Significance of Special Inspection
History and Intent of Special Inspection:
Special Inspections have been required by the Uniform Building Code (UBC) since the 1955 code. Following the 1971 San Fernando earthquake it was determined that the code provisions for special inspection needed to be strengthened and expanded. It was determined that some of the earthquake structural damage was the result of a lack of construction conformance with the structural design. The language strengthening inspection requirements were added to the 1976 edition of the UBC. Chapter 17 of the current building code provides procedures and criteria for test materials and the requirement for special inspections of structural assemblies.
Awareness of Code Requirements:
Many owners and contractors are aware of special inspections but are not always aware of the specific requirements outlined in Chapter 17 of the building code. Owners are often surprised when presented with a proposal for Special Inspecting services. The Building Codes requires these third-party inspections, and special inspections provide a means of quality assurance. In other words, the special inspector is the ‘eyes in the field’ for the owner and engineer and the inspector’s job is to provide some degree of insurance that the owner is getting what he paid for. Typically, construction materials must be tested, and their installation must be monitored in order to provide a finished structure that performs in accordance with the construction documents.
Owners should consider the following details concerning special inspections:
- paid for by the owner, IBC Section 1704.1 states owners or their agents shall employ an approved agency to perform special inspections, removing any appearance of a conflict of interest with the general contractor paying for inspections of their work.
- depending on the type of project, an approved special inspection agency is certified by CCRL, AASHTO, DSA or CalTrans. In addition, some jurisdictions require their own certification.
- special inspections may only be performed by certified special inspectors.
- special inspection contracts with the owner will be hourly. They may have an estimated budget, but not a fixed fee since the inspector has no control over the quality of the work, or the means and methods used by the general contractor in the installation of the work.
- special inspections are not a substitute for the general contractor’s quality control (QC) programs;
- special inspections are also not a substitute for quality assurance (QA) and quality inspections performed by the jurisdiction;
- when done correctly, special inspections add QA to the project’s structural and life-safety components.
Special Inspections and material testing are an important part of any project. A quality inspection and testing lab will reduce the risks of construction errors and ultimately the risk of lawsuits and insurance claims.