Navigating the DOB with Speed and Efficiency: 5 Questions with Dapheney Rodriguez of Chameleon Expediting Service
By Diana Mosher
Dapheney Rodriguez, President and Founder of Chameleon Expediting Service, started in the industry 20 years ago and she learned the business from the ground up. As an assistant she was responsible for preparing paper forms and submitting applications to the Department of Buildings (DOB). Her many experiences have taught her that every project is unique with its individual complexities—and each client has a different expectation.
“The most challenging aspect of the work is when you must show proof of the existing use of a space when there is no certificate of occupancy (c of o),” says Dapheney. “The c of o provides the legal use of a property. When you do not have this legal document research must be done to prove the use of the space.”
Read my interview with Dapheney.
Tell us about the DOB process for NYC residential and commercial projects and how you reduce the turnaround time for permits.
Dapheney Rodriguez: The expeditor is the liaison between the homeowner, property management, architect, engineer, general contractor, and the municipality. Whenever you plan to perform construction work in a building you will be required to have a permit from the DOB. Our responsibility is to oversee the submission of the application for construction work in a residential or commercial property, obtain the approval and secure the work permit.
As an expeditor I consider myself to be a tremendous support system because I consult my clients on the best way to move forward, navigate a complex filing system, and provide real time updates. Understanding the project and its complexities, devising the best filing method and conducting daily follow ups is the most efficient way to ensure the project swiftly moves through the submission, approval and permitting process.
Who typically brings you into the project?
Dapheney Rodriguez: The architect or engineer is the lead of the project. The licensed professional can opt to engage the expeditor before the application is submitted to the municipality. Often there is research which must be performed, and the expeditor can assist with this. The architect or the engineer usually recommends the expeditor to the homeowner. It’s been my experience when this task is not the responsibility of the owner, the project will be filed efficiently.
Once the project has been approved, the next step is to obtain a construction permit. You are required to engage a licensed general contractor. There have been occasions when the licensed professionals (RA or PE) file the applications on their own behalf. The GC can select the filing representative (expeditor) to secure the work permit. Most contractors prefer to concentrate on the fieldwork and allow the expeditor to be responsible for filing the required work permit.
The expeditor can join the team at various stages. I recommend the expeditor be selected at the beginning of the project. Simply because this person will have complete knowledge from the beginning until end.
What residential or commercial projects do not require DOB approval; for example, non-loading partitions or cabinet replacements?
Dapheney Rodriguez: Most construction requires a DOB permit. Most often a New York State licensed Professional Engineer (PE) or Registered Architect (RA) must file plans and pull permits before the work begins. There are many permits such as construction, boiler, elevator. The primary applications are New Building (NB) and alterations Type 1, 2 and 3.
• NB Construction of a new structure
• ALT1 Major alteration that will change use, egress, or occupancy
• ALT 2 Multiple types of work, not affecting use, egress, or occupancy
• Alt 3 One type of minor work, not affecting use, egress, or occupancy.
Some minor work does not require a permit. For example, installing new kitchen cabinets, tile removal and installation. Direct window or door replacements do not require a permit. But contractors must have a Department of Consumer Affairs Home Improvement Contractor License.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Dapheney Rodriguez: I am a part of the transformation of a space—residential or commercial. I take delight in witnessing the process: how it looked before and during the construction, finished product, functionality, and client satisfaction.
Project Snapshot—projects go through the following steps:
• Determine the necessary permits and then file applications and construction drawings.
• Obtain Department plan approval.
• File and pull Permits.
• Perform approved work.
• Pass the final inspection.
• Receive a new or amended Certificate of Occupancy or Letter of Completion.