Why cities created facade ordinances

Facade ordinances are laws passed by local officials requiring building facade inspections be completed on a routine basis. The first facade ordinance came into effect in New York City in 1980 after a piece of terra cotta fell from a building, fatally injuring a pedestrian below. This law required that a licensed engineer or registered architect oversee the inspection of the facade of every building greater than 6 stories in the 5 boroughs.

Over the years and after several other falling masonry incidents, Local Law 10 was deleted from the building code and Local Law 11 was signed into law in 1998. Among other adaptations, Local Law 11 better outlined what was required of engineers or architects performing the inspections.

In 2010, Local Law 11 was replaced by the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP) and added an increased emphasis on balcony and railing inspections.

New York City has the oldest facade ordinances in the country, but today many other cities are following suit with their own ordinances. These cities include: Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco as well as Quebec, Canada.

Typical considerations
for maintaining compliance

According to the FEA’s Facade Inspections Ordinances report by Rebecca Gutierrez, P.E., R.S., these are the guidelines cities are using for facade inspections:

Location Which Buildings Frequency Subject Walls
Boston, MA
H > 70 feet
5 years
(1 year if unoccupied)
All walls
Chicago, IL
H > 80 feet
2 years
(Critical exam every 4, 8, or 12 years)
50% all walls, 100% corners,
all terra cotta
Detroit, MI
H ≥ 5 stories
5 years
Cornices and projections
Columbus, OH
Age ≥ 20 years within
10 ft of right-of-way
5 years
All walls
Milwaukee, WI
H > 5 stories
Age > 15 years
5, 8, or 12 years
(Based on age)
All walls
New York, NY
H ≥ 6 stories
5 years
All walls (except
within 12" of adjacent walls)
Philadelphia, PA
H > 6 stories
5 years*
All walls
Pittsburgh, PA
All buildings
(per Section 304)
5 years
All walls
St. Louis, MO
H > 6 stories
5 years
All walls

*Philadelphia facade ordinance (2010) initial inspection deadline depends on construction date of building.

Major cities with facade ordinances

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Volatus FACADE Resources

Drone Facade Inspection Overview
We work with architecture, engineering, and construction management firms that would like to leverage the advantages of drones during the investigative phase of a building facade restoration and remediation project.

Facade Inspection Partner Program
This program is designed for companies who would have ongoing needs for facade inspection, and would like to include drones as part of their service offering.

How Effective Are Drones For Building Facade Inspections
This article explores how the emergence of drone technology has made facade inspections safer, faster, and more cost effective.

Other Resources

This is a comprehensive resource put together by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, a global engineering and architectural firm. It provides detailed summaries and links specific to each city.

How to Ensure a Successful Facade Inspection
FacilitiesNet.com published this article that outlines what needs to be done to perform inspections correctly.

NYC to Explore Using Drones for Facade Inspections
Article about the New York City Council passing a bill requiring the Department of Buildings (DOB) to study the safety and feasibility of using aerial drones for building facade inspections.

Request your FREE Facade Inspection guide

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