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Structural observation

Discussion in 'Residential Foundation Codes' started by ICE, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    An engineer blessed this and got paid for it. That is supposed to be a Simpson Strong Wall. There is mud caked on the steel. Missing anchor bolts. The footing is 16" deep and the plans call for 24". Most of the bottom steel is 2" from the dirt. I can't remember the last time a footing or frame passed inspection after an engineer's structural observation.

    When I pointed out the mark for setting the SSTB at the correct level, the contractor said: "The footing isn't deep enough and my engineer didn't mention it. If my engineer approved it how can an inspector say no?" When I asked about the SW template I got a blank stare.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. JBI

    JBI Sawhorse

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    If the engineer wants to submit his calculations for the design change... and the job is on hold til approved.
     
  3. Phil

    Phil Sawhorse

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    Structural observations are not inspections. The engineer should be checking for general conformance to the construction documents. I would not expect the engineer to survey and measure the reinforcing, formwork or anchorage locations. While the engineer should notice gross errors, a field report without exceptions does not change the contractor or inspectors responsibilties. Often times, the engineer is not qualified to perform certain special inspections and testing.
     
  4. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    You forgot to mention structural observations.
     
  5. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Ceap shot.

    Engineers are usually polite enough to not mention the inspectors limitations.
     
  6. codeworks

    codeworks Gold Member

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    i've seen it here more than one time. "my engineer already looked at it". I've written up corrections, with a "call for reinspection" before placing concrete, drive by 2 days later, and concrete is down. talk to the bo, he talks to the contractor, contyractor i htink doesn't care. i suggest to bo, make him take it out next time. probably not going to happen
     
  7. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    Cheap shot? Not at all. Engineers design the work and should recognize obvious major flaws. In the picture you immediately see the ridiculous offering as would any inspector. I constantly find missing elements, improperly installed elements and elements that have no valid application. I once had a foundation with several hundred 5/8" anchor bolts that was approved by the engineer yet the plans called for 3/4" bolts. How about trusses that have the bottom chords resting on all of the interior walls? Shear walls with no anchor bolts? How about 1 1/2" holes for 5/8" anchor bolts. These are mistakes that the engineer didn't recognize and there is no excuse. The engineer conceived the design and couldn't tell the difference.

    Some will say that a structural observation is not an inspection. I say that you are wrong. Granted, the engineer isn't going to get into the minutia such as re-bar overlaps and clearances but I'm not talking about the minutia. The engineer looks at the more important items and stipulates that those items are present and installed correctly. That's a limited inspection. So it's no cheap shot to say that engineers make lousy inspectors. It's no cheap shot to say that structural observations are by in large, a cruel hoax. For what it's worth, when I find such egregious errors, I always make the engineer do the structural observation over. Hopefully, they don't have the balls to charge $350 to $1000 for the second effort.
     
  8. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    Unless I know the actual circumstnces of the engineers visit to the site I find it very difficult to be judgmental regarding wether the engineer's actions were substandard.

    Regarding the claim that structural observation is an inspection, this is not supported by the code language. Read the building code.

    Building officials and inspectors who atempt to force the engineer to turn structural observations into inspections are over stepping their authority. Building inspectors need to be clear on the difference between what the code says and what they believe it should require.

    An inspector will focus on a number of issues but because he is focusing on specific items it is likely that he will not find other problems. The more time an inspector can spend on the project the more problems he can identiry. Because he did not find those problems he will not be aware of his mistakes. When another individual visits the project he will be sensitive to other issues and thus it is easy for him to see problems not seen by the first inspector. This does not necessarily mean the original inspector was deficient. Subsequent inspectors would be expected to find additional problems.

    An engineer preforming structural observation is doing a spot check, trying to identify if there are conditions that were not identified in design, and is looking at the global issues. In this context he will be limited in the number of local issues that he can focus on. assuming that this effort constitutes detailed inspections is delusional. The need for a more detailed focus is recognized by the requirements for special inspection. In general special inspections are performed by special inspectors and not the design professional.

    Suggest that building inspectors have a little humility. There are times that the engineer will find things missed by the building inspector and these omissions are not passed along to the city inspector. It is easy for inspectors to believe that they have caught everything if they are not forced to confront their mistakes. This is a well understood psychological process. This is a problem for building inspectors who consider themselves infalable. I mean who is going to tell god that he made a mistake.

    At some level we are deluding ourselves into thinking that we can solve the problems by better inspections. The real solution will address the question as to why the work was not constructed properly in the first place. Until we address that question we will not make progress. Building departments and especially building officials are limited in their ability to address this broader question.
     
  9. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    I didn't find any of what you've written to be valid.

     
    #9 ICE, Nov 26, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2011
  10. MtnArch

    MtnArch Sawhorse

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    ICE - Please realize that for a DP (either an architect or an engineer) there IS a huge difference between performing an "Inspection" as opposed to an "Observation", and it is spelled out very clearly in the DP's E&O insurance coverage. Even the standard AIA specifications and forms are very careful to note that during construction the DP is only doing an observation.
     
  11. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    A design professional’s undertaking of site observation is a double-edged sword. While it allows the professional to have some control over the physical manifestation of the design, it also implicates the professional for discrepancies in construction. An Observation is not an inspection.

    When writing the Observation report, a suggestion may have been made to verify the depth, or it could have been in an email, or a comment on site, not in the report. Unless you are there all the time, and are cc'd on all correspondence, we do not know everything. Sometimes the DP will say something, not wanting to put it in writing, like calling a contractor stupid, or his work unworkmanship like product.
     
    #11 mark handler, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2011
  12. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    Alan,

    I recognize the difference but the result is a document that ends up in the B/D file for that address. At some point, that document will state that the work "substantially matches the plans". At least that is what I've been getting. When this became part of the code, I was all for it. I figured it would be a benefit in that an engineer would be looking at the work before me and I welcomed the experts help. Instead of the help that I expected, I get flak for writing a dozen corrections. The owners and contractors want me to lay off because the work was good enough for an engineer. I would suppose that the engineers find me to be a PITA, especially when I shoot down their report. I am left wondering why the Hell we do this. What has changed, other than the code, that makes this a good idea.

    What I have seen is that many inspectors rely on the engineer's structural observation and don't really do an inspection beyond showing up. They figure that the person that asked for anchor bolts at 16" on center and HDs as well as Hardi Frames and Strong Walls, having stipulated in writing that it's all there, is good enough. So I get their reports that state that it's all there and it seldom is.

    This thread started out as an example of what I encounter and took a turn into whether the engineer does an inspection because I was perceived as impolite to engineers. Trust me, I know that engineers don't do an inspection akin to my inspection. Couching the entire report with the word "substantially" says volumes.
     
    #12 ICE, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2011
  13. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    ICE

    Where does the building code require a report that the work matches the plans? Look at the reporting requirements for structural observations. The engineer is only required to report any deficiencies that the engineer is aware of that have not been resolved. There is no requirement that the engineer has done a thorough inspection of the project.

    When the design professional makes a statement that the work “substantially matches the plans” he is doing so because he does not want the fight that would result if he refused an unjustified demand.

    Plan checkers and building inspectors often talk about not letting the engineer off the hook or holding the engineer responsible. The reality is that this is not the function of the building department. The courts are the place to establish responsibility. The role of the building department is to determine if the project complies with the code and to require compliance before accepting the project.

    When the contractor or owner asks you to lay off because it was good enough for the engineer it is a sign that they do not understand the nature of the engineer’s report. An engineer may disagree with your interpretation of the code but he will not say that he has caught every defect unless he is stupid.

    An inspector who relies on the engineer’s structural observation report and doesn’t do a thorough job is not doing his job. Such inspectors are looked down upon by contractors and design professionals. If the system works as intended our efforts are complementary.
     
  14. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    STRUCTURAL OBSERVATION. "The visual observation of the structural system by a registered design professional for general conformance to the approved construction documents. Structural observation does not include or waive the responsibility for the inspection required by Section 110, 1704 or other sections of this code."



    "Observed deficiencies shall be reported in writing to the owner or owner’s representative, special inspector, contractor and the building official."

    This means that at each observation, deficiencies are in a report. The next segment is a separate report.

    "Upon the form prescribed by the building official, the structural observer shall submit to the building official a written statement at each significant construction stage stating that the site visits have been made and identifying any reported deficiencies which, to the best of the structural observer’s knowledge, have not been resolved."
     
    #14 ICE, Nov 27, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 27, 2011
  15. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    "General conformance" does not mean exact conformance, nor does it mean good workmanship.
     
  16. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    Ain't that a bitch?
     
  17. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    ICE

    Please provide exact code reference to the provisions you are quoting.

    I believe you are referencing the LA Building Code which differs from the IBC and the CBC. Further it is my opinion that these amendments are in violation with the California Building Code. LA has a tradition of adopting amendments to the CBC that do not meet the criteria for local amendments.
     
  18. ICE

    ICE Sawhorse

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    I have quoted the CBC [not LA City]. We did amend chapter 17 but not the definition.
     
    #18 ICE, Nov 28, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2011
  19. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    I assume this is an SFD and therefore not covered by the IBC ch 17, TRY THE IRC and there is no STRUCTURAL OBSERVATION in the CALIFORNIA RESIDENTIAL CODE
     
    #19 mark handler, Nov 28, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2011
  20. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    The LA building code also has an exception

    http://ladbs.org/LADBSWeb/LADBS_Forms/InformationBulletins/IB-P-BC2002-024StructuralObservation.pdf

    EXCEPTION: One- and two-story, wood-framed Group R, Division 3 and Group U

    Occupancies, less than 1,500 square feet, and one- and two-story Groups B, F, M and

    S Occupancies with an occupant load less than 10 provided the adjacent grade is not

    steeper than 1 unit vertical in 10 units horizontal (10% slope).
     

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