What Chicago Building Owners Need to Know about the Revised Façade Ordinance

As of October 22, 2015, the City of Chicago has adopted a revised version of the “Rules for the Maintenance of High-Rise Exterior Walls and Enclosures,” which have been in place since 2009.  Often referred to as the “façade ordinance,” the new rules raise report filing fees from $10 to $75 and contain several minor alterations relating to definitions and requirements. The rules also include two important changes that could significantly impact Chicago high-rise building owners and managers.

  1. Under the revised ordinance, owners of new buildings over 80 feet tall must file an “ongoing report” within two years of first occupancy. An ongoing report is non-invasive and requires a visual examination of the building performed from afar.  A licensed professional (an architect or engineer) will use binoculars to examine all of the exterior areas of the building to determine if any potentially dangerous and hazardous conditions exist.  The licensed professional will then prepare the ongoing report and file it with the city.  Based on building type, ongoing reports must be filed every 2 – 6 years to show that the façade is being maintained with minimal deterioration that could threaten those walking below.
  2. Owners who are delinquent in filing their ongoing reports by one year or greater are now required to file a “critical examination” to bring their buildings up to date. A critical examination is much more costly, labor intensive and invasive than an ongoing report:
    1. A licensed professional is required to perform an up close and detailed inspection of the building’s façade that can take several days and may require one or more investigative openings in the exterior to determine deterioration levels.
    2. A contractor is needed to provide the engineer with access to upper levels of the building’s exterior, and make exploratory openings.
    3. Permits and protections are required to ensure the safety of the investigating engineer and those using the sidewalks surrounding the building.
    4. Residents and commercial businesses who occupy the building will be inconvenienced as normal access is disrupted by the erection of the swing stage and protections such as covered walkways.

What’s the key takeaway of these ordinance revisions?  If you own or manage a high-rise building located in Chicago or any other area where ongoing reports on exterior facades are required at regular intervals, you want to do all you can to remain compliant.  By working with a qualified licensed professional to develop and file your ongoing façade reports within the allotted timeframes, you can avoid incurring the significant expense and disruption of a critical examination.  With regular façade maintenance and the submission of ongoing reports, the only time your high rise building should need to undergo a critical examination will be if the visual inspection identifies a potentially hazardous and dangerous condition.

K2N Crest specializes in creative problem solving in the practices of architectural design, structural engineering, architectural engineering, interior renovation, forensic engineering and roof consulting.  Building owners and managers throughout Illinois and contiguous states and Hawaii look to K2N Crest for their architectural, structural and roof evaluation needs.  www.k2n.com