Chicago Building Commissioner Meets with BOMA/Chicago

March 15, 2017

Chicago Building Commissioner Judith Frydland met with the BOMA/Chicago Codes Committee on March 23 to discuss a number of initiatives underway at the Department of Buildings that will streamline and modernize much of the Department’s permitting and inspection work.

Streaming and Modernization

Noting a 15% increase in permits issued last year than in the previous year, in addition to this year already running at 5% over 2016, the Commissioner has looked for ways to eliminate delays in the permitting and inspection process. Improvements include the addition of new plumbing inspectors and ventilation inspectors. In the near future, the Commissioner hopes to equip permit inspectors with tablets so that inspection results can be to input onsite. She is also examining online inspection scheduling.

Permit Enforcement

Regarding permit enforcement, the Commission said that the Department is trying to focus on problem contractors and will be listing contractors who have habitual violations on the Department’s website. She also said that in the case of minor offenses, the Department will not delay the certificate of occupancy but will allow the business to open on the condition that problems are corrected in 30 or 60 days.

BOMA/Chicago members remarked to the commission that there has been a great improvement in the consistency among inspectors with far fewer problems arising from conflicting interpretations among inspectors.

Elevator AIC Program

The Annual Inspection Certificate (AIC) Program for elevators, which was developed with extensive input from BOMA/Chicago, continues to be a success.  While the third-party inspection program was adopted for the Central Business District (CBD), the Department is making the program available to buildings outside of the CBD that have passed their last inspection. This frees up inspectors to concentrate on buildings that need departmental inspections.

Sprinkler Mandate

Commissioner Frydland reported that with the arrival of the January 1, 2017 deadline for compliance with the City of Chicago’s sprinkler mandate for commercial buildings, the City has seen an overwhelming 98% compliance rate with only about 10 buildings still completing sprinkler installation.  About 30 buildings eligible to perform a Life Safety Evaluation (LSE) as alternative to sprinkler installation are awaiting final inspections. She lauded BOMA/Chicago’s support and assistance with the program. 

Clearing Building Violations

Commissioner Frydland acknowledged the persistent problem of clearing building violations when repair work has been performed. Often, the violations show up when lenders do title searches or FOIA searches for financing or transferring property. In most cases, the information is outdated. The Commissioner said that she shares the frustration of building owners and cited the lack of a single clearinghouse of information on violations at the City. Building owners in turn often fail to receive proper notice of the violation and are not aware of it until they turn up in a subsequent record search, frequently long after they were originally noted.

The Commissioner and BOMA/Chicago members agreed that when a building is found to be in compliance at the most recent inspection, it should clear all previous violations. While the Commissioner is able to reconcile specific issues and remove the violations when she is aware of them, the delays and added work are unnecessary. She asked for BOMA/Chicago’s assistance in convening a task force to work with the Department to look at the problem and make recommendations for correcting it.

International Building Code Initiative

The Commissioner stated that she is considering two possible routes to moving Chicago to adopting a form of the International Building Code (IBC).  One is to put the Chicago Building Code (CBC) into the IBC to conform to the standard format while preserving the unique Chicago portions. The other is to add the IBC sections and language to the Chicago Code and conform the CBC language to the IBC.

Her concerns are to have as little negative impact on Chicago’s current building boom as possible, and to not run into conflicts with the City’s current Hansen computer system that is in need of upgrading.

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages and the Commissioner is listening to input from the various stakeholders about which way to proceed.  She hopes to make a decision by early May.  

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