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NYC App Lets Users Search Data on Citys Buildings

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New York City's Dept. of Buildings has become a hub for apps that help users access building information with their smart devices.

The latest release from the DOB's Digital Hub division is a free app that lets users look up information on nearly 1 million properties throughout the city's five boroughs.

Available for Apple and Android devices, the app features a basic menu of search functions. After a user types in a building's address and borough, the app pulls up information such as the lot number, building type and ownership, as well as a building's history of construction projects. It also pulls up any violations and complaints about the building.

Users can also research whether a building has been outfitted with reflective material to reduce energy costs, city officials say.

The DOB's Information System has been available for web searches since 2003.

Users can receive push notifications from the department's latest service updates, updates on regulations and weather alerts. For example, the app's notification page recently posted a notice that the DOB now is offering free design consultations for property owners and design professionals who are reconstructing buildings hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Advanced search features in the app enable users to search for any building-management-related jobs that have been posted, minor plumbing work and electrical work, including disapproved applications for minor work on the building.

The NYC Buildings app is the latest in an ongoing effort by Robert LiMandri, New York City Dept. of Buildings commissioner, to achieve its goals of improving and expanding the transparency of the construction process. In 2011, the city launched the NYC Development Hub, billed as a state-of-the-art project review center in Lower Manhattan that accepts and approves digital construction permits.

Since then, city officials say, about 90% of all construction documents can be filed online, including small construction projects such as home renovations and office improvements.

The latest building app follows the Hub's release last year of its free Quick Response (QR) app, which lets users scan QR codes on construction permits in the city. The QR codes are slated to be included on all permits by the end of this year. Since the app launched, city officials say, QR codes have been placed on more than 297,000 construction permits.

The building app has some kinks to work out, such as search results that do not refresh or that duplicate prior searches. But the effort also shows New York City's steady march to deploy digital tools that help streamline construction and building management. The app is available on Apple's App Store and Google Play.

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