In 1980, New York City passed Local Law 10 to mandate the periodic inspection of building exteriors. The law was expanded in 1998 to become Local Law 11/98, then later to the Facade Inspection Safety Program (FISP), which covers about 13,000 properties and is one of the most stringent facade inspection ordinances nationally. (Photo: Marco Catini)
Every five years, owners of buildings greater than six stories must inspect building exteriors and produce a technical report on the condition of the facade to be filed with the Department of Buildings. If there are any dangerous conditions on the building exterior – loose stones or bulging masonry, for example – owners have 90 days to conduct repair efforts, followed by a second inspection and the filing of an amended report.
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Under the original law, inspections could be conducted from the ground with binoculars or a telescope – an up-close, hands on inspection wasn’t required. Under the current FISP guidelines, however, inspections must be hands on, with inspectors making at least one drop per elevation in a representative area of the facade.
Suspended scaffolding, a platform that’s supported by ropes or rigging, enables workers to reach the exterior of the building facade and is an effective way to assess the condition of a facade.
A rope access team can conduct as many as five to 10 drops per day,
facilitating the inspection of many different areas of the facade. Photo: Marco Catini
For the past 20 years, CANY, an architecture and engineering firm specializing in building enclosure systems, has established a skilled and highly efficient group of rope access inspectors.
Using rope access similar to rock climbing techniques, these inspectors rappel down from the top of the building, reaching a wider area of a building than they could using traditional access methods.
Rope Access Inspections Have Cost and Time Benefits
Rope access inspections benefit building owners with cost and time savings, less disruption to the building and its occupants, and a more comprehensive inspection. This, in turn, enables greater analysis and a more specific repair plan.
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In most cases, the complete inspection of a building can be done in one day. In contrast, traditional scaffold access can take a day or two to set up, and logistics for this method can be more difficult.
CANY’s rope access team is a critical element of the company’s FISP protocol. Photo: Marco Catini
Offering clients, a comprehensive assessment of the building allows for more accurate budgeting of current and future work. The net result is a better-informed client with a greater ability to manage their asset. The rope access technique also protects historic buildings, since it has less impact on a building’s exteriors than a scaffolding drop.
CANY’s rope access team is a critical element of the company’s FISP protocol. The team includes 15 SPRAT certified members who rappel down the sides of buildings. A rope access team can conduct as many as five to 10 drops per day, facilitating the inspection of many different areas of the facade.
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Rather than teaching rock climbers to inspect buildings, CANY trains its architects and engineers to become industrial rope access experts. This requires extensive training, including a three-tier test, and up to 1,500 rope hours to achieve top certification.
Training includes instruction on equipment, from ropes and anchors to safety gear, and focuses on safety, rigging requirements and inspection techniques.
Thomas Seminara is Vice President of Marketing and Technical Services for CANY. *CANY submitted images - Photo credits: Marco Catini
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