The city’s Department of Buildings is set to roll out a $29.6 million, state-of the-art computer system this summer that will eventually replace an outdated mainframe that relies primarily on paper to process all the construction permits, safety inspections and complaints for the city’s more than 1 million buildings.
“I think floppy disks are still accepted by one unit,” said Deputy Commissioner Archana Jayaram, who explained the new system, called DOB Now, to Crain's during a recent sit-down interview.
DOB Now was proposed in a 2015 policy brief called Building One City that promised to fundamentally reform the Buildings Department. City officials hope the system will help it shed its reputation of being antiquated, bureaucratic and inefficient, as well as make the construction process more transparent and allow the city to deploy its limited team of inspectors and auditors in a targeted way.
“This will address the ever-present myth that anything having to go through a regulatory process will be a nightmare,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler.
The new system works by essentially streamlining and digitizing almost every filing—whether it has to do with safety, licensing, inspections or blueprints. Developers would also be able to book appointments with plan examiners online, and in some cases communicate via chat or video on the department’s website. Such feats would be unthinkable under the Buildings Department's current Building Information System, which has been in use since 1989. Prior to the late 1980s, the agency was using a 3-by-5-index-card catalog system to keep track of work.