NYC Architects DOB Filing Online(Last Updated On: December 15, 2017)
Filing projects With The DOB Online
As an architect in New York City I find Clients are always interested in the process of filing projects with the Department Of Buildings (DOB). This article only pertains to New York City. The NYC DOB has bifurcated into 2 separate entities you have the original Borough Offices where one can go in person to do business and you have the Hub which is the online DOB.
What is the NYC Development Hub?
In 2011 The New York City Department Of Buildings entered the digital age with the launch of the NYC Development Hub most commonly refereed to as The Hub. I am proud to say that I started using The Hub the year it launched in New York City. We do everything else online why not file a building online.
First off, the Hub is an online optional version of the DOB you can still go to the individual offices in each borough and file your jobs the traditional way if you want to, I have no idea why you would want to but you can. I am not trying to promote the Hub or disparage the borough offices but my understanding and experience of the systems tends to favor The Hub.
So what are the differences?
DOB Filing Online With The Hub
When filing a job on the Hub you no longer have to go to the DOB. This means I the Architect does not have to go to the actual office or send anyone to stand on line and wait all day to submit a work application. Also all documents are scanned by the architect’s office and uploaded through their company login so they are always available online. This saves so much time and money in avoiding having to go to the DOB’s office and spend a whole day there to file a few forms. I have to tell you the DOB is still full of people filing jobs the old fashioned way and spending money to pay someone to wait around on the very long lines.
In actuality there are still some things you have to go to the DOB for, not everything has been moved to the Hub or become available at the Hub but most things have. One simple example is that at the end of the project when the work is completed you still have to drop off paperwork in person to get job sign offs and a Certificate Of Occupancy but that is a rather simple process and I am sure at some point in the near future it will be available online.
No More Printing Architectural Plans
Filing jobs online is also way more green and saves a great deal of money because we do not do as much printing. Not only are the forms uploaded to the Hub but the architects upload a PDF of the plans instead of bringing in those big roles of drawings.
Here is an example of printing costs on a house … we do a good deal of single family houses in the boroughs.
In our experience for a new single family house a complete set of filing drawings for the DOB is usually around 25 sheets more or less depending on how big the house is. To print a 24 x 36 inch Black and White architectural drawing can cost $3.00 to $4.00 per page not counting tax. That means you will spend $100 to print one 25 page set of architectural plans. It gets worse. When submitting paper plans to the DOB you usually take at least 2 copies for the initial filing. Now we are up to $200 in printing for a new single family house. Oh … it gets worse. The plan examiner(s) use these 2 drawing sets to take notes on (Plan examiners are architects and engineers who work for the DOB to review drawings for zoning and code compliance). The plan examiners take notes on the drawings submitted during the review process. When the job is ready for approval the architect comes with 3 new sets to the DOB, that is an additional 300 in printing, making it $500.00 in printing just for 1 single family house. At least 2 preliminary sets and 3 sets for final approval 5 sets at 100 per set of drawings. Forget about if you have multiple rounds of reviews and revisions. You are also saving on the time it takes to print, sign & seal (The Architect of Record has to sign and stamp every single sheet), and then have someone take the drawings to the department of buildings wait online and submit them.
Uploading drawings can save a great deal of money, natural resources, and of course time.
Online Plan Exams via Webcam
A plan exam is an appointment between the DOB plan examiner and the Architect or Engineer. This is now done via webcam on Hub jobs, as an option you can go to the Hub’s office in person and meet in a conference room but I have never found that to be necessary. I quite like doing the plan exam from my own office it is especially helpful because I usually have one of my staff on standby in case the plan examiner asks for something. Here is an example a plan examiner once asked for additional information on a form during our webcam review. I had a junior architect on standby for such an occurrence, he quickly jumped on his computer revised the form and uploaded it before the plan exam was over. The plan examiner was able to review the revised form immediately. The webcam review is a great convenience. One additional requirement is that the Hub requires a licensed architect to do the plan exams. At the borough office that is not a requirement I would think if a client is paying a lot of money to an architect they would want that architect to be present for the plan exam. I always go to every plan exam for my projects even if it is not required.
No need for Filing Representatives
The Department of Buildings certifies people as filing representatives (often called expediters or filing reps). The word expediter is deceiving because they actually do not have any power to make anything move faster their profession exists as a matter of convenience to make it so an architect or engineer does not always have to appear in person at the DOB. When filing online it greatly reduces the need to pay a filing representative to stand around on line to file documents at the DOB. This can save thousands of dollars on a single job.
We do so many things online yet the majority of New York architects are still filing their jobs at the borough offices, and the truth of the matter is I have done both and I have no explanation why so many NYC architects have not caught on yet. I highly recommend people considering filing their jobs online.
Author Jorge Fontan AIA
This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.