City DOB announces new study on safety inspections for NYC building façades

a NYC building facade with a massive hole in it
Part of a building facade in Little Italy collapsed in January 2024, leaving behind a massive gaping hole.
Photo credit: Dean Moses

Changes may soon be coming to building safety regulations, as the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) announced Thursday that an in-depth review of the city’s Façade Inspection and Safety Program — also known as Local Law 11 inspections — is now underway.

Engineering consultants will conduct a review of the current mandatory façade inspection regimen for buildings over six stories tall and provide recommendations for potential legislative changes to these regulations.

According to a DOB spokesperson, the new study is part of the city’s Get Sheds Down plan announced last year to remove what officials have called “unsightly” sheds and scaffolding from NYC sidewalks. 

“Our mandatory façade inspection program has helped identify thousands of hazardous building conditions over the years, and has served as a model for other cities across the country,“ DOB Commissioner Jimmy Oddo said in a press release. “This new scientific study will help us as we look to further refine these important regulations, so that they continue to keep New Yorkers safe, while ensuring that sidewalk sheds are only up when they are truly needed.”

Thornton Tomasetti, an international engineering consulting firm, will use artificial intelligence to help come through decades of DOB’s façade inspection reports and building incident data to find commonalities. This, city officials say, will help pinpoint situations when building façade failures are most likely to occur.

The team will also conduct a literature review on building materials testing and construction practices to determine whether all buildings should comply with one-size-fits-all requirements, or whether different requirements are more appropriate. 

Although it is too early to determine what changes would possibly be made, the DOB said conclusions from the study will be made public when it is completed next year. 

The city has seen several building collapses in recent months. 

In February, a construction worker was killed after a building collapse in Brooklyn’s Borough Park. Before that, part of a building collapsed in Little Italy in January. Although no one was hurt in the incident, it left behind a massive gaping hole in the building’s brick façade. 

And in December of 2023, a partial building collapse occurred in the Bronx. Parts of the six-story building in Morris Heights fell, no one was killed or seriously hurt in the incident.