by James A. D'Aloisio, P.E., SECB, LEED AP BD+C
Here are a few Code riddles, in the spirit of the classic riddle Who's buried in Grant's tomb? *:
Question: Does the Building Code of NYS apply to buildings?Answer: No, it applies to new building construction.
And another: Does the Existing Building Code of NYS apply to existing buildings?
Answer: No, it applies to additions, renovations, alterations, and repairs to buildings.
Finally: Does the Property Maintenance Code of NYS cover property maintenance?
Answer: Not entirely. See below.
The Property Maintenance Code of NYS (PMC-NYS) obliges building owners across the state, both commercial and residential, to modify their building if either of the following two conditions are present, no matter how long the conditions have been in existence, with limited exceptions:
1. Stairs, both interior and exterior, having more than four risers must have a handrail, and all walking surfaces 30 inches or more above a slab or grade below must have a guardrail. See PMC-NYS Section 306 Handrails and Guardrails.
This means that a building built in the 1950's with a basement stair that has no handrail, and a 1990's deck on the back of a house with an open edge 32 inches above grade, need to have a handrail and a guardrail installed, respectively, to be in compliance with the Code.
2. Exit doors that swing outward need to have canopies or some other means of preventing blockage due to snow accumulation. On this the Code is not as direct - PMC-NYS refers to the Fire Code of NYS - but the requirement is there. Follow the path:
PBC-NYS Chapter 7 - Fire and Safety Requirements, Section 702 Means of Egress: 702.1 General. "A safe, continuous and unobstructed path of travel shall be provided from any point in a building or structure to the public way. Means of egress shall comply with the Fire Code of New York State."
Fire Code of NYS Chapter 10 - Means of Egress:
Section 1001 Administration: 1001.1 General. ".....Sections 1003 through 1026 shall apply to new construction. Sections 1028 and 1029 shall apply to existing buildings."
Section 1028 Maintenance of the Means of Egress: 1028.3 Obstructions. "A means of egress shall be free from obstructions that would prevent its use, including the accumulation of snow and ice."
To our knowledge, these are the only statewide situations where adoption of the Code has meant that some aspects of existing buildings may require upgrades to be compliant. The renovation of a building is an excellent time to make the building compliant - if not before.
* Answer: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Mrs. Julia Dent Grant.