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Here Codes the Sun

Rooftop solar installations are becoming increasingly popular in New York City. Recently the DOB released Buildings Bulletin 2015-024 to address the acceptable panels, their respective installation requirements and the required testing methods.

The following types of solar installations are permissible in New York City:

  • Flat-plate collectors–The most common type of collectors. Consists of a dark flat-plate absorber, a transparent cover, heat transport fluid and a heat insulating backing.
  • Evacuated-tube collectors—Tubes are heat instead of liquid. Work well in cold climates. Consist of a mounting frame, heat pipe, evacuated tubes and a manifold.
  • Integral collector storage system—ICS combines thermal collection and storage in a single unit, usually an insulated box.
solar installations nyc

Flat-plate, tube and thermal solar installations.

Here the most relevant codes to consider for rooftop solar installations.


  • The array and supporting construction for solar collectors shall be constructed of noncombustible materials as per section MC 1402.4.1.

Fire Code Regulations

The NYC Fire Code has its own fire safety regulations for solar panels installed on rooftops. Like everything else on a rooftop, solar panels must abide by Fire Code regulations for location, access and clear path. In addition, the Fire Code has regulations explicitly for solar panels.

Here are some of the main Fire Codes to consider for rooftop solar panel installations.

  • Solar panels shall not obstruct any rooftop area access. (FC 504.4.6)
    • Required 6-foot clearance radius from hinge
    • Required 3-foot clear radius from each side of the ladder or landing.
  • Buildings with solar installations that have with a width or depth of 25 feet or less are allowed clear path obstructions under certain circumstances. (FC 512.2)
    • Obstructions must be scuttles, skylights, vent pipes or other rooftop features, not panels themselves.
  • Solar panels cannot exist below the roofline to impede ladder access. [FC 504.4.1(5)]
  • Panels on pitched roofs must leave a 3-foot clearance along the ridgeline.
  • Structures supporting photovoltaic panels must be fire resistant according to Table 601



  • Solar collector equipment and appliances must be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions as per section MC 1401.4.
  • Pursuant to section BC 1704.16, solar collectors shall be subject to special inspection requirements of Chapter 17 of the Building Code and Department rules covering special inspection. Special inspectors of solar collector systems shall:
    • Maintain the same qualification requirements for the mechanical system and heating system categories as defined in 1 RCNY section 101-06, Appendix A.
    • Complete the statement of special inspection by referencing this bulletin under the Special Inspection Item for “Alternative Materials” in section 3.0 of the TR1 form.

Question about solar installation or have a project that needs code consultation? Contact us.