Architecture + Expediting MICHAEL ZENREICH ARCHITECT, PC

Architecture and Expediting

Apartment approvals

Let me try to explain the requirements for plan filing and approval for a small residential renovation project in New York City.

The New York City Building Code (NYCBC) requires that a professional architect or engineer prepare and file plans with the Building Department when construction work is proposed that is not considered ordinary repairs.

The NYCBC imposes a fine of up to ten times the filing fee for a violation that was found where construction work was done without a permit. Building owners and COOP Boards, therefore, require that the tenant or tenant shareholder file plans with the Building Department to comply with the law.

There is a small category of work that does not require filing. It can be found in Rule RCNY 101-14.

There are two types of filings of plans for renovations known simply as Alt CO and Alteration. An Alt CO is for construction where a change in use, egress, occupancy, or enlargement is proposed along with the construction work. An Alteration application is filed for construction work that does not affect the use, egress, or occupancy. Each type is reviewed by the Building Department differently.

An Alt CO application can involve a renovation that results in a change in use or occupancy, room count, dwelling unit count, or enlargement. This type of application undergoes a full review which usually takes several weeks to several months to complete. Egress and zoning are checked along with compliance with the handicap laws.

An “Alteration” application is usually done as a “Directive 14”. A Directive 14 is a Building Department memorandum that was issued by the Building Department in 1975 to allow the architect or engineer to take greater responsibility for code compliance of the plans. Therefore only a cursory review of the plans is done by the Building Department. These applications are generally approved in a relatively short time. Approximately 80% of the applications received by the Building department are “Directive 14” applications.

In many cases, when an apartment owner decides to combine or change the number of rooms an Alt CO application is filed. A Building Department policy allows the combining of apartments without changing the C of O. (TPPN 3/97). This is not the case in “Old Law Tenements” that have Certificates of Occupancy which do not list the number of rooms or the number of apartments.

When an apartment owner wants to renovate a bathroom or kitchen or change the location of a wall, generally an Alteration application is submitted to the Building Department.

An Alt CO application generally will require a new or amended Certificate of Occupancy (C of O). This is obtained after the permit is issued, work is completed, and all inspections have been done. A separate C of O application is filed with the Building Department.

Once an Architect has successfully had the plans filed, examined, and approved, the owner must have his contractor obtain a permit to perform the work. A separate permit for each type of work on an Alteration application must be obtained. For example, if a renovation contains partition work (OT) and mechanical work (MH), and plumbing work (PL), three separate permits must be obtained from the Building Department.

During construction, the work must be inspected. In an Alt CO application, inspections must be made for construction, plumbing, electric, and elevators. Also, Special and Progress Inspections for various items must be performed by testing labs or professionals hired to specifically perform this service. Typical special inspections are for fire stopping, mechanical ventilation, concrete, welding, etc. The New York City Building Code lists the requirements for all the progress and special inspections that might be needed for a particular project.

In an Alteration application, an architect does the construction inspection along with other controlled inspections. Plumbing, electrical, and elevators still must be inspected by the Building Department. A Procedure Notice was issued by the Building Department that allows licensed professionals or plumbers to “self-certify” plumbing installations.

When the construction work is complete, the controlled inspections are signed by the professional, filed with the Building Department and a Letter of Completion is requested. If all permits have been obtained and all inspections performed successfully, the Building Department issues a letter of completion. This completes the final requirements for this type of application.

In an Alt CO application, filing the special and progress inspections, and obtaining successful inspections by the Building Department results in the issuance of a new or amended Certificate of Occupancy.