New York City is in a near-constant state of construction. From new structures to significant building renovations, the density of the buildings almost always requires demolition before building. Contractors are required to submit engineered drawings/demo plans for what their intentions are for the building or space when applying for a work permit. Demolition is a particularly regulated venture, as the age of the buildings being demolished can require special attention to be done safely. Below is an overview of the demolition process and timeline in the city of New York.
What is Demolition?
Demolition/Demo refers to the destroying, knocking down, or otherwise demolition of all or part of a structure. There are several kinds of demolition, including the following.
Interior demolition is typically done in preparation for a renovation project. It involves the destruction and removal of internal parts of a structure without harming the exterior. This usually includes removing the ceiling, pipes, walls, and other significant parts of the interior structure.
Selective demolition is the removal of specific parts of the structure, either interior or exterior. This differs from interior demolition in that selective demolition leaves portions of the interior, such as working on the bathroom while the bedrooms remain intact. In contrast, interior demolition involves removing the entire interior area. Interior/select demo leaves parts of the building intact.
Dismantling or Deconstruction
Dismantling and deconstruction is a more laborious form of demo. It involves the careful removal of parts of the structure to salvage or reuse them later.
Emergency demo is a unique situation involving structural damage that results in the immediate need to take down a building or other structure. Storms, fires, or other disasters may damage a building in such a way that its collapse is imminent. The building will need to be taken down immediately to avoid hazardous situations that can result in further structural damage to adjacent structures or human injury and death.
On a smaller scale, a need for an emergency demo can arise in a house after significant water damage. After the water has been drained, there is a need to remove parts of the building that are wet or moldy, so they do not contaminate more areas of the building or house.
Full demo is the destruction of the entire structure, both inside and out. These are often the most time-consuming projects for New York City contractors, as special precautions need to be made due to limited space and the proximity of other structures. There are several ways to demolish a structure, which are detailed below.
Mechanical demolition uses specialized hydraulic equipment to break through concrete and steel. Smaller machines are used for lighter tasks, and the result is complete removal of a structure, even parts that have been fixed in place, such as the foundation.
Implosion demolition is incredibly rare, as it is the most dangerous form of full demo and requires highly-trained individuals and specialized equipment to be done correctly. Implosion demolition is done through the use of explosives to compromise the structural integrity of a building, resulting in it collapsing without debris being spread too far out of the bounds of the property.
Saying New York City is densely populated is an understatement. With such a large amount of people and structures in a small space, there have to be strict demolition and construction regulations in place. Therefore, there are a few different demo permits to acquire and several steps one must take to be able to legally demolish a structure within New York City.
In most cases, the contractor is responsible for filing the demo permits with the Department of Buildings (DOB). The amount of time it takes to receive a permit is entirely variable. It depends on the complexity of the project and can take anywhere between a week to a month or more.
There are a few departments one should familiarize themselves with when planning a demolition project. Each of these departments is in charge of a different set of permits that one may require. Below is a brief description of these departments.
The Fire Department of New York City is responsible for issuing hazardous materials permits. These include corrosive, oxidizing, pyrophoric, toxic, and water-reactive materials, as well as organic peroxides. Additionally, the fire department performs inspections to ensure a structure is compliant with the most recent fire safety standards.
Department of Buildings (DOB)
The Department of Buildings is responsible for issuing all permits related to construction and demolition within New York City. They are also accountable for inspecting plans and job sites to ensure that the appropriate codes are being followed.
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
The Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for the oversight and inspection of asbestos abatement activities, regardless of whether they are done by an individual or a commercial demolition and construction business. Asbestos is highly toxic, and the fibers are prone to releasing into the air when agitated, making their safe removal difficult. There are strict requirements for how materials containing asbestos are handled within New York City, and the Department of Environmental Protection can inform a person on how to do it properly and ensure that they are following the correct protocols.
The amount of time it may take to complete a project varies, but one should expect it to be at least a few weeks. Safe demolition takes extreme care and strict adherence to New York City’s building codes. A highly reputable licensed contractor can help complete the project safely in as little time as possible.