DOB NOW: The Future Is Here

By Frank Fortino

As the New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) begins the challenge of revising the construction codes, the agency continues to develop and improve DOB NOW. Notably, as with the code revisions, DOB is now working with industry representatives to make the online filing process more effective. Here are DOB NOW facts that you need to keep in mind:

Like so many other things in life, the DOB is going virtual, streamlining their paper-based system to make the filing process easier for everyone. In theory, architects can file projects from anywhere and owners can track active filings at their properties. In practice, however, the system needs a filter to help separate important, time-sensitive communications from routine notifications. Even with the limited rollout, DOB NOW already generates a flood of indiscriminate auto-alerts, cluttering the inboxes of architects, engineers, and owners.

Innovation takes time and focused effort, and the DOB has invested significant resources in building a robust platform that allows electronic filing and videoconferencing with plan examiners. This was a critical first step.

Now the agency has taken another key step and enlisted the guidance of internal and external resources—specifically, borough commissioners and senior building code consultants—to oversee the next phase of development. Industry insiders are helping the technology experts adapt DOB NOW to meet the real-world challenges of the filing process. We don’t expect to have a perfect system overnight, but we are confident that DOB NOW will make the filing process smoother and simpler for all parties.

The move to an online platform has demonstrated that the task of filing construction projects of any size is significantly more complex than online shopping. As any industry professional can attest, even the most straightforward application will still require a means for accessing and applying the human element and institutional knowledge of experts. Computers are invaluable tools, but they cannot replace skilled people.