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Inconsistent Enforcement and Responsibility

Discussion in 'Code Administration' started by jar546, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

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    Do you like the thread topic name? I thought so. There isn't much that gets inspectors shaking their heads or rolling their eyes than responses from those getting inspected such as "I've been doing like that for 20 years" or "I just did 3 other jobs the exact same way in another town without a problem" or even the "I've never heard of that before." On the other side of the coin, if you want to get contractors to bond together, get them talking about inspectors and they will go from competitors to best friends in a heartbeat. Controversy is a big part of this industry but it doesn't have to be if we analyze what's going on.

    First let's talk about inspectors. We are as a group very inconsistent. There is no denying that. Some of you are very disciplined with your inspections, knowledgeable, fair and consistent. Others are somewhat incompetent or worse yet are in the "do as I say, code required or not" camp. Those are the guys that make my blood boil. Those that want people to do things there way and write stuff up that is not a code issue, only an issue because the inspector does not like it. In other words, the "chest beater" inspector with an attitude. I for one inspect in many municipalities and see first hand what is going on because in some of those towns I just fill in and often get called out for reinspections. I get to see what others write up and what they miss and hear the complaints from the contractors. I routinely go out for a reinspection of specific items only to find significant violations that were missed by the previous inspector. I write them up anyway because I refuse to turn my head to obvious and important violations. I too, like everyone else misses things but it is the exception, not the rule. Inspector and AHJ attitudes in other areas affect everyone because it makes a uniform code not so uniform when the enforcement is lacks or inconsistent. You are really not helping the cause or truly helping a contractor out because you "feel bad" that they have to spend money to fix a violation, so you look the other way. You are just setting them up for failure in another jurisdiction that is not afraid to do their job. It also helps to even the playing field with contractors as they are all held to the same standard regardless of how they bid the job.

    Now on to the contractors. Oh yeah, the GC, electrician, plumber, mechanical contractor, etc. that is always ready with an excuse for why the obvious violation is not a violation. Remember those responses above in the first paragraph? Let's look a little deeper into them. They all have one thing in common. They are excuses, not legitimate reasons. Contractors, in general, will get away with whatever they can based on the level of code enforcement they encounter. Here is an example. Years ago I did an expert witness job for a few homeowners in a development. The development was actually sitting on a border and one side of the street was in one jurisdiction and the other, in another. The houses were built by the same contractor but the inspections were performed by different AHJs. The level of construction quality and code compliance was a polar opposite based on what AHJ was handling the inspections. On one side of the street the houses were code compliant due to proper enforcement. The other side was another story. Shortcuts such as no underfloor insulation in the basement, no housewrap, no window flashing, smaller beams and a myriad of other violations were all consistent where the code enforcement was lacking. This was one development with the same contractor. If he knew he could get away with it, he did. By the way, the incompetent inspector was decertified by the state and lost his job as a result of this lawsuit. This might be just one example but responsibility is key to these situations.

    Regardless of what contractors get away with in other municipalities, they have a responsibility to know the codes and follow them. Just like we received education to keep up with code changes, so should they. When I hear this from a contractor: "I wish you guys (inspectors) would all be on the same page so we know what's required" it sort of sets me off. My response to that is usually "You are the contractor and should know what is required and not change how you do things based on the quality of the enforcement." You see, we can't allow our (inspectors) inconsistency be an excuse for the contractors. They have a responsibility to know what they are doing and know the codes. Unless a municipality hase amendments that are more strict that the code, there should be no inconsistencies. Both the inspectors and contractors have a responsibility to each other, the industry and themselves.
     
    mark handler, my250r11, JBI and 3 others like this.
  2. MtnArch

    MtnArch Sawhorse

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    Jeff - just tell the GC that "you guys" ARE all on the same page .. the pages of the code book!
     
    jar546 likes this.
  3. fatboy

    fatboy Administrator

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    Spot on, all counts. I tell my guys that the chest beater, do it my way will not fly in our shop. If you write it, be prepared to prove it. As for the " I did the last three jobs just like this" I usually say, "Well, we can go back there and you can correct them", they drop that conversation really quickly. If they say that one of the other inspectors lets me do it this way, I pull out my cell and say "I would be happy to call him!"

    Thanks for the great post!
     
    JBI likes this.
  4. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    It has been this way for as long as I have been in construction. We make no effort to unify our approach to the codes. In the age of the internet we could make every inspector equal to the best inspector. We could spell out policy in no uncertain terms and have it available to all with a few key strokes. We have not even tried to embrace the internet to enhance our performance as inspectors.

    I get the feeling that inspectors are not supposed to be all that smart. If you consider the lack of complexity in the codes one must wonder what the big deal is all about. Take CBC Chapter 11 for example. Complex it is not. Voluminous it is. But here's the thing; the government created a classification of inspector called Certified Access Specialist to deal with Chapter 11. Why is that? Well is it because we mere inspectors aren't smart enough?

    And let's face the facts, anybody can become a contractor. There are few regulators and contractors get away with robbing the public much less doing crap work.

    You seldom hear about a good inspector or a good contractor. They exist.

    About once a month a contractor or owner compliments me for doing my job. They are just not used to that. A couple times a month I compliment a contractor for doing his job. They are just not used to that.

    About ten times a month a contractor tells me that I am crazy. I’m used to that.

    Something for all of us to remember is that we all know what we are. The lazy inspector, the bullying inspector, the dumb inspector and the crooked inspector as well as the competent inspector.....we all know.....so does everyone else.
     
    #4 ICE, Jun 9, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
    Pcinspector1 and JBI like this.
  5. Nearly-Complete

    Nearly-Complete Registered User

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    Your point is good but your example is bad. ADA issues go well beyond Chapter 11, and a CASp is supposed to know a lot more than one chapter of code. Disabled Access is not a simple issue for a business owner and they do need a way to know that somebody is a subject matter expert when seeking advise.
     
  6. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Engineers want consistent enforcement based on the adopted codes. This will support better quality construction and will ultimately reduce the problems engineers have to deal with on projects..

    Inconsistent enforcement facilitates poor quality construction.

    A certain California state agency, DSA, is known for expecting their plan checkers to make a lot of comments regardless of the quality of the submission. The designers know this and will often submit a less than perfect submission with the understanding that they can complete the coordination after receiving the plan check comments.

    Any inspector that has a habit of requiring things not clearly required by the code should be terminated. Such practices only exist because management of the building departments do not care. So while it is easy to blame the inspector or plan checker ultimately the building official must share the blame.
     
    jar546 likes this.
  7. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    I can guarantee that the business owner's issues with the construction are far more complicated that a grab bar and a mirror. Of course any slimeball, excuse me I meant lawyer, any lawyer can't haul off and sue the owner over a trifling code violation.

    Where I work an inspector is required to know 100+ chapters of codes. Every now and then you'll encounter an expert on the subject matter. There's one working in my office.
     
    #7 ICE, Jun 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
  8. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    We got tired of hearing the whole "well I just built it this way over in _____ and they let me do it". So we now all get together 4 times a year and talk about pain point, inconsistencies, etc. Imagine that, about a dozen different AHJs getting together to talk about stuff. People thought we were geniuses when we started doing it. I was just tired of hearing the excuses. It was interesting when our contractors started to notice a difference. We actually received positive comments. Still complaints like, "I wish <insert name of cheat beating inspector here> would get on board with you guys, it helps a lot when everyone is on the same page", but much more positive.

    Our meetings are "invite only". The chest beaters are not invited. They know who they are and they know that we know because other people from their offices are invited. If they want to "join the club", they just need to straighten their act up.

    The other thing we have done is pivot our organization from a primarily regulatory to one that helps with code compliance. Now, I do not typically find things done "wrong" on construction sites, I get a phone call asking for help because the contractor has never dealt with this situation before. We just find stuff that is missed or forgotten now. Contractors are ashamed they miss it, but we often remind them that this is why we are here. A fresh set of eyes.

    We do still have the contractors that would undersize a beam in their mother's house to save a buck. They get dealt with differently.

    My other favorite situation is when an engineer spec'ed the wrong fire dampers in the HVAC system. Wasn't tested to the right standard and was a static damper in a dynamic system. We rejected the submittal in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they had already been installed. There was an engineer running the project and I notified her why the dampers were rejected and she went back to the mechanical engineer. He did up a letter about why they are fine, so I wrote a letter rejecting his letter. When she got my letter, she figured it out. She called me very upset that she had trusted this engineer. This was the fourth building they had built with these dampers. She asked me why had we been able to catch the issue? The other 3 municipalities that they had constructed these buildings in were larger and one would assume had better enforcement. I indicated that unfortunately, many inspectors rely on the engineer's stamp and do not review anything once they see it, relying instead on the expectation that the engineer performed their job. The company this woman worked for is a multi-billion privately held company. Easily the largest employer in my province. So when they asked the mechanical engineering firm to cover the cost to replace the dampers in all four buildings, they really did not have another option, unless you want to count going out of business.
     
  9. e hilton

    e hilton Bronze Member

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    Thats why they have E&O insurance.
     
  10. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

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    So true Ice! It takes years to acquire and continue to add to our knowledge and yet GC licences are handed out to anyone who takes a class/classes. Now we have the age of the "CM", no trade experience but they have a degree; does that make them our equals? They seem to think so (smiling). We have only begun to see the deluge of defect lawsuits yet to be prosecuted by CM managed projects, especially CM'multi-prime.

    Inspectors, hold your heads up high; we are the first and last line defenders of public safety. There are not nearly enough of us and may never be.
     
    Ty J. likes this.

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