San Francisco Mandates Inspections of Facades for Newer High-Rise Commercial Buildings

by | Apr 5, 2023 | Property Inspection News

San Francisco has launched a new safety requirement for tall buildings in response to the glass failures that occurred during March’s winter storms.

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has announced that it will now require accelerated façade inspections for all San Francisco buildings that are 15 stories or taller and built after 1998.

The move comes after six buildings experienced glass failures during the intense March wind and rain storms, with three of these buildings being less than 30 years old.

Under the existing City program, post-1998 buildings would not be required to undergo façade inspections until 30 years after the building was constructed.

However, in response to the recent incidents, the DBI has the authority to expand the façade inspection program to ensure the safety and stability of newer buildings.

This new requirement is designed to identify any cracks or other issues that could potentially lead to glass failures or other unsafe, non-code compliant facade conditions.

The new requirement will apply to 71 buildings, and owners of these buildings will now be required to provide a licensed architect or engineer evaluation of the entire building façade to ensure the safety and stability of all façade elements, including windows.

Reports will be due six months after receipt of a letter from DBI notifying property owners of the new requirement. DBI will review the reports submitted by the building owners to ensure they are complete, comprehensive and that the evaluations were properly conducted.

If necessary, DBI will issue Notices of Violation to building owners for any unsafe façade conditions that require additional work to bring the building back into code compliance.

This new requirement is an extension of the existing building Façade Inspection and Maintenance Program detailed in Chapter 5F of the San Francisco Building Code.

The existing program requires building owners to submit a façade evaluation for certain five or more story buildings based on the original construction date of the building.

Mayor London Breed said, “This is an important step we are taking to ensure the safety of all of our buildings to keep our residents safe. I want to thank the Department of Building Inspection for their work to not only respond immediately to these glass issues during the storms but also for quickly taking on this critical program expansion.”

Board President Aaron Peskin also expressed his support for the new requirement, stating that it will ensure all tall buildings are immediately inspected and made secure.

In March, the DBI issued a public advisory to building owners to prepare for upcoming storms by closing and latching operable windows, removing or securing objects on roofs and balconies, checking for cracks or signs of distress around windows, and securing any scaffolding or construction equipment.

The DBI is the building safety regulatory agency responsible for overseeing the effective and efficient enforcement of building, electrical, plumbing, disability access, and housing codes for San Francisco’s more than 200,000 commercial and residential buildings.

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