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Chicago looks at a building’s façade, life safety, and energy benchmarks to assess a building’s condition. Is your building ready?

By Jon M. Boyd, RA, SE, CEO/Principal Architect-Structural Engineer, Klein and Hoffman

It’s the first quarter of 2015 and from the city of Chicago’s perspective, deadlines pertaining to high rise life-safety ordinances and building energy benchmarking audits are all happening starting in January through the second quarter of 2015. The beginning of the new year also signals the best time to verify your buildings’ status and begin planning for building façade inspections that may be required. Don’t get caught playing “beat the clock” at the last minute is the message to Chicago building owners, property managers, condo owners, and their boards about meeting Chicago’s current building condition ordinances.

Residential high-rise buildings, like all buildings over 80 feet high, must have assessments of their condition filed with the city of Chicago’s Department of Buildings. Properties must meet city ordinances and meet minimum standards of maintenance and inspection to avoid unnecessary fines and penalties. In extreme cases, where properties do not meet city ordinances, the city can begin litigation.

Current Chicago building

ordinances focus on three key areas: 1) high-rise building façade ordinance, 2) building life safety ordinance, and 3) building energy assessment. All are performed through varying levels of physical building assessments which help assure building safety, maintenance of the building structure, and code conformance of the building.


Chicago’s façade ordinances began in 1978. All buildings meeting the standards of six stories or more and/or 80 feet



high ar e subject

requirements. to these The intent

of the ordinance is to proactively identify potentially hazardous building conditions. While the regulations cannot eliminate all the risk of a façade failure, they should minimize the problems through a regular, continuing program of preventative maintenance and professional evaluation.

Don’t get caught

playing “beat the clock” at the last minute...

Compliance obligations, under the amended façade inspection ordinance, are the responsibility of the owner/ manager of a building and are subject to the regulations. The owner/manager has the ultimate responsibility to maintain the exterior walls and enclosures of a building in a safe condition and to provide appropriate and timely reports on a periodic basis to the Commissioner of Buildings. To fulfill this obligation, the owner/

manager is required to establish and accomplish their specific building inspection requirements:

Critical examinations are required at four, eight, or twelve- year intervals depending on the established categories appropriate to the building’s exterior wall materials and construction type, unless the building is participating in the Short Form only program. Interim ongoing annual inspections are required at the half way point between critical exam reporting periods. Alternatively, the Short Form only program requires an approved Critical Exam report be

A Publication of CAI-Illinois Chapter

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