Ensuring quality development projects is essential to making sure clients are happy with their end product.
Quality control should include but isn’t limited to, personnel, subcontractors, materials, and procedures. For example, a lack of inspection procedures could lead to serious quality issues in a project.
This is where procedures such as Special Inspections come into play within the commercial development process. Special Inspections are defined as “the inspection of construction requiring the expertise of an approved special inspector in order to ensure compliance with the code and the approved construction documents”.
These inspections are different from the typical inspections needed for building permits, and practically all engineered buildings require Special Inspections.
A Bit of History
As a bit of history, the National Building Code (BOCA) first introduced Special Inspection requirements in 1988. Initially, these requirements emphasized the safety of structural components. That gradually changed, and in 1996 BOCA introduced requirements for Special Inspections on non-structural building components.
What They Entail
Special Inspections includes both testing and inspection of the materials, installation, fabrication, placement of components and connections to ensure compliance with codes and approved construction documents.
Inspection items include fabricators for pre-engineered structural components, a fabrication process for prefabricated wood products, as well as for materials such as:
high-load wood diaphragms;soils;
deep foundation systems;
sprayed fire-resistant materials;
mastic and intumescent fire-resistant coatings;
exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS);
and any special cases as determined by the building official.
One example of a Special Inspection is a Floor Flatness Test. After a building slab is poured, an inspector will come in to take numerous measurements to ensure the floor is flat and level. These tests are often required by tenants who use shelving that needs to sit level, and also to ensure the floor will polish out correctly.
Another common example is a Rebar Inspection. Before a building slab is even poured, the rebar set in place needs to be specifically inspected. The inspector will check to ensure the right size rebar was used, the count is correct according to plans, and that it is all tied together properly.
Common Approaches to Implementing Special Inspections
In a general sense, there are several common approaches that contractors and developers will use to implement special inspections. They include:
Assigning separate special inspectors or testing agencies to different construction materials or processes without a coordinator managing the program within that given design discipline. Each inspector or agency is retained individually by the property owner and is independently responsible for their specific portions of the program.
Assigning one overall special inspector/coordinator to manage the project’s entire special inspection program, involving all design disciplines.
Assigning a separate special inspector coordinator for each design discipline to manage the inspection and testing efforts within the given discipline.
Using Special Inspections such as these, and planning them in advance can significantly improve efficiency, reduce rework, and ensure quality construction. Finding any non-conforming items and bringing them to the contractor and developer’s attention early is key to avoiding bigger problems later on in the development process.