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Timeline Of a Building Envelope Restoration Project

What’s Involved in the Planning and Execution of Each Phase

By Kevin Duffy, Sullivan Engineering LLC

Time certainly does fly, especially for busy property or facility managers. For this exact reason it’s important to have a good understanding of what’s involved in the planning and execution of a successful building envelope restoration project. Even industry professionals with years of experience might benefit from an outline of a project’s stages.

Inspections Phase

Having inspections or investigations performed and comprehensive and detailed reports prepared is the first step in any restoration project. Often, that report is a FISP (Façade Inspection Safety Program, formerly Local Law 11/98) report. If the building is not part of the FISP universe, a building envelope survey or property condition assessment is an invaluable resource. These reports help ownership understand what needs to be fixed, as well as offer an approximate budget for planning purposes. Depending on the complexities of the building, and the time of year, a report can take anywhere from two to six weeks to complete.

Design Phase

Design is the next step in a successful building envelope restoration project. Depending on the building type and existing conditions, probes might need to be performed to determine possible underlying causes of damage or deterioration, and the extent of necessary repairs to the structural elements. Typically, this process takes about six weeks; however, if probes or additional testing are conducted, it could take as long as 10. Additionally, if any hazardous material testing must be performed, more time should be anticipated.

Bidding Phase

After the design phase, ownership usually elects to bid the project out to several contractors. Again, depending on the size and complexity of the project, this typically takes between two and four weeks. Once the bids are received, the owner must select which contractor to move forward with. Now, depending on the owner’s decision making process, it could take from two weeks to two months to award the project to a bidder.

Filing & Permits Phase

If the project requires filing with any regulatory agencies such as: the Department of Buildings (DOB), The Department of Transportation (DOT), The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), etc., be ready to wait up to six weeks for the expediting, review and approval process. In spring, this might take up to eight weeks. It’s important to remember that a permit cannot be pulled unless any required abatement is first performed, or a variance allowing work in a limited capacity is applied for.

Once the permit is approved, the project can begin; however, depending on the size of the project, site safety oversight might be a requirement. In general, if a building is 14 or more stories, it will require site safety. Having a site safety plan approved and retaining a site safety manager can delay the process; however, the site safety coordination and the DOB filing can often be accomplished concurrently.

Construction Phase

Next up is the construction phase, which really depends on the project scope and size. A project can range in duration from a few days to a few years. It is important to be open and honest with residents and occupants of the building so they know how long to expect sidewalk bridges or scaffolding to be present. Sullivan Engineering’s current record for longest restoration project duration is four years, while our shortest is one week. Those projects are outliers, as most building envelope restoration projects can be performed in one season, usually from March to November.

Close out Phase

The final phase in a building envelope restoration project is project close out/DOB sign off, which generally takes four to six weeks. This process involves the engineer/architect of record signing off on all required inspections, and ownership verifying the project with the DOB.

In summary, the planning, design, regulatory filing and contractor selection phases can take anywhere from 18 to 36 weeks. Although some of these items can be condensed or combined to reduce this time frame, the main point is, that it usually takes considerably longer than most property owners anticipate.

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