It feels like yesterday, but nearly two decades have passed since 9/11 struck our nation. Although much has changed since that day, there is one change many building owners seem to have forgotten about, and the deadline to implement is just around the corner.
Local Law 26 was signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004. The law requires all office buildings taller than 100 feet to install fire suppression sprinklers by 2019.
"9/11 was really the trigger to say let's get all of these somewhat dangerous buildings, let's make them a lot safer," says Michael Tobias, Principal of New York Engineers. "Hopefully all these building owners are already working towards it otherwise they will be liable for fines," he adds.
While today's building code requires office buildings have automatic sprinklers, that wasn't always the case. New York City is home to some very old buildings, many of which are not equipped with sprinklers the way they should be.
The only problem is the system is expensive. Tobias says the average cost for an automatic sprinkler system is ten dollars per square foot of building. That's $3 million for a 300,000 square foot building. That's why the city initially gave landlords 15 years to make the installations. But, for those who have put it off until now, "It's a big hustle," Tobias says, "and the problem with a big hustle is you're probably going to see a surge in sprinkler contractors pricing and materials pricing as we get closer to this end period."
A spokesperson for the Department of Buildings responded to this concern in a statement: "The law includes hardship provisions to allow extra time for owners to install these systems, provided that they secure DOB permits and present a reasonable plan to get the work done."