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Real estate record and builders' guide: [v. 92, no. 2367]: July 26, 1913

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REAL ESTATE AND NEW YORK, JULY 26, 1913 I WHAT IS THOUGHT OF THE NEW BUILDING CODE Views of the Most Competent Critics—Commended as a Conscien¬ tious Effort to Do the Right Thing, But Scored in Some Respects. ■ ^aliMliMIM^ ■■■■■■■^^^^^^^ A PUBLIC hearing will be held next Tuesday, beginning at ten in the morning, at City Hall, on the Amended Building Code proposed for enactment by the Building Committee of the Board of Aldermen. During the past week the document has been the subject of care¬ ful study by many interests concerned, as such a code of laws affects nearly everybody. The Record and Guide has obtained the views of some of the most representative experts and finds that on the wliole the code is being treated as a conscientious effort to bring our build¬ ing regulations into harmony with mod¬ ern building practice. Another factory holocaust has strengthened the hands of those who have been contending for a more gen¬ eral use of fire-resisting construction and of fire-prevention methods. It is being said that the Binghamton case will have an influence in the framing of the new ordinance, yet the saying is true that New York is in a class by it¬ self and should by lawmakers be con¬ sidered apart from small places up the state. The Most Important Change, as Supt. Miller Sees It. The Superintendent of Buildings of the Borough of Manhattan, Hon. Ru¬ dolph P. Miller, when interviewed for the Record and Guide, said that proba¬ bly the most important change in the proposed Building Code is the require¬ ment for a certificate of occupancy. Here¬ tofore it has been possible to erect a building for one purpose and then, with¬ out alteration, convert it to another pur¬ pose, often defeating the intent of the law. Under the proposed code, it be¬ comes unlawful to change the occupancy of a building without first submitting the question, whether this occupancy is proper or not, to the Superintendent of Buildings. Supt. Miller considered the lower¬ ing of the limit of height for non- fireproof construction for commercial buildings a radical change. All loft buildings, factories and buildings of a similar nature must hereafter be fire¬ proof if over 40 feet in height, whereas heretofore such buildings could be built non-fireproof up to 75 feet in height. "Greater provision is made for light and ventilation of buildings," remarked Mr. Miller further. "At the present time, only certain buildings (private res¬ idences, hotels and lodging houses) are restricted to a certain proportion of the lot area. Under the proposed code all buildings will be restricted in this par¬ ticular to secure proper light and ven¬ tilation. "More detailed requirements are to be provided for e.xit facilities in buildings, improving generally their safety, "In the matter of flreproofed floor construction—while the provisions of the law have been entirely rewritten, the effect will be to permit generally constructions as they are now being ac¬ cepted by this bureau. So far as can be seen from a cursory glance of the pro¬ posed ordinance, there is no discrimina¬ tion against any particular material. New types of fioor construction that may not be provided for in this code, may be used, provided they meet the fire tests prescribed. No types are necessarily excluded. The Fireproof Provisions. "A form of construction that has not heretofore been provided for in the law itself, but which has been covered by regulations issued by the Superintend¬ ents, is now included in the sections governing reinforced concrete construc¬ tion. The provisions for this construc¬ tion are practically the same as those now in effect by the Superintendents' regulations. "Whether the average cost of con¬ struction under the proposed code will be increased or lowered is a little diffi¬ cult to say as yet. In Manhattan it will probably not make much difference, in¬ asmuch as the tendency at the present day, in the erection of business buildings, is toward fireproof construction. The requirements for the enclosing of stairs in flreproofed walls, being already in vogue, will not materially affect tthe cost of construction. It may be that the limitation as to the lot area to be cov¬ ered by buildings will have the effect of reducing the rentable areas that might be obtained from a piece of prop¬ erty, but even here the common prac¬ tice at the present time is to utilize only as much of the lot as will be permitted under the proposed code." The Best Code Yet. Supt. P. J. Carlin of the Brooklyn Bureau of Buildings, who was one of the advisers of the Building Committee, said that except in some minor particu¬ lars and a few clerical errors that have crept in, and which of course will be righted, it was his judgment that the amended code is the best measure of its . kind the city has ever known. The new regulations would generally make no material difference in the cost of con¬ struction, either way. In some instances fireproof construction would cost no more than wood construction. Favors Hollow-Tile Houses. Supt. James .\. Henderson of The Bronx agreed that several of the sec¬ tions as drafted should be amended, and he had no doubt that as the result of the hearings clianges would be made by which the value of the code would be increased. Mr- Henderson added: "In general, the proposed code, is in my opinion the equal of any code that has been prepared and offered for adop¬ tion to the Board of Aldermen and will provide for better and safer building construction in New York City. "While the cost of construction of some classes of buildings may be in¬ creased by the requirements of the La¬ bor Law as to exits and fire walls, the general cost of construction will not be raised or lowered to any appreciable ex¬ tent by the requirements of the pro¬ posed code. "If the new code becomes a law I ex¬ pect a great increase of dwellings with walls of brick and hollow tile instead of frame construction in the suburban districts of New York City." Behind the Times, Says Mr. Flagg. Ernest Flagg, the architect of the Singer and many other monumental buildings, resigned as a member of the .\dvisory Commission to the Building Committee of the Board of .Mdermen when he found that the methods to be used in making the revision of the building code were of a kind which he thought would end in failure. A few years ago Mr. Flagg could find no one who thought there was anything wrong about those methods; now he finds a very general impression among those who have given most thought to the matter that the specification method of making a building code is not the cor¬ rect one. He said: "I have not had time to examine the revision carefully enough to be able to say what effect it will have upon the cost of building construction in Manhattan. I do know, however, that it will per¬ petuate the method of construction which is giving us our preposterous fire loss; because, under it, the general use of incombustible material will not be possible, and under it we will still con¬ tinue to build walls too thin to stand upright except for the bracing afforded by the inflammable floor systems which rest on them. This is a method of con¬ struction which, so far as I am able to learn, is only used in this country, and strange to say, I have never been able to get a single engineer who was willing to go on record as advocating it as a sound engineering practice, yet it finds its place in all building laws of Ameri¬ can cities. "I believe that if our whole building law was abolished and people were al¬ lowed to build as they chose, except that walls supporting wooden beams should be designed to stand upright of their own strength, and cellars be covered with vaulting or non-inflammable ma¬ terial, that our fire loss would constantly decrease. Under the present elaborate building law and the substitutes pro-