Mad Men - 1.0 The Inspector

Image 1_The Inspector.JPG

Today we explore the "office" of a façade inspector, Taylor, on KPFs latest, 45 East 22nd Street. Facade inspectors are the hawk eyes on the building envelope, and are often employed as a third party to help keep Mother Nature out of the building and pedestrians on the ground safe. In a city driven by strict rules, inspectors for all aspects of construction are a common sight.

It's wet and cold (but not the coldest it's been); equipped with all necessary inventory[1] we walk 4 blocks South and enter the site through a sidewalk shed. We swiftly make our way up four double flights of stairs to check in with the GC (General Contractor) as per Special Inspections protocol and then outside to inspect some stone. The ironworkers are setting a large 2' x 5' piece of stone to the fourth floor of the podium. But Taylor’s not giving them any attention; instead he picks and pushes at the waterproofing membrane around the window openings ensuring its adhesion. Ten seconds later the camera's out and he's cursing a welded steel angle that the manufacturer has neglected to grind down. “Quick question,” he then asks a big 580[2] guy, “why have you got mortar in between the stone?”

“Well you see when the finishing guys coming along to fill the joint the mortar acts as a backer so it doesn’t fill up the cavity[3] behind the stone.”

“Great, thank you sir” he responds.

On site inspecting masonry work.

On site inspecting masonry work.

The inspection runs smoothly, however not all visits are a breeze like today. Taylor retells a harrowing experience, where the engine of the house rig decides to catch fire 28 floors up and he’s the one cantilevered over the sidewalk. “Get me off this rig” he recalls yelling down the phone at Juan. Being comfortable with heights is clearly a job prerequisite, and inspectors (like the workers) also battle the blistering summers (up to 40 degree heatwaves) and bitter winters (-15 Celsius feels like minus infinity, 50 floors up).

In the words of an experienced inspector, Taylor stands by communication as the key to success. “Even though our main job is only to observe, we need to always be upfront and transparent. We need to keep everybody from the client, contractor and trades in the loop.” During the past year Taylor has seen three building exteriors completed. The speed in New York is second to none and 45 East 22nd Street's 65 floor curtain wall was completed in one year.

Taylor Friant, is a Senior Engineering Technician from Vidaris, a building envelope consultant that is responsible for the facades of some of New York’s most famous skyscrapers.

[1] Daily Inventory:

  • High vis vest

  • Hard Hat

  • harness, 6' lanyard, rope grab, hard hat tie (ocassionally for scaffold drops)

  • Calipers (for measuring diameters of bolts etc)

  • Measuring tape

  • Notebook & pen

  • Camera

  • Shop drawings/submittals (to make sure things are getting built according to the drawings)

  • Putty (for testing sill trays)

  • Mirror (for those hard to see places)

  • Eye wear

  • Construction Boots (steel or composite capped)

  • Gloves

  • OSHA 10 Card (training required for all job sites)

  • Leveller (checking things are plumb and aligned)

  • Torch/flashlight

  • Extras (thermo camera finding leaks, pressure hose for Leak Investigations)

[2] 580 is the number associated with the Union for Ironworkers, it stands for The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers and covers the 5 boroughs of New York City, as well as Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

[3] A “cavity” or "cavity wall" in architectural and construction terms is the air space that exists between two vertical walls.