Local Law 26/2004 Sprinklerization-Is the Timing Correct?

On October 22, 2004, the Department of Buildings by enacting Local Law 26/04 amended Local Law 5/73. Local Law 26/04 added sections 27-228.5(b) and 27-929.1 to the 1968 Building Code (which has been superseded by the 2008 Construction Code). The law requires all commercial office buildings 100 feet or more in height which are not equipped with sprinklers (the building code had allowed for what is called “compartmentalization” which would no longer be acceptable) to be fully equipped with sprinkers by July 1, 2019.

This law, like it’s sister law of Local Law 26 (installation of photoluminescent markings along egress paths and emergy power source requirements for all exit lighting) were enacted based on the findings that came from the commission investigating the events of September 11, 2001.

As we approach July 1, 2011, owners are now required to submit what is called a “7-year plan” which will document the percentage of each building that has been sprinkled, illustrate all progress that has been made to date, and present an implementation plan discussing how the subject building(s) will reach full compliance by July 2019. A “14-year report” will be required also to be submitted by July 1, 2018.

With the date for a 7-year plan submittal fast approaching and with real estate mired in a 2 year downturn, many owners do not have the reserves to pay for a study, design, the installation of the infrastructure to support the sprinklers (risers, rigs, taps, alarms,etc) all of which can cost $10 per square foot or more while trying to keep and attract tenants. An even bigger dilemna is what to do with existing tenants who are renewing with 10-year leases whose space is not sprinkled, do not want to relocate and whose lease term would pass the 2019 compliance date.

In summary I find it very disconcerting that as the deadline nears, no guidance has been forthcoming from the Department of Buildings, and I fear like others that they are waiting to levy fines to help balance the city’s budget or reject the plans submitted

What are your thoughts?

Jack Terranova, PE, LEED AP
Senior Vice President
Cassidy Turley, New York