Under the International Building Code, Special Inspection is not a discretionary activity. The conditions under which special inspections must be utilized is clearly stated in IBC Section 1704, however, there are provisions for the Building official to waive special inspections for work of a minor nature.
Special Inspection is the monitoring of the materials and workmanship critical to the integrity of the building structure. It is a review of the work of the contractors and their employees to ensure that the approved plans and specifications are being followed and that the relevant codes and referenced standards are being observed. The Special Inspection process is in addition to the inspections conducted by the Building Official and Structural Observation by the Design Professional. Special inspections and tests are required to be performed by qualified, independent agents with special expertise as approved by the Building Official.
The owner shall be responsible for retaining the services of an independent Inspection Testing Agency, if such services are required by this manual. Under no circumstances shall these services be provided by an independent agency, retained or engaged by the general construction contractor or any of its subcontractors. The independent inspection and testing agency shall monitor the quality of construction and provide a communication link with DCRA.
As part of the general requirements Section 1704 of the Building Code, Special Inspections, a Statement of Special Inspections (which includes a Schedule of Special Inspection Services) prepared by the Registered Design Professional in Responsible Charge shall be submitted to the Building Official at time of permit application.
Effective September 1, 2012, all permits submitted to DCRA that are subject to Chapter 17 (Structural Tests and Special Inspections) of the 2006 edition of the International Building Code (IBC) must comply with the DCRA Special Inspection Program Manual.
What are Special Inspections?
Formerly referred to as critical structures, special inspections are the closely coordinated process of design review, construction inspection, and materials testing that includes the Structural Engineer, Contractor, Special Inspector, Testing Agents, Property Owner, and DCRA.
Review of construction documents such as concrete rebar, structural steel erection, and shoring/reshoring shop drawings, as well as testing results for concrete, is a significant part of this process. And, as the name implies, special inspections requires periodic/or ongoing inspection of critical construction elements, such as soils, deep foundations (piles and caissons), concrete structural steel including member connections, and fireproofing performed by an approved Special Inspector. These inspections are highly complex and require specialized expertise that differentiates Special Inspections from conventional compliance inspections.
The District’s formal adoption of this process will put it in line with many other jurisdictions that had adopted the IBC.
When are Special Inspections Required?
Special Inspections are not limited only to high-rise buildings or stadiums. In fact, the scope of a Special Inspection may include a small newly-constructed library or a renovated office building. Special Inspections generally are required for any the following design elements:
1. Inspection of fabricators;
2. Structural Steel;
3. Cast in Place Concrete;
4. Precast Concrete (structural);
5. Masonry construction;
5. Wood construction (Heavy Timber or engineered trusses, beams, columns);
7. Pile foundations (timber, steel, auger cast, helical);
8. Pier foundations (Caissons);
9. Sprayed fire-resistant materials (SFRM);
11. Mastic and intumescent fire-resistant coatings;
12. Exterior insulation and finish systems (EIFS);
13. Special cases;
14. Smoke control; and
15. Tower Cranes (foundation).
However, Special Inspections are not intended for conventional designs such as basic spread footings or stick built or nominal lumber framing. The IBC exempts R-3 occupancy (single family dwellings) from Special Inspections, with the exception of footings located in problem soil areas.
What are the Key Steps Prior to Permit Issuance?
The property owner assembles the design team to handle all things related to Special Inspections. The primary document to prepare is the Statement of Special Inspections which must be included in the building permit application submitted to DCRA.
The Statement of Special Inspections shall include the Owner, the Special Inspector (who must be hired by the owner), the Registered Design Professional in Charge (the Structural Engineer in most cases), the General Contractor, and the Testing Agency.
DCRA will review all construction submittal documents, including the Statement of Special Inspections, to ensure that they comply with Chapter 17 of the IBC.
What are Key Steps During Construction and Prior to Certificate of Occupancy?
If Special Inspections are required, the application for a commercial building permit must include a Statement of Special Inspections prepared by the Registered Design Professional in Charge.
The Statement of Special Inspections must identify: (1) the scope of work subject to Special Inspections; and (2) the frequency of inspections and the name and contact information for the Registered Design Professional in Charge who will be responsible for exercising control over the Special Inspections Program.
The Statement of Special Inspections will be reviewed by DCRA for approval and acceptance as a condition of the issuance of a commercial building permit.
Upon issuance of a commercial building permit subject to Special Inspections and prior to the start of any construction, the Registered Design Professional in Charge must contact DCRA to determine whether a pre-construction meeting between DCRA and parties such as the owners, contractors, engineers, and architects will be necessary. If a pre-construction meeting is deemed necessary by DCRA, the pre-construction meeting will be scheduled to discuss the project and all DCRA and IBC procedures related to Special Inspections.
The Contractor is responsible for submitting to DCRA and the property owner a Statement of Contractor Responsibility attesting that they acknowledge the procedures and have adhered to them. Large or complex jobs may require submission of interim reports as construction phases occur to ensure that all work is approved prior to covering. Smaller or less complex jobs will require submission of the Final Report only.
Work requiring Special Inspections will be subject to random audits by DCRA. Special Inspectors must complete and maintain daily reports of all work inspected and must provide these records upon request by DCRA.
Upon completion of the work, the Registered Design Professional in Charge identified in the Statement of Special Inspections shall submit a Final Report to DCRA. No final inspection certification will be issued by DCRA or any approved Third Party Agency, nor will any Certificate of Occupancy, whether permanent or temporary, be issued by DCRA until DCRA has approved the Final Report for Special Inspections.
Who Pays for Special Inspections?
All fees and costs related to the Special Inspections must be paid by the property owner.