Special Inspections: Consistency in Design
During construction of most commercial and multi-tenant housing projects, Special Inspections and Testing (SI&T) are required by the Building Code. Special inspections are mostly performed on structural components such as foundations, steel, masonry and concrete; a failure to perform these inspections could result in life-threatening concerns. The intent of special inspections is that that the owner, designers and building officials gain confidence in knowing that what is being built is consistent with what was originally designed.
One of the requirements of special inspections is that the firm is retained and paid for by the owner or design team. The contractor should not retain the SI&T, primarily to avoid a potential conflict of interest. When selecting a firm, the two questions owners frequently ask are: How much will it cost, and who should I hire?
How much will it cost?
The American Council of Engineering Companies provided guidance on these fees. For typical structures on a site with good soil conditions, budgeting 1/4 to 1/3 a percent of construction costs is a good place to start. For sites with poor soils that require deep foundations, large soil corrections or large multi-level reinforced concrete structures, 1/2 to 2/3 of a percent of the budget should be set aside for SI&T.
Who should I hire?
When selecting a firm, you should consider the continuity of geotechnical responsibility for the individual performing the SI&T. Given the risks of soil-related cost overruns during construction, involving the same geotechnical engineer during construction can provide valuable consulting when unanticipated conditions occur. They can also assist the construction team in evaluating if what is being built is consistent with the original geotechnical design. Another important factor in selecting a firm is confirming that the individual performing the SI&T is qualified. The Building Code requires that this be demonstrated through training and experience in successfully performing SI&T on similar projects.
Special inspectors have an important role and should be an integral part of the construction team, as they must communicate with the building official, structural engineer, architect, contractor and owner. While we are blessed with many excellent contractors in Minnesota, special inspectors provide valuable assistance to help catch the mistakes that can occur when building a structure. Contact Christopher Kehl at 952.995.2386 for more information.