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Special inspector in a tough spot

Special inspector in a tough spot

Special inspector in a tough spot

My company was hired to perform special inspection by a general contractor.

I am inspecting grade beams that tie into moment frame columns. The moment frame columns have #7 rebar welded to them. The #7 bars are to be lap spliced to the grade beam bars and the lap length is to done "per plan specs". The in-place lap distances were significantly shorter than specified on the project plans at many of these connections. In addition to noting this condition in my daily report, I let the sub-contractor and the general contractor know of this discrepancy. There was another, probably more minor, discrepancy that I also let everyone know about.

I was notified that the engineer of record for this project did a structural observation and DID NOT note the discrepancy in lap lengths. I was NOT onsite during the structural observation. I asked the GC (phone conversation) if the engineer said anything about the lap length discrepancies and was told the engineer did not. I asked the GC if the engineer of record read my daily report that detailed the discrepancy. He said he didn't think so. The engineer DID point out the other more minor discrepancy I noted and they would be OK to place concrete for the grade beams once it was corrected.

I know IBC section 1704 states: "Discrepancies shall be brought to the immediate attention of the contractor for correction. If they are not corrected, the discrepancies shall be brought to the attention of the building official and to the registered design professional in responsible charge prior to the completion of that phase of work."

Our client, the GC, seems to think that the engineer ok'd the in-place lap splice condition. Is there a possibility they didn't notice it? What the heck am I supposed to do here? I appreciate the feedback.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

You should bring the discrepancies to the attention of the building official and to the registered design professional.

I'm not sure I understand what your problem is here. Why is this a tough spot. Just tell the appropriate folks what you saw.

You can perhaps reason that you already did so via your reports but in my view I would go the extra mile to make sure they were aware of it.

Oh - special inspectors, by the IBC anyway, are NOT to be hired by the GC but by the owner I believe.

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RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Quote (IBC 2012)

1704.2 Special inspections.
Where application is made for construction as described in this section, the owner or the registered design professional in responsible charge acting as the owner’s agent shall employ one or more approved agencies to perform inspections during construction...


Part of the problem is that your services have been engaged by the GC, and not the owners or registered design professional, as required by §1704.2. Fox-and-hen house!

Quote (JoeDirtSoCA)

Is there a possibility they didn't notice it? What the heck am I supposed to do here? I appreciate the feedback.

It is entirely possible that the engineer did miss the short lap-lengths, and it is incumbent on you to notify him/her directly, IMO, BEFORE the concrete placement.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

That is true. Special Inspectors are NOT to be hired by the GC but that is the situation here i guess. I'm going to talk to the GC about this tomorrow and let them know they need to let the engineer know about this problem if they can't get it corrected. I suppose it is tough because I don't understand why the GC didn't discuss the issue with the engineer.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

JAE has quicker fingers than I...but same message!

I think Joe is having a "problem" because he is being paid by the GC, and has to 'go beyond' his client (the GC) to do his required duty.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

AND if they don't notify the engineer I will have to.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

That is exactly what my thought was Ingenuity. To do my work properly I have to 'over the head' of our client.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Special inspectors, indeed. No wonder you have this type issue if responsibility for inspection is divided between the EOR, where it should be, and a third party. How did this come to be in the US, anyway?

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

I will note that i believe a structural observation of the EOR is not an inspection and does not attempt to address all issues required as an inspection does. You choose the word observation as that is all it was... You have to contact the EOR and the Owner, do not rely on the GC to do it. Call the person on the phone now, i love getting phone calls of people finding a problem and wanting to fix it, as long as it isn't my problem that is.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

hokie66, in the endless quest for limited (with the goal being no) government, the building departments were unable (or unwilling) to perform routine construction inspections. But the powers that be wanted some inspections as they thought they would be voted out of office if buildings fell down and there was no one else to blame it on.
So they came up with this convoluted system. The owner could inspect his own building or hire the EOR to do it. Engineers are happy, as they get paid for these special inspections and have more control. Building officials are happy, as they can sit in their air conditioned offices. Owners aren't so happy, but they think it's the cost of doing business.
So there you have it, until the system fails, and then there will be inspections on inspections of the inspections.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Or they were made due to the Hyatt Collapse and a certain previous vice president (when he wasn't VP)

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Thanks for the discussion everyone. Interesting and I appreciate it. I spoke with the GC today and explained to the Super that the building code instructs me to report the unaddressed discrepancies to the engineer of record and the building official. He later phoned me to say that the engineer is coming out to the job site tomorrow to do another observation and scheduled me to be onsite as well. So it looks like the matter is being dealt with properly.

I guess it was an easy problem. Just awkward making sure the job is done right while being tactful with the GC.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

"explained to the Super that the building code instructs me to report the unaddressed discrepancies to the engineer of record and the building official."

Well said!

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Observations are not inspections, nor do they waive inspection requirements. The IBC is very clear about this, it's in the definition of structural observation at the very beginning of chapter 17. Just because the EOR didn't catch it during observation doesn't mean the contractor is off the hook. I know we explicitly state this in our general notes and in the text of all of our observation reports, would hope the EOR for your job does as well. Contractors try this all the time and it's important for both inspector and EOR to set things straight immediately.

And special inspectors being hired by contractors is fairly common for design-build and government jobs, right or wrong. Still important to maintain the communication between inspector and EOR in those situations though. Contractor should want that as well. Contractors frequently forget that in exchange for the bigger fees of design/build they take on the design risk. And that risk isn't going to transfer to the designer/inspector if the contractor is ignoring what they have to say. Can't just think like a contractor in design/build. You're a designer too now.

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Any design professional who has attended a professional liability seminar will tell you that their liability is increased if they "inspect" the work of others. It is also a "rating/premium" flag for the cost of professional liability insurance. That's why the word "observation" is used instead of "inspection". They have significantly different semantic legal implications.

Third-party inspections can be more rigorous than the EOR's observations and actually provide a documentation stream that is often missing when the EOR does observations. Since they are third-party inspections, they should have the same contractual tie to the owner that the EOR/design professional has. As an example, a special inspector for threshold level buildings (unique to Florida), must be hired by the owner but reports to the building official first. In most cases, the EOR gets notified concurrently with the building official of non-compliance items; however, if cover up is imminent, the EOR must be notified first for a decision as to how or if they can proceed.

I have been in both positions....as EOR and as Special Inspector for such conditions. In many cases, the EOR likes our involvement because we have only an obligation to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public....if it doesn't match the plans, it doesn't go until the EOR makes a decision....simple. If you have an issue that the contractor refuses to address or correct, the building official has stop-work authority...we don't, and the EOR does not have that authority. I have had to request a stop-work order from the building official on such buildings. They usually take it seriously since it is a structural issue. When the project gets "red tagged", the contractor will suddenly decide to correct the deficiencies that he/she couldn't correct before!

RE: Special inspector in a tough spot

Quote (JAE)

Oh - special inspectors, by the IBC anyway, are NOT to be hired by the GC but by the owner I believe.

Off topic a tad, but related to special inspections and a lesson learned.

I have a retaining wall project where the owner is the county (local government in my state for non-USA peeps). Design contract was with the Civil eng. who's contract was with the county.

Construction time roles around. Civil engineer has exited stage left. We get a call for CA services by the contractor who won the bid. We said that it is not a good idea for us to work for you, and that the county should retain us to perform the CA services with the civil eng. gone, and that the county should also retain a special inspector. The county refused. Now, the special inspector and our firm is contracted with the contractor. Forget the model building code mandate - it is just common sense. The contract obligations of the special inspector and our firm now conflict with the interest of the owner (who also happens to be the public).

And guess what? The contractor is a nightmare when instructed by either us (EOR) or the special inspector to correct deficiencies. Lots of complaining about us billing for time spent arguing with them, and re-explaining the contract documents, etc.

I never want to be in this situation again. That said, the county was copied on all of the emails, and I called them to complain about the issues at hand. Less than a week later, I was cc'd on a letter where the county was retaining a pretty penny per wall until the issues were corrected as instructed.

If the owner wasn't the county, I think this could have gotten uglier in a hurry.

"It is imperative Cunth doesn't get his hands on those codes."

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