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Soils Reports

Genduct

Registered User
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
297
Location
Philadelphia PA
Remember that when you issue your MAKE SAFE order that the target of this order is the building owner. You are not in a position to direct the engineer or the contractor to do something. As the building official you can take action against the building and possibly the building owner. Inevitability the building owner will address the problem.

The building owner has contracts with the contractor in addition to the design team. Under this system the Owner would typically tell the contractor to make the repair. In some cases, it may be necessary for the owner's engineer to design a repair that will be a part of the completed structure. The Owner's engineer's design has defined what the completed building should look like., not the means and methods of construction.

The reality in almost all cases the contract between the owner and the contractor makes the contractor responsible for means and methods. This is a bedrock principle of owner contractor agreements. The type of insurance the contractor has does not modify this liability. It is not uncommon for contractors to hire their own engineer to advise them on how to affect the repair.

The contractor's contract is based on their having control of the means and methods of construction. If you were to make the Owner's engineer responsible for the means and methods of construction the engineer would inevitably require the contractor do things different than the Contractor assumed in his bid. This in turn would lead to claims against the Owner for the added cost. So, in the case where the Contractor was responsible for the problem this could result in the Owner being responsible for the repair cost.

It would be interesting if a plan checker on a project being built for the city, he worked for, would require the structural engineer be responsible for the means and methods of construction. My sense is that this plan checker would quickly get an education.

The building department should focus on code compliance and not on who is responsible.

Where an individual started out is not as important as what they know. Transitioning from working in the trades to being a plan reviewer creates a lot of challenges because inevitably the tradesman has only seen part of the story. This is particularly a problem when a plan reviewer with no structural training tries to plan check structural issues. Here the issue is not who the plan reviewer is but rather what he knows. In my experience this is not a major problem in California since building departments either have a plan checker with a structural background on staff or contract with a separate firm to perform structural plan checks.
Mark, I agree with much of what you said

We have 2 levels of Make Safe, the ID Imenatly Dangerous is the one where collapse or catastrophic failure is possible Requires an Engineer Inspection / Review and Plans.

If only, the docs reflect the complete analysis you have provided. The Engineer does not clearly state where their responsibility ends and the Contractor is going to try to make the job look like the Engineer drew it when done, The Contractor on this small job, not understanding that they don't have a real plan as to how to hold the building up while they are trying to fix it, does their best to make "it happen" They probably don't understand the Means and methods concept on this small job.

Since our Job is Public Safety, and I, like you, understand this Means and Methods aspect, feel it my responsibility to bring this to the Contractor's attention. If fact, I feel the absence of the Means and Methods Sequence or Instructions, makes this Permit Application Incomplete. I don't want to be involved with a situation where someone would lose their Limbs or Life because of the absence of an engineered approach to fixing a structural problem.

Do you see this as Over Reaching?
 

Plumb-bob

Registered User
Joined
Aug 31, 2022
Messages
12
Location
BC
What recourse is there for inspectors when we encounter and engineer that is doing a poor job? I was recently involved with several projects where the EOR was working way outside of his scope, and even the work he was qualified to perform was poorly executed and it resulted in serious pain for the property owners, building department (me), and the engineer.
I, along with inspectors from nearby jurisdictions, reported him to hiss association. As a result he has had his professional designation removed and has fines levies against him.
The experience taught me to not blindly accept anything. If I have questions about something in an engineering report I ask them, even at the risk of sounding stupid.
Not an attack on engineers, I have met inspectors that were not performing their job correctly too. I like to keep in mind that anybody can have a bad day and make mistakes.
 

ICE

Moderator
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
10,789
Location
Ca. concrete jungle
Not an attack on engineers, I have met inspectors that were not performing their job correctly too. I like to keep in mind that anybody can have a bad day and make mistakes.
Poorly performing inspectors are way more common that shoddy engineers. It's not even close.


The experience taught me to not blindly accept anything. If I have questions about something in an engineering report I ask them, even at the risk of sounding stupid.
I have encountered engineers that demean the questioner. Most people experience that just once.

I have learned a great many things by asking engineers questions. Keep in mind that the engineer didn't always know the answer....it took someone telling it to him.
 

Msradell

Sawhorse
Joined
Jul 23, 2011
Messages
1,125
Location
Louisville Kentucky
I don't know about in other areas but here in Kentucky and architect can act as a structural engineer for most buildings. They can even wet stamp drawings in lieu of a structural engineer stamping the drawings. Some of them do pretty good but the majority of them provide details that are lacking at best and disastrous at worst in many cases! I firmly believe that every commercial structure should be Req to have a structural engineer review and stamp the drawings! Some of the stories I read in the thread certainly support my thought!
 

Mark K

Platinum Member
Joined
May 12, 2010
Messages
2,191
I'm not sure how what I did was in violation of the law. The code clearly lays out the requirements related to sub-surface investigation. It remains my job to seek code compliance with the owner.
The adopted building code is a law.. What gives you the authority to require something not in the law? What gives you the authority to withhold a permit when there is no violation of the building code? I contend that when you do such things you are violating the rights of the applicant.
 

Mark K

Platinum Member
Joined
May 12, 2010
Messages
2,191
Mark, I agree with much of what you said

We have 2 levels of Make Safe, the ID Imenatly Dangerous is the one where collapse or catastrophic failure is possible Requires an Engineer Inspection / Review and Plans.

If only, the docs reflect the complete analysis you have provided. The Engineer does not clearly state where their responsibility ends and the Contractor is going to try to make the job look like the Engineer drew it when done, The Contractor on this small job, not understanding that they don't have a real plan as to how to hold the building up while they are trying to fix it, does their best to make "it happen" They probably don't understand the Means and methods concept on this small job.

Since our Job is Public Safety, and I, like you, understand this Means and Methods aspect, feel it my responsibility to bring this to the Contractor's attention. If fact, I feel the absence of the Means and Methods Sequence or Instructions, makes this Permit Application Incomplete. I don't want to be involved with a situation where someone would lose their Limbs or Life because of the absence of an engineered approach to fixing a structural problem.

Do you see this as Over Reaching?
The standard owner contractor agreements do a good job of describing the contractor's responsibilities.

There is a difference between sharing insights and using the power of you office to force somebody to do something when you lack legal authority to do so.

You say it is your responsibility to bring the issue to the contractor's attention. If there is a problem with the submitted permit drawings it is the responsibility of the Owner and his consultants, not the contractor, to address the problem.

Another relevant legal issue has to do with immunity of government employees. There are exceptions to this immunity. A common one at least in California is when you have established a special relationship to protect an individual. When you have crossed this line, you no longer have immunity and can thus have liability.

I will admit that the building code doesn't say a lot about some issues, particularly with regards geotechnical reports, and that there may be no obvious tools to address some of the situations noted. My advice is to talk with the City attorney. From the architect's and the engineer's perspective construction administration can be nerve-racking since in addition to worrying about the safety of the building they are also worried about having potential liability for contractors claims. In such situations you are best served by playing it by the book. If you take it upon yourself to set things right you may be setting yourself up to take the fall if there are problems.

In the case of what you believe is a questionable geotechnical report where you cannot quote a code provision it might make sense to consult with another geotechnical engineer. to better appreciate what the code says about geotechnical reports. If you still cannot find a reason to refuse to issue a permit you might want to have a meeting with the owner, the designers, and the city attorney to explain your concerns. Issue a report summarizing what was discussed. You might want to suggest the owner bring his attorney. You might be surprised how such a meeting will get everybody's attention.

Consider having OSHA or your state agency dealing with the OSHA regulations on site during the jacking

There are ways to play hardball
 

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
8,921
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
The standard owner contractor agreements do a good job of describing the contractor's responsibilities.
You are absolutely, unequivocably 100% wrong in this assumption. Walk in our shoes once in a while and see what kind of garbage gets submitted by contractors. Everyone (contractors) has their own contract and no two are alike. Some are so basic they don't even describe the scope of work. Maybe the projects you partake in are located in the center of Perfect World, but certainly not outside of your tiny little bubble.
 

tmurray

Registered User
Joined
Jun 10, 2011
Messages
2,436
Location
NB, Canada
The adopted building code is a law.. What gives you the authority to require something not in the law? What gives you the authority to withhold a permit when there is no violation of the building code? I contend that when you do such things you are violating the rights of the applicant.
I relied on this case law: https://www.canlii.org/en/nb/nbapab...html?autocompleteStr=72218&autocompletePos=11

Specifically the following sections:

It is a fact that the “…… ground and surrounding site conditions” of the Red Head area near the subject are subject to unpredictable slope instability and erosion.

This would, in our opinion, justify a high degree of caution and diligence on the part of the building inspector in assessing an application for a building permit in this area.

We cannot answer the question as to whether it is possible for the Appellant to obtain a soils report to satisfy the Building Inspector. Having sympathy, indeed great sympathy for the Appellant, does not change the fact that the Building Inspector had the right to expect certain conditions to be met before he issued the building permit. He does after all, act on behalf of all of the City’s residents.

TLDR: property owner needed to move their home because erosion was causing a risk that their house is going to fall into the Atlantic Ocean. They approach the building inspection department and was informed he would need a geotechnical report. He goes to one firm who told him they will not issue any reports for his area (soils are a known major issue there). He then goes to another engineer who gives him two separate letters, both of which are rejected by the building inspection department. Owner then appeals their decision to not issue a permit. The appeal upholds the building inspection department's decision not to issue the permit based on the inadequacy of the geotechnical reports.

Unfortunately, case law does not reflect your feelings on this issue. At least not here. Building officials are provided a great degree of latitude in the enforcement of the code.
 

Genduct

Registered User
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
297
Location
Philadelphia PA
The standard owner contractor agreements do a good job of describing the contractor's responsibilities.

There is a difference between sharing insights and using the power of you office to force somebody to do something when you lack legal authority to do so.

You say it is your responsibility to bring the issue to the contractor's attention. If there is a problem with the submitted permit drawings it is the responsibility of the Owner and his consultants, not the contractor, to address the problem.

Another relevant legal issue has to do with immunity of government employees. There are exceptions to this immunity. A common one at least in California is when you have established a special relationship to protect an individual. When you have crossed this line, you no longer have immunity and can thus have liability.

I will admit that the building code doesn't say a lot about some issues, particularly with regards geotechnical reports, and that there may be no obvious tools to address some of the situations noted. My advice is to talk with the City attorney. From the architect's and the engineer's perspective construction administration can be nerve-racking since in addition to worrying about the safety of the building they are also worried about having potential liability for contractors claims. In such situations you are best served by playing it by the book. If you take it upon yourself to set things right you may be setting yourself up to take the fall if there are problems.

In the case of what you believe is a questionable geotechnical report where you cannot quote a code provision it might make sense to consult with another geotechnical engineer. to better appreciate what the code says about geotechnical reports. If you still cannot find a reason to refuse to issue a permit you might want to have a meeting with the owner, the designers, and the city attorney to explain your concerns. Issue a report summarizing what was discussed. You might want to suggest the owner bring his attorney. You might be surprised how such a meeting will get everybody's attention.

Consider having OSHA or your state agency dealing with the OSHA regulations on site during the jacking

There are ways to play hardball
Mark, OSHA is limited to Worker / Workplace Safety. They are not authorized to consider these CODE Issues

What we are talking about is NOT the large Jobs but the smaller ones where often the Contractor is also providing, de facto, the Design Professional's scope of work as well. They are not signing an owner's agreement or even havinge an Architect. The days of the Architect acting as the Construction Manager are long gone

So, these owners are more consumers than well informed Owners / Developers
We have the responsibility for PUBLIC SAFETY

So we need to Do Our Job!

When you consider these small jobs, do you apply the same approach?
 

Mark K

Platinum Member
Joined
May 12, 2010
Messages
2,191
You are absolutely, unequivocably 100% wrong in this assumption. Walk in our shoes once in a while and see what kind of garbage gets submitted by contractors. Everyone (contractors) has their own contract and no two are alike. Some are so basic they don't even describe the scope of work. Maybe the projects you partake in are located in the center of Perfect World, but certainly not outside of your tiny little bubble.
There is a difference between the contractors responsibilities and what they do. In any case it is not the building departments responsibility to determine how the work gets divided up.
 

Mark K

Platinum Member
Joined
May 12, 2010
Messages
2,191
Mark, OSHA is limited to Worker / Workplace Safety. They are not authorized to consider these CODE Issues

What we are talking about is NOT the large Jobs but the smaller ones where often the Contractor is also providing, de facto, the Design Professional's scope of work as well. They are not signing an owner's agreement or even havinge an Architect. The days of the Architect acting as the Construction Manager are long gone

So, these owners are more consumers than well informed Owners / Developers
We have the responsibility for PUBLIC SAFETY

So we need to Do Our Job!

When you consider these small jobs, do you apply the same approach?
I am hearing you say that our system of laws is not working and that you are appointing yourself as the savior. Be honest is declaring that you are a law unto yourself and are in rebellion against the state.
 

ICE

Moderator
Joined
Jun 23, 2011
Messages
10,789
Location
Ca. concrete jungle
I am hearing you say that our system of laws is not working and that you are appointing yourself as the savior. Be honest is declaring that you are a law unto yourself and are in rebellion against the state.
Well guess what Mark….if we all shared you philosophy hardly anything would ever get done. We’d be sitting on our hands, afraid to make a move lest we step on a toe that got in the way.
 

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
8,921
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
There is a difference between the contractors responsibilities and what they do. In any case it is not the building departments responsibility to determine how the work gets divided up.
Who said it was the Building Department's responsibility to determine how the work gets divided up?
 

jar546

Chief Cook & Bottlewasher
Joined
Oct 16, 2009
Messages
8,921
Location
Palm Beach County Florida
I am hearing you say that our system of laws is not working and that you are appointing yourself as the savior. Be honest is declaring that you are a law unto yourself and are in rebellion against the state.
I don't see where Genduct's posts stated that. The clear majority of Building Departments work within the limitations of their powers. Many are just to lazy to do more than what they have to.
 

Genduct

Registered User
Joined
Jul 26, 2021
Messages
297
Location
Philadelphia PA
I am hearing you say that our system of laws is not working and that you are appointing yourself as the savior. Be honest is declaring that you are a law unto yourself and are in rebellion against the state.

I am hearing you say that our system of laws is not working and that you are appointing yourself as the savior. Be honest is declaring that you are a law unto yourself and are in rebellion against the state.
Mark, you really dig in your heels!
It is Sgt Mike , don't let the Gen Duct fool you into believing I am a General Officer.

I think my point is we need to be a bit more Proactive with the smaller jobs.
In fact I asked you if you use a different approach to the bigger vs the smaller projects.
And our responsibility is to make sure the smaller jobs are going to be done SAFELY

I find that I don't have to "Pull Rank" to gently but firmly remind the Permit Applicant that certain info needs to be addressed so we can do our job.
This is usually done by sharing with the Applicant WHY WE BOTH NEED TO KNOW
I never said "because I said so!"

That being said, please understand I also know what is important enough to insist on, vs not essential. I don't insist on Best Practices or make people do things like I
would do them. That is not our job. Our job is to review and Approve their plan to verify they meet the MINIMUM Safety requirements.
Not sure what I said that would lead to believe otherwise.

I understand that many are reluctant to ask because I am sure we both agree we are the Plan Reviewer and NOT the Design Professional.
I appreciate you may think I crossed that double yellow line and are headed for a head-on collusion. You are entitled to your opinion

I really enjoy an honest exchange of views. This forum is a good example of what our Political system should be like

Best, Mike B
 
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