City Council proposes big changes to building codes, new bills for construction safety

By Brick Underground  | April 23, 2021 - 2:45PM

The 2021 NYC construction codes would include a total of 627 new or expanded changes, along with thousands of minor changes.


Some big changes may be coming to how New York City builds: Stricter laws to protect construction workers as well revisions of NYC’s building codes are part of a package of bills and updates proposed yesterday by the New York City Council.

Many of the changes are aimed at improving on-the-job safety, however, if approved, there would be plenty of impact on residential real estate, including new construction and renovation projects.

The 2021 NYC construction codes would include a total of 627 new or expanded changes, along with thousands of minor changes. The last major code revision was in 2014.

One code change would expand the use of sustainable building materials such as cross-laminated timber and structural composite lumber—allowing more wood buildings to be built around the city.

Another change to the building codes is aimed at increasing affordable housing by reducing the clearance height for habitable rooms in basements of two-family houses from eight to seven feet. (This brings it in line with the code for habitable rooms in basements of one-family houses, which can have ceiling heights of seven feet.)

Other code changes would improve elevator use for New Yorkers with physical and intellectual or developmental disabilities. All new construction projects—both new buildings and renovations—in NYC would have to comply with and be subject to inspections during construction.

The five proposed construction safety bills include a first-ever licensing requirement for contractors working in NYC. The bill, Intro. 2278: Licensing General Contractors, would require all general contractors to be licensed by Department of Buildings and to demonstrate their practical experience, receive site safety training, and be responsible for the work they perform under their permits.  

Currently in NYC only certain construction professions require licenses, such as electricians, plumbers, welders, and crane operators. General contractors are not currently required to get a license to obtain DOB work permits and work in NYC, however they do need to be registered with the DOB. (Registration and licensing are not the same thing). 

Robert Cornegy, Jr., city council member and chair of housing and buildings committee, says the legislation and code revision “puts us on the path to a healthier, more sustainable city,” and describes the basement height reduction as a “sensible improvement to increase affordability.”


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