On Tuesday, October 4th, 2022, a group of WHSAD students from all four grades took a trip to the Department of Buildings (DOB) in Manhattan. The 12th grade Architecture and Design teacher, Mr. Codio, hoped that from this experience we would gain knowledge about architecture and engineering as well as connections to different programs and internships through the DOB. The DOB works with every architecture, engineering, or construction related firm in the city to help build safe and sustainable buildings by creating laws and regulations about what should and should not be allowed. Along with this work, they give awards to helpful products they think are effective and promote those products to be used more commonly. Because the DOB works with so many different firms and people, forming connections with them can be very helpful for networking purposes, which is part of what made this trip so helpful and important to those of us wanting to pursue a career in this industry after high school.
We started this trip off by carefully wrapping up Lawrence Pierre’s Codiopolis project from last year piece by piece in plastic bags to protect it from the rain and the troubles it might face in public transit. About half of us walked out of the school with fairly large pieces of a 3-D printed city cloaked in plastic, while the other half held umbrellas. The trip there was mildly chaotic, with all of the various pieces of this project falling apart in our arms, but otherwise went smoothly. When we arrived we found ourselves in front of an old, fancy looking building on Broadway, exactly the kind of place you would expect the Department of Buildings to be located. Once we got there, we were led up to the third floor conference room, where we were seated as we listened to a series of people give presentations about various aspects of their jobs, projects they worked on, high school internship opportunities, and more.
Wendy Wan, an Architect at DOB, gave us a presentation about code updates with combustible wall coverings. Combustible wall coverings are any type of exterior wall made of flammable materials, so sometimes if there is a fire that starts inside of a building with a combustible wall covering the fire can escape out the window, and completely melt the exterior of the building. Because of the risk of fire associated with these coverings, as you can imagine, the DOB has many rules, and regulations you are required to follow if you wish to use such coverings. I won’t go into detail about all of the factors that go into this, but to give you a brief overview I’ll say this: in order to legally use these materials for the facade of your building, it must go through testing to see how fast fire would spread over the material, and sometimes the building is required to put 3 feet tall horizontal rows of non combustible materials between each floor in order to prevent fire from spreading to other floors. Another thing that can come into play is insulation between the wall and the exterior wall covering. Often insulation is made of plastic foam, which is also quite flammable, so you have to make sure the gap between the two walls is sealed so the fire can’t get in between. These are the kinds of things the DOB has to think about when creating building codes. They have to look at a lot of past cases, go through tests, and talk to engineers, to make laws that keep people safe, and the environment safe. For cases like the issues with combustible wall coverings, where not everyone agrees on the laws the DOB is proposing, they will create committees with other departments and engineers to come to a consensus about what to do.
By the end of the trip, students left with more knowledge about the Department of Buildings, building codes, the process the DOB goes through to produce laws, as well as opportunities for high school students to learn even more about architecture, engineering, and construction. Some of these opportunities include: summer internships opportunities with the DOB to work in areas such as inspections, engineering, human resources, building code enforcement, sustainability, and more (for more info check out https://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/index.page), and the Fall Youth Leadership Council where you go in for weekly in-person meetings to develop group presentations about construction, engineering, architecture, design, urban planning, etc. If you are interested in either of these opportunities, you can go to room 232 (Mr. Codio’s room) and pick up a flier.
Here are some other students experiences at the DOB:
Internships, education, experience and fun. These are all things that you can find at the Department of Buildings.
On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, select students attended a great opportunity: the chance to see, visit, and experience the Department of Buildings. Here students got the opportunity to learn about changes in New York’s modern and technical architecture. As a student who attended, I loved the in-depth talks about the specific layers and different branches at the Department.
We got the opportunity to see people in the field of architecture, city codes, civil engineering, and more. If you’re a student with a passion for architecture and even more, this was a great opportunity! Here students and I got to learn more about the changes to city codes that are important when you are planning on building in a populated city. As well as sustainability and the technology that the Department is using to create a safer and more efficient environment.
And the internship opportunities give exposure to so many fields, allowing students to really branch and envision exactly what they want to do in the future. I’m definitely signing up! Talk to Mr. Codio for more information about upcoming opportunities!
Have you ever sat in your apartment or house in the winter and wondered why you’re not freezing to death? Or why is it so cozy and comfortable? Well until now, I found out that there is a designated Department for Comfort, Sustainability and Safety. This department can be referred similarly to Grammarly, a free tool used to ensure your writing mistake free. This Department looks at buildings and enforces the New York City Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution on over one million buildings and construction sites throughout the City. The DOB. or Department of Buildings. took the time to set up opportunities for high school students like me. The first section that caught my eye was Combustible Exterior Walls. This division focuses on finding and testing material that isn’t necessarily fireproof but will slow down fire in a way that it buys time for people to evacuate. This stage undergoes many rigid tests to ensure everyone’s safety. When looking at these unique types of materials, these people don’t just look at that singular material but at other components that would work together with the material to help slow down the spread of fire to buy time for first responders.
One very interesting part of this presentation was entitled “Innovation Challenges. ” The presenter listed many examples of challenges we might face when it comes to innovations or an effective change that a large group of people can’t cope with. This city that we live in once had many competitions and one of these events was to find an effective solution or ways of making life easier at home. With this event came a lot of amazing software, hardware, and everything in between. We first got a look at an elevator cap air circulation system which supplies clean air to elevators, next we got a look at artificial intelligence for facade inspection which makes inspection of the exterior of a building easier from one perspective. But one innovation that stood out to me was a carbon capture device. My general thought was why isn’t this everywhere to combat global warming, a massive threat to humanity. This device would essentially take carbon out of the air remove it by cleansing the air and turn it into liquid carbon which is used for freezing and chilling of food products, carbonation of beverages, water treatment, low temperature testing of aviation and electronic components, oil and gas well stimulation, and controlling chemical reactions. This is by far the most amazing invention that I didn’t even know existed. The Department of Buildings is such an interesting place that has many branches that lead elsewhere, but one thing that makes the DOB so special is it’s the reason we feel comfortable in our own homes.