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Expert Insight

New York’s Parking Structure Inspections

Achieving Compliance With A Qualified Parking Structure Inspector (QPSI)

From cracked concrete to corroded steel, dilapidated masonry elements, and exposed rebar, parking structures can deteriorate in various ways throughout their lifecycle. In addition to material defects, extreme weather, de-icing salts, soil movement, water infiltration, thermal changes, aging, and excessive overloading can all lead to compromised structural integrity. If the impaired structural elements are not addressed properly, a building may be at risk of failure. The potential for a partial or even total collapse poses serious implications for public safety.

New York Parking Garage Inspection

In recent years, news of parking structure failures across New York and nationwide has been reported due to the failure of structural elements such as columns, beams, or walls in sustaining the dead and live loads imposed on them. This includes forces applied from the weight and movement of vehicles to environmental factors. However, in most cases, initial warning signs such as cracks, sagging or leaning, uneven settlement, or visible damage to support elements indicate the building's structural components are not able to adequately support the loads placed upon them.

To mitigate the potential effects and ensure public safety, preventative measures like regular inspections, routine maintenance, and timely repairs are essential. Proper engineering and design standards, as well as adherence to construction regulations, are critical in preventing these types of structural failures.

Structural Building Codes +

Recognizing the increasing number of aging parking garages in New York, both the State and the City of New York have implemented their own recurring structural evaluation requirements to identify any evidence of deterioration or unsafe conditions. To prioritize building safety and comply with the regulations set forth in New York State and New York City, owners of parking structures must adhere to specific codes and standards for inspections. These requirements are designed to ensure the structural integrity and safety of parking facilities, but the specifications are unique to each jurisdiction.

New York State Parking Structure Inspections
Title 19 – Part 1203

New York State’s “Condition Assessments of Parking Garages” rules apply to parking garages falling under the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. Under Title 19 – Part 1203, a new rule mandates that parking garage owners in the State must have their garages inspected every three years by a professional engineer who is licensed and registered in New York State to identify any deterioration or unsafe conditions within the structure.

Upon completion of the investigation, the inspecting engineer must prepare a comprehensive Condition Assessment Report which includes an evaluation and description of unsafe conditions, conditions requiring prompt repair or maintenance, and any other conditions that may lead to unsafe circumstances. Additionally, the report outlines recommended corrective options, the timeframe for remedial actions, and the associated risks of not addressing unsafe conditions. It also includes recommendations for preventative maintenance and specifies when the next condition assessment should be conducted.

New York City Parking Strucure Inspections
Local Law 126

Unlike the rest of the state, buildings within the boundaries of New York City are not subject to the state’s inspection deadlines. As of January 1, 2022, parking structures within New York City must adhere to the inspection requirements outlined in Local Law 126 of 2021. This law introduced Article 323 to Title 28 of the Administrative Code, focusing on the periodic inspections of parking structures.

To meet the updated parking inspection requirements imposed by New York City’s Local Law 126, parking garage owners and their representatives must work with Qualified Parking Inspectors (QPSI). Unlike New York State, who simply requires a licensed Professional Engineer to perform assessments, NYC goes a step further requiring a PE to be certified as an expert parking structure inspector. QPSIs are responsible for filing the necessary condition assessment reports with the Department of Buildings (DOB), monitoring recommended remediation efforts, and conducting re-inspections as needed. Local Law 126 of 2021 added a new Article 323 regarding periodic inspections of parking structures to Title 28 of the Administrative Code which requires every parking structure in the city to have a one-time initial observation of the parking structure performed (or under direct supervision) of a QPSI, with a report filed to the NYC DOB by August 1, 2024. The new article also states that the annual observation checklist must be done by or under direct supervision of a QPSI.

QPSI Condition Assessments

Recent garage closures and collapses have shed light on the importance of entrusting only Professional Engineers who are certified to assess the nuanced structural characteristics and deterioration factors of parking structures. The rigorous process to become a designated QPSI ensures only those with direct experience and competency in structural design, repairs, inspection, evaluation, and forensic structural engineering assessments are selected.

New York Parking Garage Inspection

QPSI’s understand that when a structure becomes compromised, structural loads can cause stress, deformation, and displacement that may result in damage or even failure depending on the building’s specific design, use, location, and construction materials (steel, concrete, wood, masonry etc.).

When integrity is lost, damage and failure can occur in either a structural component or the entire structure itself if it loses its load-carrying capacity. QPSIs are trained to identify potential structural issues and failures affecting parking structures, perform root cause analysis, and help provide remediation support.

Annual Garage Observation and Routine Maintenance Checklist

Unsafe Condition Designation

If a detailed structural condition assessment results in an Unsafe Condition designation by the QPSI, the owner must take steps to protect public safety. Protective measures must be immediately instituted, and any unsafe conditions corrected within 90 days, or within the timeframe determined by the QPSI. Then, within two weeks of repairs being completed, the QPSI must re-inspect and file a newly amended report with their findings.

New York Parking Garage Inspection

(SREM) Safe With Repairs And/Or Engineering Monitoring Designation

If a parking structure or its components is safe at the time of inspection but requires repairs or maintenance within the next six years to prevent its deterioration into an Unsafe Condition, the issues must be corrected within the timeframe recommended by the QPSI. Within three years of the initial filing, a QPSI must perform a follow up condition assessment and file an amended report, indicating the scope of ongoing monitoring, the status of conditions identified in the initial report as SREM, and classification of any new conditions. If issues are not corrected and repaired before the next filing cycle, all SREM designations must be reported as Unsafe Conditions.

Repair + Remediation

If unsafe conditions are found, immediate action is required to maintain public safety with emergency measures such as shoring, netting, fencing, or even closure depending on assessment findings. The QPSI’s condition assessment report must be filed with the NYC DOB and the issues outlined must be corrected within 90 days of report submission or within the recommended timeframe indicated by the engineer for repairs.

New York Parking Garage Inspection

An amended report must be filed within two weeks of finishing the indicated repairs. If repairs are not completed and an amended report is not filed within this timeframe, extension requests must be filed with the DOB. However, when a structure goes past the time allotted for remediation, failure to correct Unsafe Conditions will result in a $1,000 per month fine and failure to correct SREM conditions costs a one-time fee of $2,000.

Proactive Mitigation

A parking garage is much like a highway bridge as far as its use and environment. Yet, highway bridge conditions are more favorable as rain will at least wash away the corrosive elements every so often. As such, preventing unsafe conditions and maintaining prolonged structural integrity of parking garages requires proactive measures. Parking structures are uniquely susceptible to advanced deterioration based on their function and usage alone. Proactive mitigation can include:

Structural Design and Engineering Measures

To prevent potential failures, engineers need to implement measures right from the design phase. Some key strategies include:
  • Clear Loading Limitations: Defining and adhering to clear loading limitations ensures that the garage is not subjected to loads beyond its intended capacity.
  • Redundancy and Alternate Load Paths: Incorporating redundant systems and secondary load paths can prevent progressive failures by redirecting loads if a primary component fails.
  • Robust Connections: Ensuring strong connections between structural elements enhances the garage’s ability to withstand stress and prevents sudden failures.
  • Advanced Analysis Techniques: Employing sophisticated analysis methods, such as finite element analysis, can provide deeper insights into the structural behavior and help identify potential weak points.
  • Resilient Materials: Selecting durable and corrosion-resistant materials can extend the lifespan of the structure.

Mitigating Progressive Collapse

Preventing progressive collapse requires special attention, particularly for the top deck and the level just below it. Measures to prevent this catastrophic scenario include:
  • Strengthening Critical Elements: Reinforcing critical components that could trigger a collapse, such as columns and load-bearing walls, can enhance the overall stability.
  • Progressive Collapse Analysis: Conducting detailed analysis to identify vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate them.
  • Emergency Plans: Having emergency plans in place, including evacuation procedures and structural assessment protocols, can minimize the risks associated with progressive collapse.
To mitigate the potential unsafe conditions and ensure public safety, regular inspections, maintenance, and timely repairs of parking structures is essential. QPSI’s are optimal to help provide proper analysis and engineering solutions, as well as help owners adhere to regulations. Compliance with New York State and NYC inspection requirements can play a pivotal role in identifying early signs of deterioration and preventing structural failures. QPSI’s are best equipped to uphold the safety and security of both the structures themselves and the people who utilize them.