Jared Krause is a vice president and the deputy general manager of facilities construction services at Urban. He has experience in engineering design, construction management, and construction inspection on a range of projects including high-rise development, tenant fit-out, site development, and horizontal infrastructure improvements. We spoke with him about the field of special inspections and the crucial role it plays in delivering safe and code compliant construction.
A: Special inspections are inspections, observations and/or tests performed by a third party unaffiliated with the construction team to ensure plan, specification, and code compliance for specific construction elements. Special inspections are performed by engineers, inspectors, and technicians with experience and certifications in a specific type of construction. The Building Code definition of a special inspection is the inspection of selected materials, equipment, installation, fabrication, erection or placement of components and connections, to ensure compliance with approved construction documents and referenced standards.
A: Building Code requirements for inspection/testing are not a new idea and provisions for inspections have been around for decades. Unfortunately, the enforcement of inspections and the implementation of inspection programs on building construction projects has been very poor since the concept first appeared in editions of the Uniform Building Code (UBC), National Building Code (BOCA), and finally, the International Building Code (IBC) in 2000.
I attribute structural failures such as the 1981 collapse of the Hyatt Regency walkway in Kansas City as the primary impetus for change in building construction inspection. Today, the City of Philadelphia is enforcing a Special Inspection Program with 15 different inspection categories, and New York City began strictly enforcing a Special Inspection Program in 2012 with almost 50 different inspection categories.
A: Special inspections plays a crucial role in delivering safe and code compliant construction. When administered and performed properly, Special inspections can improve construction quality in the field through inspections, observations and testing.
A: The key to a successful special inspection project is getting involved as early as we can with the project team. We always insist on an inspection kick-off meeting with the contractor and preferably ownership and the design team prior to the start of construction. The kick-off meetings serves to define our scope of inspection, to explain the responsibilities of each party involved, and to set clear expectations of what, when and where we need to inspect.
A: Special inspections do not replace local building departments or building inspection officials. To perform special inspections in the City of Philadelphia and in New York City, the entity must be registered with the city. The building department defines the requirements for registration/accreditation, sets the duties and responsibilities of special inspection agencies, and enforces the program. We still regularly observe city officials performing independent inspections and reviews of construction projects.
A: As special inspectors, we face various challenges on job sites. One of the biggest challenges we face is the lack of engagement by the rest of the project team. It is difficult to perform our duties efficiently if we are not brought to the table with ownership, the design team, construction manager, and contractor. Too often we submit inspection reports with deficiencies and our reports do not receive the proper attention. Another significant challenge is staying within the project inspection budget. As a special inspection agency we do not control the project schedule, contractor’s means/methods, phasing, or working hours yet there is an expectation in the industry that we can provide a not-to-exceed inspection fee or a lump sum for inspection services.
A: I expect to see special inspections programs being implemented and enforced across more cities and states throughout the country. I also expect to see current cities with special inspection programs such as Philadelphia, to expand the scope of required inspections to include more inspection categories.