Commercial construction projects cannot be considered complete without Special Inspections. They provide key pieces of important decision-making information and verify the quality of work. Here’s what makes Special Inspections ‘Special’ and why you can’t build in the Kansas City area without them.
Specialized Skills and Tools Required
Architectural visions and structural engineering decisions rely on material and process details in order to bring a project to life. Special Inspections focus on those details and ensure structures can stand up to expected loading conditions. Starting with the soil and continuing with materials, fabrication, and positioning, Special Inspections put everything to the test in order to expose problems and low-quality work.
“Special Inspections can involve just about anything at a building site,” says AOG General Manager Blake Bennett. Managing expectations when you’re dealing with a lot of unknowns requires subsurface knowledge of the local terrain and a great deal of experience working with testing equipment.”
From soil subgrade materials, concrete, and steel to asphalt, masonry, and welding connections, the list of specific Special Inspection tests and observational methods is long. Which ones you need depends on the project, but Bennett says one thing every inspection requires is good technicians.
“You’ve got to understand how to handle instruments like scales, thermometers, and cylinders to analyze concrete. Reinforced steel bars have to be matched with drawings and project plans that call for very specific sizes, lengths, spice length, and spacing. And gauging soil density requires expertise in operating a nuclear densometer. Those are just a few examples. All inspection work we do requires the right tools in knowledgable hands because projects depend on those results.”
Special Inspections also involve monitoring construction processes as structures are being built. Good field technicians work on-site to make sure everything goes as planned. More importantly, they flag anything that doesn’t go as planned.
“They’re our eyes and ears in the field,” says Bennett. “They’re quick to identify surprises during construction and communicate up the chain so that engineers and construction managers can make speedy adjustments to keep progress moving forward. Inspections are “special” because they catch problems as they happen or before they happen, which is so much easier than having to go back and tear out a bunch of finished work to fix something.”
Inspections Ensure Integrity and Compliance
Special Inspections deliver promises made on paper. They validate soil conditions and confirm materials, placements and processes meet design specifications. When a test or observation reveals a flaw, the finding is recorded as a formal discrepancy that must be resolved. Bennett says tracking and following up on discrepancies is an especially critical function.
“It’s all about confidence in the construction. When Special Inspections are complete and all discrepancies are resolved, you’re certain the structure has been put together as intended. It’s really the only way to know for sure.”
Special Inspections prove structural designs have translated to structural integrity. Results verify a building’s ability to resist the pressure and weight of high load expectations, even if those loads never happen. Building codes are all about complete, documented proof of a structure’s strength, resistance, and safety.
Inspections Are Required By Law
Outside of rare exceptions in rural communities, Special Inspections are required by law for almost all commercial construction projects. It’s one of the first things builders need but often the last thing many think about. If you think your project could be an exception, be careful.
“Pretty much anything that can fall down and hurt someone needs Special Inspections,” explains Bennett. “Something as simple as a retaining wall that’s only a few feet high could collapse and cause injuries, so Special Inspections are required. Imagine how important and complex inspections can become in large commercial projects.”
The International Building Code (IBC) requires special inspections and local communities across the Kansas City area adhere to the IBC. A Statement of Special Inspections is standard in most project plans and general contractors used to working in our area understand this well. Structural engineers typically author the statement and then Alpha-Omega Geotech is brought in to do the work.
Failure to inspect can lead to expensive consequences and structural defect claims down the road. Bennett says your building won’t likely be allowed to open its doors without a signed document confirming all required Special Inspection work has been completed and results are satisfactory.
“We may not play a high-profile role in a construction project, but it’s an extremely important role. You can’t finish the job without us.”
Alpha-Omega Geotech performs all geotechnical Special Inspections required to comply with Kansas and Missouri building codes and can monitor compliance throughout all phases of construction.
Concerned about a specific issue on your project site? Please give us a call and we’ll do our best to help, especially if you’re not sure a specific inspection is needed.