Special Inspections Required for New Buildings by The International Building Code

March 22, 2010

It has been our experience that a large number of developers, building owners and architects are unaware of the requirements that are imposed by the International Building Code (IBC) that has been adopted by all 50 states.  CEC has had to inform many of our clients about the requirements for Special Inspections. Chapter 17 stipulates that Special Inspections (inspections by a qualified third party) are not discretionary and are required in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy for additions and new commercial construction. There is a separate IBC Code for one- and two-family dwellings.  Failure to obtain Special Inspections could put obtaining an occupancy permit at risk.  The IBC states that it is unlawful to occupy any building in violation of any provision of the code.

 The IBC specifies that procurement of these Special Inspections is the responsibility of the owner or the design professional in responsible charge of the project acting as the owner’s representative. The Special Inspections are not to be provided by the contractor performing the construction because it puts an inspector hired by the contractor in a conflict of interest. Special Inspections may include inspections/testing of soils and earthwork, foundations, reinforced concrete, reinforced masonry, structural steel, welds, high strength bolts, etc. Special Inspections are more detailed and comprehensive than traditional construction monitoring/testing and are required to be performed by trained and certified inspectors.  The International Code Council (author of the IBC) tests and certifies Special Inspectors.  Special Inspectors are certified for specific types of construction activities only after completing courses of study and testing. 

 Owners and cost estimators should note that properly conducted Special Inspections for a project cost more than traditional inspections. This is because the Special Inspector must be onsite longer to complete the code-required inspections and testing. Based on experience with Special Inspection costs in the Carolinas where Special Inspections have been required for over 10 years, costs can vary from between 1 to 2 percent of the construction cost, depending on the size of the project, the complexity of the structure, and the required Special Inspections.  Although more costly to perform, a well-executed Special Inspections program can provide increased value by reducing the risk for potential litigation due to poor structure performance or failures, increasing the quality of construction, and improving records of the construction processes.  These benefits can easily offset the cost increase over traditional inspections. 

 If you have any questions about the IBC Special Inspections, how they may impact an upcoming project, and how you can meet the IBC requirements, contact Jeffrey Woodcock, P.E. (jwoodcock@cecinc.com) or Micah Sayles (msayles@cecinc.com) at 800-365-2324.

About the Author

Jeffrey Woodcock

Jeff Woodcock, P.E., is a Vice President in CEC's Civil Engineering Practice and leads the Geotechnical Engineering subgroup. He works out of the Pittsburgh headquarters office and is a registered P.E. in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Delaware.

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