Special Inspection is required for specific types of construction work, as defined in Chapter 17 of the International Building Code (IBC). Typically, building components involve professional engineering, and architecture services may require a special inspection. ANAB offers an inspection body accreditation to ensure a management system is in compliance with ISO/IEC 17020, ASTM E329, and other local requirements throughout the construction project process in a given city or state. Examples of these requirements can be found within the New York City Department of Building (DOB), Philadelphia Building Code, Washington Building Code, etc. Understanding Special Inspections is vital to construction work because they do not only help ensure a project is built to the project specifications, but they also save lives.
What Are Special Inspections?
Special Inspections are inspections required by the International Building Code (IBC) or other specific State codes. They refer to the inspection of various construction materials and their installation, fabrication, erection, or replacement of components and connections requiring special expertise. A Special Inspection Agency is an independent and licensed third party that assesses construction work to ensure it is compliance with approved plans and building code. It is typically hired by the owner or design team to conduct Special Inspections throughout the construction process. This process verifies that work is being done in accordance with the approved plans, documents, and specifications. Depending on the complexity of the project, the inspections can range from periodic to continuous. Many large projects, such as schools, hospitals, or skyscrapers will have full time special inspectors on site at all times.
Special Inspections were first introduced into building codes in the 1988 supplement to the 1987 edition of the Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA) National Building Code. This supplement addressed improved building safety by including a new section, titled “Special Inspections.” The requirements outlined address three specific areas:
- Adequacy of construction material
- Installation techniques
Special Inspection requirements have been expanded over the years to include new structural components and were carried forward into the 2000 and all subsequent editions of the IBC to date.
What Do Special Inspectors Do?
Special Inspections are required for building components identified in IBC when a professional engineer or architect is required to perform the design of these components. The following table identifies some of the Special Inspections required by the codes. It is not an exhaustive list, so be certain to check your locally adopted code for required special inspections.
|Inspection||Inspection function (examples)|
|Steel construction||Verify integrity of framing welds, joints and high-strength bolts, locations of bracing and stiffening materials.|
|Concrete construction||Check reinforcing steel, connecting bolts, application technique, strength, required design mix and curing maintenance.|
|Masonry construction||Assess mortar joint construction, grout placement, reinforcement welding and prestressing techniques.|
|Wood construction||Check high-load diaphragms, framing members at panel edges, nail or staple diameters and length.|
|Pile and pier foundations||Evaluate materials, sizes, lengths, placement, plumbness, diameters and embeddedness.|
|Soils||Test soil classification, bearing capacity, fill quality and density.|
|Sprayed fire-resistant materials||Measure thickness; density; and bond strength to floors, walls and structural elements.|
|Mastics and intumescent coatings||Establish compliance with Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries standards.|
|Smoke control||Verify performance, operation and interaction with other systems and controls.|
|Special cases||Validate unusual designs, materials that must be installed to manufacturer’s specifications, alternate methods and materials.|
The inspector is generally required to verify the materials delivered to the project and their subsequent installation are per the approved plans and specifications. Some examples of the specific categories of Special Inspection that may be determined as Special Cases by the Building Official could be the following:
- Sprinkler systems (required in 99% of job sites/locations)
- Mechanical systems
- Energy code compliance
- Fire-rated assemblies and components
- Flood zone compliance (increasingly more important/common)
- HVAC ceiling installations and water heating controls
- Fuel systems
Special Inspections Key Concepts
Typically, the registered design professional for the project will establish the Special Inspection Program for the project. Design professionals usually consider the following details concerning special inspections:
- The specific category that needs Special Inspection, based on the structural design elements, Life/Safety considerations, seismic zone, weather impacts, etc.
- Special Inspections should be paid for by the owner. IBC Section 1704.1 states owners or their agents shall employ an approved agency to perform special inspections, removing any appearance of a conflict of interest with the general contractor paying for inspections of their work.
- Special Inspections may only be performed by qualified special inspectors approved by the building official. Some jurisdictions require the Special Inspector attain certifications, and the Inspection Agency be accredited to ASTM E329, ISO 17020, or ISO 17025.
- Special Inspection contracts with the owner are typically hourly with an estimated budget since the inspector has no control over the quality of the work, or the means and methods used by the general contractor in the installation of the work. This helps maintain the quality of the inspection activity, independence and impartiality.
- Special Inspections are not a substitute for the general contractor’s quality control (QC) programs.
- Special Inspections are also not a substitute for quality assurance (QA) and quality inspections performed by the jurisdiction.
- When done correctly, Special Inspections add QA to the project’s structural and life-safety components.
Why Are Special Inspections Required?
While various IBC editions have been adopted in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, not all states have a mandated uniform statewide building code. However, as of February 2015, all states including the U.S. territories have adopted uniform statewide building codes based on the 2003 or newer editions of the IBCin some manner.
While several states and localities have limited the requirements of Chapter 17 to be applicable only to state or local municipally funded projects, these are the minority. Some form of Special Inspections is required by the building code on commercial facilities in nearly every state. If one is unsure whether Special Inspections are required in a specific project location, it is recommended a copy of the uniform statewide or local building code be obtained, as well as a review of amendments to the adopted edition of the nationally recognized building code, such as the IBC.
Accreditation for Special Inspection Agencies
To achieve accreditation for Special Inspection Agencies, a recognized Accreditation Body like ANAB will perform an assessment on the Special Inspection Agency. The assessment will evaluate the inspection bodies compliance with the requirements of ISO 17020, ASTM E329, and any local requirements from the Building Department. The assessment also includes witnessing of inspections being conducted at project sites or in fabrication facilities. In so doing, ANAB provides objective evidence of compliance for the building department or customer needs, that the inspection body has the required management system procedures in place, per ISO/IEC 17020 – Conformity Assessment Requirements.
New York Building Code (Special Inspection Agencies)
Special Inspections have been required for all New York City Building Code since July 2008. The purpose of Special Inspections is to enhance the safety of construction projects by improving the integrity of inspections and tests, and preventing unqualified technicians from evaluating material installations. Simply put, the objective is to ensure compliance with approved construction documents, references standards, and codes.
ANAB’s program for inspection body accreditation extends to accreditation of Special Inspection Agencies, with specifics targeted to New York City requirements. Section 101-06 of the NY Building Code mandates that agencies conducting special inspections in NYC shall be accredited for the intended scope of inspection by an approved accreditation body. ANAB is recognized by the New York City Department of Building (DOB) as an Accreditation Body for special inspection agencies.
Philadelphia Building Code (Special Inspection Agencies)
ANAB conducts Accreditation of Special Inspection Agencies in Pennsylvania, City of Philadelphia Special Inspection Agencies. ANAB performs Accreditation of Special Inspection Agencies under City of Philadelphia Licenses, Inspections Special Inspections Agencies, and Inspectors Requirements Document. An agency may use accreditation to ISO/IEC 17020 from an established accreditation entity as an alternative to the Agency Experience Requirements.
Washington Building Code (Special Inspection Agencies)
The Washington Association of Building Officials (WABO) has recognized ANAB as an Acceptable Accrediting Authority to accredit Special Inspection Agencies under the WABO Special Inspection Registration Program. This program was developed to create a uniform method of determining the qualifications of Special Inspection Agencies and Special Inspectors. Both the WABO Special Inspection Registration Program and the WABO Inspection Perform Qualification Standard 1701 establish uniform qualification and procedures for registrations. ANAB is listed as an Acceptable Accrediting Authority in WABO Standard 1701.