Friday, February 20, 2015

Should modular factories be required to use licensed firms? Op-ed warns of "dangerous lower standard"

The battle over the appropriateness of modular construction--or, at least, the presence of licensed union specialists and the attendant firms, is continuing. 

Remember, a lawsuit charging that the Department of Buildings inappropriately allowed Forest City Ratner to proceed with its cost-saving modular plan without licensed plumbing contractors and fire suppression contractors was dismissed in December 2013. It's under appeal, and those appealing have just made the case in an op-ed.

The op-ed posted today in the Commercial Observer, A Dangerous Lower Standard, is by Stewart O'Brien, Executive Director of the Plumbing Foundation of New York and former First Deputy Commissioner and Acting Commissioner of the New York City Department of Buildings,  and Tony Saporito, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors of New York, Inc., argues that a reduction in safety code provisions will lead to danger.

They write:
The city’s building code requires two separate and distinct safety elements when it comes to installing and maintaining fire sprinkler, natural gas and water systems: First, all the work can only be performed by firms licensed by DOB, and second, all the work must be thoroughly inspected and tested before it is operational. That’s why a little noticed memo by the DOB in January 2013 is so perplexing and contrary to its official “BUILD SAFE” motto.
In January 2013, DOB eliminated one of the two safety requirements for installing fire suppression, gas piping and other plumbing systems. No longer will fire suppression and plumbing work have to be performed by licensed firms. DOB decided that if fire suppression piping, gas pipe welding, sanitary systems, etc. were built into a 20-by-40-foot section of a building and later transported to a site, it was neither “fire suppression” nor “gas piping” work until it arrived at the site. Same piping, same welding, etc., but the work could be performed by anyone.
What’s worse is that DOB’s policy, made without any public notice, applies not only to one- to three-family homes and other residential buildings but also to high-rise commercial buildings and hospitals treating our city’s sick, elderly and infirm.
The essay, interestingly enough, does not mention Forest City's modular plan or the stalled B2 modular building, or that a judge has so far upheld the Department of Buildings. 

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