chicago facade ordinance inspection

Chicago Façade Ordinance Inspection 

Are You in Compliance?

The City of Chicago Department of Buildings adopted the original Chicago Façade Ordinance in 1996. The ordinance was revised in 2008 and again in 2016. The current ordinance requires buildings over 80 feet tall to undergo regular inspection of the safety of their façades.

Which parts of my building need to be inspected?

Your building’s exterior envelope is the main focus of the Chicago façade inspection. The level of exam determines the method of inspection. Critical exams require more invasive inspection techniques than ongoing inspection reports. 

Anything attached to the building, such as balconies, chimneys, canopies and signs, can usually pass with a visual exam. The main point of inspecting attachments is to determine the impact of those attachments on the wall’s integrity.


There are two types of accepted inspections: the ongoing inspection and the critical examination. These inspections must be performed by an architect or structural engineer licensed in the state of Illinois.

Critical examination must occur every four, eight, or twelve years depending on the building classification. This type of inspection requires more invasive measures. Those methods include opening the cladding of your building at specified intervals. It also requires a hands-on inspection at select portions of the façade. If your building fails its façade inspection or you miss ongoing inspection filing deadlines, you must file a critical examination report.

Ongoing inspection reports must be filed every two years for most buildings. These inspections are minimally invasive and mostly visual.

In some cases, you may forgo the critical exam. In these cases, you may choose to file Ongoing Inspection and Repair Program reports every other year. You can only do this if NONE of the following are true:

  • The building is vacant or subject to registration as required by the Code
  • There is an active case for violations of the Code for the building
  • The building has been classified as “unsafe and imminently hazardous” in the most recently filed report
  • You are more than one year behind in filing an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Report

If any of these conditions exists, a licensed inspector must conduct a critical exam and submit the required report.


ESS engineers are experienced in performing both types of Chicago façade inspections.  We know how to write and file the required reports with the Chicago Department of Buildings. We also know what building owners and managers need to get and stay in compliance with the ordinance. If there are issues, we know how to fix them.

Here’s what you can expect from a Chicago façade inspection with ESS:

Chicago Façade Critical Examination

Chicago façade ordinance critical examinations are more detailed and in-depth. They always involve a hands-on inspection. Usually, we have to open parts of the cladding to conduct inspections behind it. There are special requirements for buildings 50 or more years old clad with attached bricks, stone or terracotta.

Ongoing Inspection

In addition to the critical examinations, you must submit an ongoing inspection and repair program report to the city at the halfway point of the critical exam cycle. We can usually perform this inspection by looking at the building. It doesn’t require invasive inspection techniques.


The official report for either inspection requires us to classify the façade as SafeSafe with Repair and Maintenance Program, or Unsafe and Imminently Hazardous. We’ll let you know right away if your building is anything less than Safe. Then, we’ll file the official report with the Department of Buildings.

We’ll also create a report for your use, letting you know about any deficiencies and recommended repairs or maintenance. Our reports to you are clear and jargon-free. You’ll know exactly what you need to do to pass your next inspection.

Further Action

If our Chicago façade inspection reveals issues, we’re here to help. Our construction management team can help you design and spec repairs. Then, we’ll help you find the right contractors to do the job. And, finally, we’ll help you manage the repair process.

Where to Find More Information about the CHICAGO Façade ordinance

The Chicago Department of Buildings administers the façade ordinance. On their website, you can find the forms that licensed professional inspectors must complete. The site also includes a downloadable PDF titled Rules for Exterior Wall Maintenance.

Make sure you’re in compliance with the Chicago Façade Ordinance with an inspection from ESS.

 Contact us today!

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