of structures losing their strength is water. Water corrodes steel and causes concrete spalling. Climate affects this even more. In the northeast, this is further exacerbated by freeze and thaw cycles—the northeast has the most freeze/thaw cycles in any given year—which means water that has infiltrated expands into ice, then thaws back out leaving damage behind. In addition, in climates with snow, salt used to de-ice accelerates corrosion.

Therefore, waterproofing and drainage is extremely important for ensuring maintenance of a garage—especially maintaining a roof.

Don't put money into bad repairs.

Patching a structural problem is not a repair. In fact, O&S Associates advise that a quick patch is going to be a waste of your money. It's hiding the problem—not addressing it.

Why are garages particularly at risk?

The biggest difference is that most parking structures are not weathertight. There are ramps, exposure to the outdoors, and vehicles bring in ice, water, and salt. Water damage is the root cause of most parking structure damage.

Garages are also "out of sight, out of mind." If you see a crack or a leak in your condo, you'll likely report it right away. When was the last time you commented on your parking garage? As a result, parking garages often don't see the same level of regular maintenance until there is a big problem.

The good news: even with significant overload, a well-maintained garage is designed to fail in a visible and localized manner. You'll see large cracks, but there should be time to evacuate if a problem happens in one area. The key words: well maintained.

So how do I ensure a well-maintained garage?

Start with annual and preventative, proactive maintenance. Being proactive helps you extend the life of your garage and lower costs—anything more reactive will end up costing more over time.

How structures deteriorate: Graph courtesy of O&S Associates

Your example checklist includes:

  • Inspecting and repairing the waterproofing membrane
  • Inspecting and repairing the drains and drainpipes
  • Repairing leaks
  • Repairing steel corrosion and concrete spalls and cracks
  • Repairing potholes and trip hazards
  • Washing floors and checking drains and pipes before and after winter
  • Washing and sweeping floors during the winter to avoid salt build up
  • Budgeting for regular maintenance in your building reserves

The basics on Local Law 126.

Local Law 126 affects most parking structures that house more than 3 vehicles. A DOB-certified QPSI (qualified parking structure inspector) must perform an inspection every 6 years on the cycle required by the DOB.

Reports are filed with three results:

  • Safe: no repairs are required before the next inspection in 6 years, unless an unsafe condition appears in that timeline—building owners are always responsible for building safety regardless of filing deadlines.
  • Safe with repairs engineering monitoring (SREM): requires repairs or monitoring before the next 6 year cycle. The timing of the repairs are decided with the engineer, but must be completed ahead of the next 6-year inspection.
  • Unsafe: means conditions immeidately threaten public safety. This requires immediate notification of the DOB, protection or closing of the area, and repairs must commence immediately and be completed within 90 days or with a filed extension. If the repairs take longer than 90 days to complete, you can file for an extension but must show proof of the work in progress.

Who is responsible for repairs if the garage is leased out?

Check your lease! This is usually a legal question that is outlined in the leasing contract. Regardless of who is responsible for obtaining the report, it must be shared with the owner so that they are aware. This information will also be available in DOB NOW, where all filings and results are searchable in NYC's public database.

Watch the complete webinar recording

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