Navigating New York’s new TCO process

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By Robert Tymecki

The pinnacle
of any construction project is the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy
(CO), albeit temporary or final. These documents, distributed by the NYC Department
of Buildings (DOB), grant the legal occupation of a new development or an
existing building under construction in NYC. The process can be daunting and
lengthy, but extremely necessary to not only protect residents and workers, but
also to make the project financially viable. Developers do not see any money
until the building is occupied.

On December 10, 2020, the New York City Council passed Intro. 2033 creating Interim Certificates of Occupancy (ICOs) for NYC buildings. Starting in April 2021, this new type of temporary certificate of occupancy can be used in place of a traditional Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) to allow specific floor(s) of qualifying buildings to be partially occupied before full completion of construction work.

ROBERT TYMECKI

While the ICO and TCO are similar in nature, by
implementing this change the DOB intends to streamline the building occupation
process and cut through the long existing bureaucratic morass while maintaining
all necessary compliance and safety standards for the occupants of buildings
under construction.

What does this mean for your project?

For those looking to obtain a certificate of
occupancy, the biggest change to the current process applies to term limits.
Previously, TCO’s were issued for a term no longer than 90 days. However, DOB’s
new ICO will not require renewals. This change aims to provide building owners
with peace of mind when attempting to secure financing, selling and leasing
spaces, and as well as giving assurances to incoming commercial and residential
tenants. 

It is important to note that the process of obtaining
a certificate of occupancy remains unchanged. Obtaining an ICO still requires
all inspection and sign off requirements including review for proper means of
egress, fire protection systems, and required special inspections. There can be
no outstanding objections that affect the occupancy of the proposed
building. 

However, certain types of buildings do not qualify
for this process and will continue to receive TCOs. These building include:

  • Residential
    buildings with fewer than eight stories or four dwelling units,
  • Non-residential
    buildings with fewer than five stories,
  • Mixed-use
    buildings with fewer than four dwelling units, or
  • Parking
    structures.

Construction professionals
must be aware that the new accommodations will not affect the phased
certificate of occupancy process. That process must follow the normal TCO
procedures in the NYC construction industry.

How can we help?

The efforts to cut down
review time and unnecessary paperwork on the DOB administrative end will prove
beneficial but the process to move a building from ICO/TCO to a Final
Certificate of Occupancy is still complex. Many buildings find themselves in
this interim state for far too long. The entire process calls for constant
coordination and communication by all entities involved in a project including the
owner/developer, the construction manager, and all subcontractors. These new
processes regarding occupancy coupled with ongoing changes in DOB policy,
procedures and movement to a more online/electronic methodology call for an
experienced and thorough consulting team to guide developments to the finish
line.

All information no longer exists in one place. Now, construction professionals must navigate DOB Now: Build, DOB Now: Inspections (AKA Inspections Ready), DOB Now: Safety in addition to the traditional BIS system to review all information necessary to obtain an updated status on the project. In addition, project professionals are now required to enter data that was typically done by the expediter., and all must be aware of the newly created coordination delays that arise as a result.

Robert Tymecki is the Senior Vice President of Consulting with Domaini Consulting

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