Special Inspection of Building Construction
Several building collapses in the 1980s, notably the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City and L'Ambiance Plaza in Bridgeport, Connecticut, resulted in tragic loss of life. Engineers and Code Officials who studied the causes of these disasters recognized that an increase in the role of the Structural Design Professional in quality assurance during the actual construction phase is needed because of the increasing complexity of construction and the use of modern high-strength materials. The provision of a direct role for the Structural Design Professional is needed to assure the construction meets the requirements of the original structural design as intended.
The Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA) introduced special inspections in the 1988 supplement to the 1987 edition of the BOCA code to increase public safety by mandating a new and higher level of quality assurance during construction. These provisions were adopted by Connecticut to become effective October 16, 1989.
Types of Buildings Requiring Special Inspections
With a few exceptions, all buildings requiring the seal of a licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) or Architect (R.A. or A.I.A.) must receive special inspections. One- and two-family homes are the most significant group of structures exempt from this requirement.
The State of Connecticut also adopted Public Act 89-255, setting forth additional requirements for''threshold buildings'' as a result of the L'Ambiance Plaza building accident. Threshold buildings must have their structural designs checked by an independent structural engineer before construction begins. This "peer review" of the structural design of threshold buildings should not be confused with the requirements for special inspections during construction. Threshold building reviews are performed on the structural engineering designs before construction. Special inspections are tests of the construction materials and assembly during construction.
The Special Inspection Process
The design professional prepares a Statement of Special Inspections that must be submitted by the Owner to the Building Official at the time of application for the building permit. This Statement of Special Inspections form describes the extent of the special inspection program and the firms that will be used to perform the testing and inspections for the Special Inspector. Typically, testing laboratory and specially trained engineering personnel perform the field inspections and testing. The Special Inspector coordinates the inspections and reviews the testing and inspection reports prepared by the field inspectors.
The Special Inspector submits interim reports to the Building Official and advises him or her of any discrepancies which have not been corrected. The Special Inspector submits a final report of special inspections with a signed statement that the special inspections have been performed. This signed statement is needed prior to issuing a certificate of use and occupancy.
Owner's Role in the Special Inspection Process
The Owner is required by the building code to provide and pay for all fees and costs of the special inspections.
Building Official's Role in the Special Inspection Process
The Building Official reviews and approves the Statement of Special Inspections prior to issuing the building permit. The Official also reviews the interim and final special inspection reports.
Contractor's Role in the Special Inspection Process
The Contractor is required to provide the quality control on the project. The Contractor is also responsible for notifying the Special Inspector when structural components are ready to be inspected. The special inspection program does not relieve the Contractor of his or her responsibilities.
Special Inspector's Role in the Special Inspection Process
As discussed, the Special Inspector implements the special inspection program through coordinating the testing with the actual construction; guides the inspection and testing activities; reviews their inspection and testing team's reports; and submits reports to the Architect, Engineer of Record, and the Building Official. At the completion of the project, the Special Inspector signs the final report.
Finding a Qualified Special Inspector
The Structural Engineer of Record (the engineer who designed the building's structural system) is best qualified to undertake this responsibility. The engineer's thorough knowledge of the particular project's structural design, unique structural requirements and special considerations will assure that critical items will receive adequate attention and be correctly constructed. The Structural Engineer of Record is also likely to be performing construction administration services during the construction phase and it is more efficient if the Structural Engineer of Record perform both services concurrently. The Structural Engineer of Record, acting as the Special Inspector, can actually better utilize testing laboratory fees and personnel for critical aspects of the structure and reduce their use on areas of lesser importance. Having the designer's knowledge of the most important connections and elements he can channel limited resources to these areas and lessen the emphasis of continuous testing for areas of lower stresses.
SEC 101 - Statement of Special Inspections
SEC 102 - Final Report of Special Inspections