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Onus to Arrange Inspection

Onus to Arrange Inspection

Onus to Arrange Inspection

For residential retaining walls, we typically have a note on our drawings stating that the contractor must call us to inspect the wall and footing construction before any concrete is poured. For one reason or another, this note was missed on one retaining wall drawing that was sent out and we were not contacted for an inspection. We have no reason to suspect the wall was constructed incorrectly, but I have 2 questions:

1) Is there any way we could reliably confirm the construction of the wall matches our detail? X-ray to see the rebar? How about the buried footing size and rebar?

2) Since we didn't have the note to call for inspections, would we be liable if the wall was constructed incorrectly, or should the onus to arrange the inspection fall to the contractor? We do have a note that all construction is to be as per Alberta Building Code 2014 and in section under foundations, the building code states "A field review shall be carried out by the designer or by another suitably qualified
person to ascertain that the subsurface conditions are consistent with the design and
that construction is carried out in accordance with the design and good engineering
practice." So technically, the building code was not followed in this particular instance.

RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

  1. You could ask the contractor for photos taken during construction. If they are available, that may be better than nothing, although not equivalent to an inspection.
  2. I don't know how you can be held liable unless you certify that you performed the necessary inspection. If the authority having jurisdiction demands certification, the contractor would need to satisfy you that the work was in compliance with the contract documents. That would not be easy.


RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

I don't know how to verify the internal condition of your wall after the fact, so I will address your other concerns.

Since your building code requires a field review, if the contractor didn't have this done by "another suitably qualified person" then it appears that they didn't follow the building code. However, I don't know what remedies exist in your jurisdiction.

In my experience (California, mostly), you would not be liable if the wall was constructed incorrectly. That is the contractor's problem, not yours. But, I don't know about Alberta.

I also understand your concern that you should have been the one to do the field review. For instance, if you would normally be required to sign off on the wall for the local jurisdiction, you would not be able to.

"Is it the only lesson of history that mankind is unteachable?"
--Winston S. Churchill

RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

As alluded to by BA, the only thing I wouldn't suggest doing is saying that the inspection was carried out. It's typically the contractor's responsibility, but oftentimes these crews are thinking fourteen steps ahead of where they actually are. So, unfortunately, you gotta add an explicit note to the drawing.

RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

If the EOR refuses to certify the structural work for any reason, the Authority Having Jurisdiction can (and probably will) refuse to issue an occupancy permit. This prevents the owner from occupying the building. When that happens, a great deal of pressure is brought to bear on the EOR to sign the necessary documents. If he yields to that pressure and certifies the work, he may be held liable for work which turns out to have been constructed incorrectly.

If such deficient construction results in serious damage or injury, all parties connected with the work will be scrambling to escape liability.


RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

If the retaining wall is reinforced on the earth face, you can check the spacing of the earth face rebars and footing dowels in the wall and the top bars in the footing using a pachometer. If there were no shop drawings, you can chip in at one or more locations in wall and footing to verify the bar sizes.

RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

You can plot the rebar pattern using ground penetrating radar (GPR). You would need access to both sides of the wall for radiography, but not so for GPR.

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RE: Onus to Arrange Inspection

my 2c …

your normal practice (adding the inspection note) wasn't followed … sounds like a liability door opening.
Could a builder, familiar with your work, take this to imply inspection is not required ?

your "standard" drawing note says "construction per Alberta Code …". This includes the requirement for inspection.
Should the builder be expected to know this ?

Should the builder be reasonably expected to know that site inspection is a normal (in fact required) practice ?
Would a reasonably competent builder at least have queried the absence of the inspection note ? and/or offered a site inspection at the appropriate time ?
Was a site inspection offered to someone in your office (maybe not aware of the details), perhaps too busy at the moment, and perhaps the response was "if it's not required on the drawing, then it's not required" ?? Could the builder make this claim ??

There looks to be enough kaka around that everyone will get some on themselves, and the lawyers will get rich out of this !

another day in paradise, or is paradise one day closer ?

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