San Francisco, CA — Today San Francisco launched a new safety requirement for tall buildings in response to glass failures in a number of buildings during March’s winter storms. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) will now require accelerated façade inspections for San Francisco buildings that are 15 stories or taller and built after 1998. Owners of these buildings will now be required to provide a licensed architect or engineer evaluation of the entire building façade to ensure the safety and stability of all façade elements, including windows.
Under the existing City program, these post-1998 buildings would not be required to undergo these inspections until 30 years after the building was built. Of the six buildings that experienced glass failures during the intense March wind and rain storms, three of them are less than 30 years old and, under the original program, were not required to submit a façade evaluation until 30 years after they were constructed.
Through Mayor London Breed’s emergency declaration issued on March 27, 2023, DBI has the authority to expand the façade inspection program to ensure the safety and stability of newer buildings. This new requirement is meant to identify cracks or other issues that could signal a potential glass failure or other unsafe, non-code compliant facade conditions. The new requirement will apply to 71 buildings.
"This is an important step we are taking to ensure the safety of all of our buildings to keep our residents safe,” said Mayor Breed. “I want to thank the Department of Building Inspection for their work to not only respond immediately to these glass issues during the storms, but also for quickly taking on this critical program expansion.”
“While we are endeavoring to understand what caused the recent window failures in half a dozen buildings downtown, this legislation will ensure all tall buildings are immediately inspected and made secure,” said Board President Aaron Peskin.
The reports will be due six months after receipt of a letter from DBI notifying the property owners of the new requirement. DBI will review the reports submitted by the building owners to ensure they are complete, comprehensive and that the evaluations were properly conducted. If necessary, DBI will issue Notices of Violation to the building owners for any unsafe façade conditions requiring additional work to bring the building back into code compliance.
The new requirement is an extension of the existing building Façade Inspection and Maintenance Program detailed in Chapter 5F of the San Francisco Building Code. The existing program requires building owners to submit a façade evaluation for certain five or more story buildings based on the original construction date of the building.
“This is a smart and straightforward evaluation that will give building owners additional insight so they can maintain their properties responsibly and help ensure the safety of our city,” said DBI Director Patrick O’Riordan. “We will officially inform building owners of the new requirement later this month.”
In March, the Department issued a public advisory to building owners to prepare for upcoming storms by closing and latching operable windows, removing or securing objects on roofs and balconies, checking for cracks or signs of distress around windows and securing any scaffolding or construction equipment.
The Department of Building Inspection (DBI) is the regulatory building safety agency responsible for overseeing the effective and efficient enforcement of building, electrical, plumbing, disability access and housing codes for the City and County of San Francisco’s more than 200,000 commercial and residential buildings. Please visit www.sfdbi.org for more information.