If you’re building a commercial structure in Kansas or Missouri, it will likely require Special Inspections. These Special Inspections are required by the International Building Code (IBC) and are performed in addition to building inspections required by municipalities.
If your project involves any type of structural components, such as foundation work, masonry, concrete, high-strength bolts, or welding of structural steel, a Statement of Special Inspections will be required before an Occupancy Permit can be issued. This ensures your building is structurally safe and in compliance with IBC and the local jurisdiction’s building codes and ordinances.
Planning for Painless Progress
Unplanned construction surprises cost money and waste time. As it is, the need for Special Inspections already surprises many builders.
“Bigger construction companies know how things work, but emerging players in the market or out-of-town contractors usually overlook Special Inspections completely,” says AOG General Manager Blake Bennett. “They’re unaware until they’re hit with the requirement just before work begins, and then it’s a scramble.”
That scramble typically begins when Special Inspections requirements come to light during the permitting process. Just when a builder thinks they’re ready to start digging, they realize they still need to engage a Special Inspections provider and make room in both their budget and timeline. Bennett says it’s a fire drill he sees in about half of the projects he handles.
“Unless you’re an experienced builder or established developer in our area, you’re probably not even going to know about Special Inspections until a local government official reviews your permit and points it out.”
It’s not uncommon for Bennett to find himself on the phone with a panicked builder who’s just been handed a set of plans with a list of Special Inspections Requirements. They anxiously try to nail down costs and squirm at the thought of having to tell the owner about an additional budget item.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.
“The builder is under pressure to get things figured out fast,” says Bennett. “And he wants to know what we can do and what we need from him to get it done yesterday. So then I’ve got to sit down and explain how this process works to someone saying, ‘I’ve never heard of this before. I didn’t even know this requirement existed.”
And the sprint to set up inspections begins.
While the builder rushes to secure permission to begin work, the process of setting up Special Inspections can only move so fast. Bennett must first review the details of the project and provide written proof that AOG is qualified and ready to deliver the required inspections. The documentation must be specific to gain approval from city officials, and more delays are possible if even one error is found.
“There’s a cascade of events that must happen,” says Bennett. “The inspection requirements are dictated by the structural engineer and he puts them together based on local building codes. Then I have to go through it all and estimate what it’s going to take to complete and what that’s going to cost.”
Last-minute estimating can be difficult, and without enough time to plan efficiently, costs can quickly climb. Special Inspections work depends on how a project’s general contractor works. How many people will be working at the site? What kind of equipment will they be using?
Carefully planning Special Inspections and minimizing costs is extremely hard to do without knowing exactly how the general contractor intends to approach construction.
“There’s also the financial heartburn that comes with a last-minute scramble,” explains Bennett. “While I’m trying to pinpoint numbers, the project owner may not have much room for the cost of Special Inspections in the budget. It can get really uncomfortable. I’ve been in situations where project financing is already completely finished and there’s literally no money allocated for Special Inspections, but they’re required.”
Excessive pressure on construction budgets can backfire, and Special Inspections are a prime example. Inexperienced builders may choose a Special Inspections partner based on little more than price without considering the lowest bidder could end up struggling to complete the work.
“You’ve got to make sure the partner you choose to handle your Special Inspections can actually do all of them… and do them well,” says Bennett. “Inexperienced builders behind the curve will sometimes just do a quick Internet search and hire the first Special Inspections company that shows up on the page. That approach only sets the stage for expensive slowdowns once inspections are underway. Not all Special Inspections companies know which local building codes and ordinances could bring your project to a halt.”
The Value of Local Expertise
Each jurisdiction adopts its own set of regulations that guides construction, maintenance, and occupancy standards for commercial structures. Special Inspection standards are typically the same in every jurisdiction, however, they can differ in how they are implemented and enforced from one zip code to the next.
Local expertise allows you to skip over hurdles that can slow a project down. Our team already knows the rules, regulations, and nuances of most of the region’s building codes and ordinances, and many local building officials, engineers, and inspectors already know and trust them.
“Every community is different to some degree,” explains Bennett. “But we’ve worked in so many jurisdictions across Kansas and Missouri and that experience translates to big value for builders. We’ve been down most of these municipal roads before and we know the local building codes and ordinances like the back of our hand.”
If you aren’t familiar with the local construction standards required by the community you’re building in, you could face fines, penalties, and delays. And as we said before, local Planning & Development Departments will not issue a Certificate of Occupancy until all Special Inspection reports, including the final report, have been submitted and accepted.
“All the way down to the paperwork. This city does it this way but that city is different, and so on. The only way to know how to work the gray areas and keep things moving forward is by having experienced locals on your team. We’ve been doing this for decades and it really makes a difference.”
Modern Methods Matter
The ability to quickly and accurately relay observations from a project site to the design team and back to the building contractors in charge streamlines construction and helps control costs.
“You can do all the tests you want, but if the information doesn’t flow to the right people at the right times, it’s not helpful. In fact, if communication is especially slow it can create some expensive problems. A long lag in reporting sometimes means mistakes can literally be covered up by other trade work by the time a problem comes to light, and then you’ve got to tear out materials to fix it.”
Paper, pens, and clipboards may still have their place, but a speedy cloud-based reporting solution provides more reliable tools to track Special Inspections work. Alpha-Omega Geotech depends on MetaField®, one of the more trusted cloud-based reporting systems available. Cloud-based reporting allows field data to be entered and tracked in real-time via mobile devices for fast evaluation.
“The more everyone is synchronized and working with the same, accurate information, the better your decisions and processes will be,” says Bennett. “It’s that simple.”
A Firm Devoted to Your Goals
Savvy builders turn to local architects, structural, and civil engineers they trust to recommend reliable Special Inspections’ firms. Bennett says those referrals are one of the main reasons AOG continues to rise to the top.
“We’re well beyond being small, inexperienced, and incapable, but not so large or corporate that we’re sticker-shock expensive or inflexible if conditions change. Our good reputation comes from our ability to perform quality work on simple commercial projects, as well as massive medical towers, utility substations, industrial warehouses, and manufacturing facilities. We’ve seen virtually everything you might encounter above and below a construction site anywhere in the Kansas City area.”
Alpha-Omega Geotech engineers have an extensive forensic history in the area and are often called on to evaluate the most complex sites and conditions. Our laboratory is well-known for setting an especially high bar for accuracy, and our field technicians are skilled and motivated and they show up prepared and ready to go.
“Our technicians are forward-leaning and know they must be the eyes and ears for engineers and construction managers throughout the life of the project. They realize the urgency of identifying problems and opportunities and understand key decisions will be made based on their work. Along with our engineers, our field techs aren’t just there to meet minimum standards. They’re there to get the job done right.”
At the end of the day, good engineering is more about good judgment and creative problem solving than math and calculations. “We usually know what will work because we’ve delivered it before,” says Bennett. “And we know what won’t work because we’ve seen others try it and fail. We can’t force you to listen to us, but if you don’t, it’s probably going to end up costing you money.”
Alpha-Omega Geotech performs all geotechnical Special Inspections required to comply with Kansas and Missouri building codes, and we can monitor compliance throughout all phases of construction. Here’s a list of some of the inspections we are frequently asked to perform >>