Santiago Calatrava, Hon. FAIA's World Trade Center Transportation Hub, in Manhattan, under construction in August 2015.
Flickr user Anthony Quintano via Creative Commons Santiago Calatrava, Hon. FAIA's World Trade Center Transportation Hub, in Manhattan, under construction in August 2015.

Doing paperwork with New York City’s Department of Buildings (DOB) is about to become a lot easier—mainly because it will soon involve much less paper. As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to revamp the city’s buildings and permitting approvals process to streamline project reviews and make code violations easier to track, the DOB is rolling out a $29.6 million e-filing system that replaces the paper-based filing system it has used since 1989. The new system will allow members of the public and the architecture, engineering, and construction sector to do their business with the department online, including submitting and tracking applications in real time, pulling permits, scheduling appointments, and checking inspection statuses. The program, DOB Now, will roll out in phases during 2016 and 2017, and by 2018, it will be the go-to source for interactions with the DOB.

“The program will not only offer the public a far more user-friendly experience, but it will also help [the] DOB perform a wide range of tasks, from critical functions like addressing safety lapses at construction sites, to routine items such as issuing licenses and permits,” De Blasio said in a press release.

The first phase is DOB Now: Build, which is now live and allows applications for plumbing and sprinkler jobs to be filed online. DOB Now: Safety, expected to launch on Sept. 12, will be a source for compliance filings related to façades, elevators, and boilers. DOB Now: Licensing will go live in 2017 for online filings for the trades related to licensure exams, issuances, and renewals. The existing Inspections Ready online scheduling program will now operate as DOB Now: Inspections, and maintain its current functionality.

Crain's New York Business reports that the city is testing the system with a selection of companies this summer, and that the new system could box out expeditors from the New York Coalition of Code Consultants, a trade organization whose members represent project teams to make sure their buildings meet code. Other cities that offer some variation of e-filing for building documents include Chicago and Baltimore, but New York's program is novel in its real-time tracking functionality and for the sheer volume of construction activity in that city.

Whether New York project teams will be swapping one type of red tape for another is still to be determined.

For more information on the DOB Now program, visit the New York City DOB website.