Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona in Building Operations on May 30, 2013
There are four categories of Local Law 11 special inspections:
(1) General Building Construction
(2) Fire Protection Systems and Fire-Resistant Construction
(3) Plumbing and Mechanical Systems
(4) Structural Materials and Construction Operations
The design applicant for the project (professional engineer or registered architect) identifies the special inspections required for a project. He or she lists those inspections on the TR-1 form (the Department of Building's Technical Report Statement of Responsibility). The building owner is responsible for hiring a registered Special Inspection Agency to perform all of the required inspections.
The Special Inspection Agency certifies its inspection responsibilities on the TR-1 as the inspection applicant, and the owner (or the owner's expeditor) then submits to the DOB the completed TR-1, with the names of the Special Inspection Agency and the inspections it will perform. The DOB will not issue a work permit until the completed TR-1 is filed and accepted.
Special inspections cover a wide range of items. In general, the special inspector looks at such things as: is the contractor using the right products and installing them in accordance with the approved plans? Are materials properly stored at the site (e.g., does the cement meet the specified standards, and are bags of cement kept dry, or are they left out in the rain)? Is the contractor mixing and placing concrete as indicated on the drawings and in applicable codes? Are technicians qualified to perform the specific tasks (e.g., is the welder licensed for the type of welds specified)?
For a typical façade project, the special inspector would check such specific items as the alignment of the supporting structure, inserts, framing components, anchors, welding, drainage elements, joints, dams, sealants, and gaskets.
Special inspections on certain items (such as cast-in-place concrete) are typically performed multiple times throughout the course of a project. The number of inspections required depends on the contractor's sequence of work and the quality of the construction. A foundation wall, for example, may require only a single inspection if the contractor forms the entire wall before pouring concrete and the work conforms to the approved drawings.
Conversely, the same wall may require several inspections if the contractor builds it in stages. For example, the special inspector would observe steel reinforcement and formwork for each section before the concrete is poured (and the reinforcement is concealed). Follow-up inspections could also be needed if the contractor did not properly perform the work.
The tests special inspectors conduct also vary from project to project. Some jobs, such as simple façade repairs, may be checked solely via visual observation. Others, such as concrete construction, may require several physical tests, which could be destructive, nondestructive, or both. A certified inspector may test concrete each time it is poured to confirm that the temperature, air content, and slump conform to the design specifications. The same inspector would also cast concrete cylinders to test for compressive strength in the lab.
Other possible tests include (but are not limited to) x-ray imaging and magnetic particle inspections of steel welds, compaction tests for soils, and adhesion tests for spray-applied fireproofing.
Throughout the project, the special inspector submits periodic special inspection reports to the building owner and the contractor. The special inspector is obligated to immediately notify the contractor of any discrepancies observed in the work. If these deficiencies are not corrected, the special inspector must bring them to the attention of the owner and the design engineer/architect. At the end of the project, the Special Inspection Agency certifies that the necessary special inspections have been performed and that the work does or does not conform to the approved construction documents.
Condominium and co-op boards should keep in mind the means and methods of construction, including construction sequencing and site safety programs, remain the contractor's responsibility. The special inspector does not have the authority to stop a contractor from proceeding with construction. As always, this must be done directly by the owner.
Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona are principals at Rand Engineering & Architecture.
Photo by Carol Ott
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