Construction's Top Cop?

It certainly helps to have deep pockets and a belief anything is possible, even after terrorists have destroyed your signature landmark. Robert LiMandri, commissioner of NYC's Department of Buildings, had the safety of tower cranes on his mind a few months ago when he challenged OSHA's cranes and derricks proposed rule, saying it would gut his city's stronger regulations. Yesterday, he announced the city will build and operate its own concrete testing lab and will mandate retesting at 82 sites and buildings named in an indictment last year charging the biggest lab, Testwell Laboratories, with faking test reports.

The sites include the New York Yankees' new stadium and Freedom Tower (1 World Trade Center), the structure that will replace the fallen towers in lower Manhattan. Some concrete poured in the past decade will be rechecked.

The program LiMandri announced with Department of Design and Construction Commissioner David J. Burney and Department of Investigation Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn covers not only city-funded construction projects, but also private developers' projects. Along with the city's concrete-testing laboratory will be a newly created Concrete Unit at DOB.

"Concrete testing is a critical component of concrete operations, and the results should affirm the strength and quality of materials used for a building under construction," LiMandri said. "However, the integrity of concrete-testing practices has come into serious question, and this new laboratory, as well as a new Concrete Unit and retesting protocol, are three significant measures to ensure concrete testing procedures are lawful and the concrete used meets a project's specific design requirements. I would like to thank Commissioners Burney and Gill Hearn for their support, and we will continue to work with the Department of Investigation and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to uncover any allegations of wrongdoing."

DOB does far more inspections than OSHA. The 379 DOB inspectors performed more than 445,000 inspections in FY2009.

"New Yorkers must be confident the city's buildings have been built to exacting standards and that the concrete, not usually visible, was mixed to proper construction specifications," said Burney, whose department will operate the new lab when it opens in January. "DDC is proud to be part of this coordinated effort to construct, staff, and manage a modern lab that will be available to city departments to analyze the concrete used to build our city."

Thirty-five private concrete-testing firms are currently licensed to do business in the city; the new lab will offer testing services to all city agencies responsible for construction projects and will allow DOB to independently audit the inspection and testing work of the private firms. Some property owners already have retested concrete at their site, and thus far DOB has learned of no structural safety concerns. DOB is fighting in court to deny Testwell's application to renew its concrete testing license; DOB has revoked the license of a second indicted testing firm, Stallone Testing Labs Inc.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Sep 03, 2009