Proposed CMU Ordinance – City of Chicago

*NOTE: This proposal is an ongoing project that will evolve over time. All current formatting and language are to be considered ‘DRAFT’ form until otherwise noted. Wording of the proposed ordinances, forms, code additions and standards will evolve as data is added. Supporting industry documentation will be added as research and upload time allow.

You may contact this author via email with any questions or comments. Feedback is welcome. This project is being developed with the assistance of numerous professionals.

PROPOSED ORDINANCE – CITY OF CHICAGO

Transfer of real property containing CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit)

Transaction Disclosure Forms

Intent

The intent of this discussion is NOT to look back and lay blame. Such endeavors are better left to parties better suited for such actions.

This proposal is intended to open up dialogue about building construction concerns, initiate action on proposals and serve as a basis from which to better protect the people of Chicago from non-compliant construction procedures during CMU builds.

The City of Chicago cannot continue to allow the residents of Chicago and visitors to be put at continued financial and physical risk due to CMU buildings that are being built using insufficient construction that results in ongoing negative consequences. The resulting problems are creating an undue burden on owners while developers walk away virtually unaffected.

Concerns have been raised about these methods for years. Those concerns were often brushed off as a professional being overly ‘picky’. Some have stated that a proposal like this is equivalent to closing the barn door after the horse has already run out. People who make such statements are often the same ones who pronounced there was nothing to worry about in the first place. We can’t change the past. What we can however do is take steps to ensure that once housing construction recovers, guidelines are in place to protect the public from the same types of problems. Just as general building codes have evolved over the years due to new information, so it is now time for the Municipal Code to evolve in relation to CMU construction. It is important that steps are taken now to ensure that CMU style buildings are built to a uniform, definable and long lasting standard. Waiting until the next housing boom starts may once again be too late.

This proposal is intended to address several concerns. The disclosure forms will hopefully act as a ‘Consumer Protection’ act.  The proposed City ordinances will hopefully act as a clearer compliance mechanism. The proposed Municipal Code additions will hopefully act as clearer and definable standard that can be more readily enforced in the field.

PROPOSAL CONTENTS

  • Definitions
  • Statement of Need
  • New Construction disclosure form
  • Existing Buildings disclosure form
  • Proposed City Ordinance
  • Proposed City Code additions
  • Model Standard for CMU construction
  • CMU construction training and certification process for contractors, developers and inspectors

*Definitions to be added periodically

Definition of CMU building (Cement Masonry Unit):

For the purposes of the proposed disclosure form, henceforth the term CMU, is meant to include common cement block, split face cement block, cement block inner course and brick outer course, composite walls and other construction combinations involving any amount of CMU type block used for exterior / perimeter wall construction

* Various exemptions are allotted for such as interior cavity elevator or stairwell shafts. A full exemption list is assumed to be part of any approved Code additions.

Statement of Need

During the last housing boom CMU building construction was unprecedented in the Chicagoland area. Single family and multi-unit Condo buildings were constructed throughout Chicago and the suburbs. During that boom period it appeared as if any and every lot was the right location for a CMU building. Oversight, sufficient training and compliance verification as to how exactly these buildings were being constructed could not keep pace with industry need. Granted, approved architectural blueprints outlined building details. On the jobsite however, conditions varied greatly. Adherence to approved plans and use of all needed materials appeared sporadic. This has led to construction conditions that result in ongoing problems for building and/or unit owners in CMU style buildings. Water intrusion is a common problem and appears to be getting worse as buildings age. Water intrusion investigation is becoming a common service for experienced home inspectors. Contractors who specialize in remediation and repair work have also been getting more and more business. As much as this is good for parts of the industry, it has also become a financial nightmare for building owners. Buyers who thought they were buying a ‘brick’ building are finding out that this isn’t quite the case.

Almost everyone along the supply chain can be blamed to some extent if that is the goal. That is however not the goal of this proposed ordinance. Such agendas are better left to lawyers. As valid as ‘could have / should have’ scenarios may be, focusing on them does not help the home buying public. Current owners need sufficient education of the issues. New buyers need to be provided with a degree of confidence that what they are buying is compliant. It is imperative that the public is educated about these new types of buildings and that the City of Chicago play a lead role in the discussions.

The construction deficiencies in these buildings cannot be blamed on one particular shortcoming. Deficiencies run among a wide range of problems including insufficient or improper material use; improper installations; poor workmanship; and general lack of understanding of how wall systems work. Based on years of field work by many inspectors it appears that all the issues can be summarized into two primary categories; money and insufficient training.

Using the right materials and proper amounts of materials costs more money than not using such materials. This of course cuts into developer profit. Since negative financial repercussions against a developer appear to be rare; it would seem many chose to take that risk.

Inspection after inspection has repeatedly shown that workers (and sometimes developers) do not sufficiently understand that CMU walls differ significantly from vintage brick walls. Workers who were traditionally trained as masons and tuckpointers working with vintage style brick were hired to build CMU structures with no verifiable training. Many contractors simply did not understand that these structures are ‘wall systems’ that need to be built properly in order to perform as intended. Some contractors simply didn’t care.

This has resulted in structures being built, and sold to the unsuspecting public that have inherent problems. These problems often are very costly and time consuming to repair sufficiently for the building to remain safe. Baseline issues usually involve drywall damage and mold like substance growth due to water intrusion. Next level issues typically involve extensive drywall and insulation removal, floor damage and occupancy limitations. The worst cases involve extensive to full gut rehab of interior walls, structural repairs and substantial exterior repairs. In some instances over time it may become too late for a building to be saved within feasible costs. Beyond pesky water intrusion and mold issues mentioned, we are already seeing structural deterioration problems in the field. Wood truss and joist systems were installed into wall pockets without any separation between the wood and masonry. Water intrusion in these pockets is rotting away truss ends and leading to structural hazards.

The buying public is typically unaware of these problems and the maintenance needs of CMU buildings during the home buying process. Water barrier, flashing and maintenance information is not provided by developers or as part of any known disclosure forms at this time. Real estate agents avoid the topic as much as possible. New property owners generally don’t become aware of maintenance needs or deficient construction until it’s too late. If the potential costs related to purchasing a CMU building or condo were better known to buyers, market demands could possibly have improved construction conditions.

We believe this proposed ordinance and related information can go a long way in protecting the public from potential unknown costs and hazards. We feel that it is imperative that the City of Chicago pass this ordinance and make various related recommendations part of the City of Chicago Municipal Code.

CITY OF CHICAGO BUILDING TRANSACTION DISCLOSURE FORM

NEW CONSTRUCTION – CMU EXTERIOR WALL CONSTRUCTION

This disclosure form must be completely filled out and provided to any buyer as part of the home buying disclosure process. This disclosure is required regardless of the quantity of CMU used as part of the construction. Exceptions are listed in the City of Chicago Municipal Code Section XXX Failure to provide this document without request will incur penalties and delay property transfer. A copy of the disclosure form must be part of the closing documents package.

Developer:

Masonry Contractor:

Qualifications to build CMU structures:

BUILD

Date of Build:

Type/Manufacturer of CMU used:

Type of flashing between levels:

Type of flashing at doors and windows:

Type of flashing at coping tile and parapets:

Verification of end dams:

Verification that all flashings are ‘turned UP’ as required:

Standards used for construction method:

(ASTM/ANSI/BIA/MIA)

Type of waterproof barrier installed around truss/joist set into CMU walls:

*Full wrap of wood member surfaces in contact with CMU required as per Code Section X

EXTERIOR WATER REPELLANT

Water repellant product used:

Application method:

Concentration % of material:

Date of application:

Manufacturer listed lifespan:

Estimated re-application date:

INTERIOR

Wall framing type and fastening to interior of CMU:

Vapor retarder installed, type & location:

Insulation type and R value:

Air gap between CMU and framing/insulation:

(specify in inches or increments thereof)

Signed:      _______________________                 Notary Seal: _________________

Title:          _______________________

Date:          ____________                                           Date: _________

CITY OF CHICAGO BUILDING TRANSACTION DISCLOSURE FORM

EXISTING BUILDINGS – CMU EXTERIOR WALL CONSTRUCTION

This disclosure form must be completely filled out and provided to any buyer as part of the home buying disclosure process. This disclosure is required regardless of the quantity of CMU used as part of the construction. Exceptions are listed in the City of Chicago Municipal Code Section XXX. Failure to provide this document without request will incur penalties and delay property transfer. A copy of the disclosure form must be part of the closing documents package.

Current owner:

Length of ownership:

Was a new construction disclosure form provided upon purchase:

Current Condo Association entity:

Masonry Contractor (if known):

Qualifications to build CMU structures:

EXISTING BUILD CONDITIONS

Date of Build:

Type of CMU construction:

Are flashings visible at door & window lintels:

Are flashings visible between levels:

Standards used for construction method:

(if known)

EXTERIOR WATER REPELLANT

Last date building exterior was treated:

Water repellant product used:

Application method:

Concentration % of product:

Manufacturer listed lifespan:

Estimated re-application date:

INTERIOR

Has the Condo Association hired or paid for inspection and/or remediation services related to water intrusion, seepage or any CMU related defect issues:

Has the Condo Unit Owner hired or paid for inspection and/or remediation services related to water intrusion, seepage or any CMU related defect issues:

Has the Building owner hired or paid for inspection and/or remediation services related to water intrusion, seepage or any CMU related defect issues:

Has drywall and/or insulation been removed along exterior walls by anyone due to water or mold like substance concerns:

Signed:      _______________________                 Notary Seal: _________________

Title:          _______________________

Date:          ____________                                           Date: _________

PROPOSED ORDINANCE

CITY OF CHICAGO

CMU EXTERIOR WALL CONSTRUCTION

DISCLOSURE FORM REQUIREMENTS

This section will include formal language for the proposed ordinance in standard formatting for such purposes.

PROPOSED ORDINANCE – CITY OF CHICAGO

CMU EXTERIOR WALL CONSTRUCTION – MUNICIPAL CODE ADDITIONS

This section will include recommended Code additions and amendments.

Current bullet points are meant as baseline Code sections. Full wording will evolve.

  • Wood framing into Masonry walls – waterproof membrane full wrap of wood members set into masonry walls
  • Clarification on flashing protrusion
  • Clarification of flashing installation methods
  • Initial build CMU waterproofing or coating application requirements and disclosure
  • Code section pertaining to periodic re-application of coatings

MODEL STANDARD FOR CMU NEW CONSTRUCTION BUILDINGS

WITHIN THE CITY OF CHICAGO

SINGLE FAMILY AND SMALL MULTI-UNIT BUILDINGS

The intent of this section is to provide a Model standard that can be used as a basis to formulate a formal standard that can be made part of the City of Chicago Municipal Code. By pulling the various applicable standards together into a Model standard specific to the types of CMU construction in Chicago for our mixed climate, this standard can hopefully be readily available as part of the Code book.

Currently there does not appear to be a cohesive standard for this type of construction in our mixed climate conditions. The current Municipal Code refers to various standards as references. However those standards are not actually listed in the Code book nor are they defined per construction or CMU type in a reasonably searchable manner for jobsite conditions. This shortcoming obviously leaves inspectors in the field and builders at a disadvantage. Are we really going to reasonably expect parties involved to find, buy and/or print out those standards? Or will the masonry contractor continue to do what he thinks will be Ok?

This entry was posted in About Your Home, Municipal & Code topics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *