Context: Following the fatal collapse of a balcony at an apartment building in Berkeley, California, the State’s legislators passed multiple laws mandating inspection of certain building features at multifamily properties. For apartments, the applicable law is found under California Health and Safety Code Sec. 17973, more commonly referred to by the bill resulting in its passing: Senate Bill No. 721, or “SB-721,” or even sometimes just “SB721.”
The Challenge: Although commonly referred to as “The Balcony Inspection Bill,” SB721 requires that a variety of building features besides balconies be evaluated. The list of “Exterior Elevated Elements,” or “EEEs,” that meet the definitions outlined in the law includes balconies, exterior walkways, landings and stair assemblies. Determining which EEEs are subject to evaluation under the law, and which building features are excluded from the law’s requirements, is a critical first step to the compliance process.
Property/Project Overview: To comply with California’s SB721, VERTEX provided Balcony Assurance services to the owner of a substantial portfolio of market-rate multifamily housing. This specific property was an apartment complex with more than 580 units. With five levels of residences situated on a podium deck over underground parking, the design included a variety of different EEE types. Besides private balconies, there were elevated walkways, stair assemblies, as well as a number of features that were potentially subject to evaluation under the law’s requirements.
The Solution: Guided by VERTEX’s forensic architects, the Balcony Assurance team began its evaluation with a thorough review of as-built drawings and a pre-inspection site survey. This initial step helped confirm that a number of building features were not subject to SB721, and thus could be excluded from not only this first required round of inspections, but also from future inspections. This saved the client tens of thousands of dollars per evaluation cycle, and also substantially reduced the amount of time required to complete the inspections.