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What would you do?

Yankee Chronicler

SILVER MEMBER
Joined
Oct 17, 2023
Messages
1,666
Location
New England
My answer is that I'm not allowed by the municipal powers-that-be to do anything other than soldier on, but I would like to hear how other code officials might handle this.

I may have posted something about this some time ago. The building is an office condo, two stories above grade with a full basement. The immediate project is an alteration of approximately one-third of the second story, to enlarge the office suite of the medical practitioner who owns the rest of the second floor. (With this annexation, he now owns the entire second floor.)

The designer is not licensed as an architect, and the building exceeds the area which our state law allows unlicensed individuals to perform architectural work. The drawings carry the seal and signature of a licensed architect who is employed as a project architect by a well-known firm located about 50 miles away from the designer's office. Despite not being an architect, the designer uses "arch" as part of his e-mail address.

When the plans first came in, I had major questions about means of egress, so I went to the building to see what the exits look like. I found two interior stairs, with wood doors that don't have any U.L. or other fire door label. Neither stair discharges to the exterior. Both discharge into interior spaces that could be construed as lobbies or vestibules -- except that both are open to a single corridor, with NO fire door or smoke door. Thus, both means of egress from both stories share a common atmosphere. The building is type V-B construction, not sprinklered. The building was constructed in 1988, under a version of the BOCA code as adopted by the state at that time.

This arrangement was not allowed under the BOCA code at the time, and would not be allowed under the IBC today. Our fire marshal agrees that it didn't meet the fire code when built. He brought in the State Fire Marshal's Office, and they said it has to be fixed.

So we cited it, and asked for revised plans showing
  • An egress plan of the overall second story, not just the portion being altered
  • A plan for remediation of the existing code violation affecting the first story exit discharge
  • Mechanical plans
  • Plumbing plans
  • Electrical plans
What we just received is the same plan we had before for the altered area, with the addition of a very small, not-to-scale schematic plan of the first floor and the second floor. These key plans don't show any office interiors, just the corridors as single lines, and doors into and out of the corridors. The egress routes within the suites are drawn on diagonals, ignoring the existence of walls and furnishings. there are NO details for installation of doors at the ends of the ground floor corridor to close off the two exit vestibules -- just notes calling for new 45-minute fire doors.

So we have an unlicensed architect, another architect unlawfully signing and sealing the drawings, AND ... TA-DA! The crowning achievement. All the new prints carry a watermark on each border reading "PRODUCED BY AN AUTOCAD EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT." (For those who don't know, AutoCAD is no longer sold -- it is available only by subscription, and it's expensive. But ... they make it available for free to students at recognized educational institutions. To qualify, you have to contact Autodesk from an e-mail address ending in .EDU.) So he's using some student's free copy of AutoCAD -- and one of the terms of service for the student version is that it cannot be used for commercial work.

As noted, my municipality won't allow me to report any of this, so all I can do is keep holding his feet to the fire to produce satisfactory plans.

What would you do? Would you report him for practicing architecture without a license? Would you report the plan stamper for plan stamping? Would you decline to accept the plans because they were produced using an illegal copy of AutoCAD?
 
My answer is that I'm not allowed by the municipal powers-that-be to do anything other than soldier on, but I would like to hear how other code officials might handle this.

I may have posted something about this some time ago. The building is an office condo, two stories above grade with a full basement. The immediate project is an alteration of approximately one-third of the second story, to enlarge the office suite of the medical practitioner who owns the rest of the second floor. (With this annexation, he now owns the entire second floor.)

The designer is not licensed as an architect, and the building exceeds the area which our state law allows unlicensed individuals to perform architectural work. The drawings carry the seal and signature of a licensed architect who is employed as a project architect by a well-known firm located about 50 miles away from the designer's office. Despite not being an architect, the designer uses "arch" as part of his e-mail address.

When the plans first came in, I had major questions about means of egress, so I went to the building to see what the exits look like. I found two interior stairs, with wood doors that don't have any U.L. or other fire door label. Neither stair discharges to the exterior. Both discharge into interior spaces that could be construed as lobbies or vestibules -- except that both are open to a single corridor, with NO fire door or smoke door. Thus, both means of egress from both stories share a common atmosphere. The building is type V-B construction, not sprinklered. The building was constructed in 1988, under a version of the BOCA code as adopted by the state at that time.

This arrangement was not allowed under the BOCA code at the time, and would not be allowed under the IBC today. Our fire marshal agrees that it didn't meet the fire code when built. He brought in the State Fire Marshal's Office, and they said it has to be fixed.

So we cited it, and asked for revised plans showing
  • An egress plan of the overall second story, not just the portion being altered
  • A plan for remediation of the existing code violation affecting the first story exit discharge
  • Mechanical plans
  • Plumbing plans
  • Electrical plans
What we just received is the same plan we had before for the altered area, with the addition of a very small, not-to-scale schematic plan of the first floor and the second floor. These key plans don't show any office interiors, just the corridors as single lines, and doors into and out of the corridors. The egress routes within the suites are drawn on diagonals, ignoring the existence of walls and furnishings. there are NO details for installation of doors at the ends of the ground floor corridor to close off the two exit vestibules -- just notes calling for new 45-minute fire doors.

So we have an unlicensed architect, another architect unlawfully signing and sealing the drawings, AND ... TA-DA! The crowning achievement. All the new prints carry a watermark on each border reading "PRODUCED BY AN AUTOCAD EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT." (For those who don't know, AutoCAD is no longer sold -- it is available only by subscription, and it's expensive. But ... they make it available for free to students at recognized educational institutions. To qualify, you have to contact Autodesk from an e-mail address ending in .EDU.) So he's using some student's free copy of AutoCAD -- and one of the terms of service for the student version is that it cannot be used for commercial work.

As noted, my municipality won't allow me to report any of this, so all I can do is keep holding his feet to the fire to produce satisfactory plans.

What would you do? Would you report him for practicing architecture without a license? Would you report the plan stamper for plan stamping? Would you decline to accept the plans because they were produced using an illegal copy of AutoCAD?
Personally, our concern would be code-compliant drawings, and that is it. You have the backing of the local and state fire marshals and the state building code adopted locally. The architect in you is making you concentrate on the rules surrounding who drew it. As long as a licensed architect seals it, the rest is none of your beeswax. Frustrating? Yes, absolutely, but if you are not allowed to report this (I don't know how that is even legal), move on and just do the plan review you were hired for.

Oh, and back to the part about your municipality not allowing you to turn this over to the state, I call BS. What they don't want you to do (someone) and what you are legally allowed to do are two different things.
 
I have never had a superior tell me not to file professional practice complaints against a registered design professional.

You are an architect, are you required to lodge a formal complaint based on your state's licensing requirements?

As a certified building official, my by-laws, which form part of my province's professional practice act for building officials would oblige me to lodge a formal complaint against the offending designer. It would be the same for RDPs here. So, it would be illegal not to report it.
 
My answer is that I'm not allowed by the municipal powers-that-be to do anything other than soldier on, but I would like to hear how other code officials might handle this.

I may have posted something about this some time ago. The building is an office condo, two stories above grade with a full basement. The immediate project is an alteration of approximately one-third of the second story, to enlarge the office suite of the medical practitioner who owns the rest of the second floor. (With this annexation, he now owns the entire second floor.)

The designer is not licensed as an architect, and the building exceeds the area which our state law allows unlicensed individuals to perform architectural work. The drawings carry the seal and signature of a licensed architect who is employed as a project architect by a well-known firm located about 50 miles away from the designer's office. Despite not being an architect, the designer uses "arch" as part of his e-mail address.

When the plans first came in, I had major questions about means of egress, so I went to the building to see what the exits look like. I found two interior stairs, with wood doors that don't have any U.L. or other fire door label. Neither stair discharges to the exterior. Both discharge into interior spaces that could be construed as lobbies or vestibules -- except that both are open to a single corridor, with NO fire door or smoke door. Thus, both means of egress from both stories share a common atmosphere. The building is type V-B construction, not sprinklered. The building was constructed in 1988, under a version of the BOCA code as adopted by the state at that time.

This arrangement was not allowed under the BOCA code at the time, and would not be allowed under the IBC today. Our fire marshal agrees that it didn't meet the fire code when built. He brought in the State Fire Marshal's Office, and they said it has to be fixed.

So we cited it, and asked for revised plans showing
  • An egress plan of the overall second story, not just the portion being altered
  • A plan for remediation of the existing code violation affecting the first story exit discharge
  • Mechanical plans
  • Plumbing plans
  • Electrical plans
What we just received is the same plan we had before for the altered area, with the addition of a very small, not-to-scale schematic plan of the first floor and the second floor. These key plans don't show any office interiors, just the corridors as single lines, and doors into and out of the corridors. The egress routes within the suites are drawn on diagonals, ignoring the existence of walls and furnishings. there are NO details for installation of doors at the ends of the ground floor corridor to close off the two exit vestibules -- just notes calling for new 45-minute fire doors.

So we have an unlicensed architect, another architect unlawfully signing and sealing the drawings, AND ... TA-DA! The crowning achievement. All the new prints carry a watermark on each border reading "PRODUCED BY AN AUTOCAD EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT." (For those who don't know, AutoCAD is no longer sold -- it is available only by subscription, and it's expensive. But ... they make it available for free to students at recognized educational institutions. To qualify, you have to contact Autodesk from an e-mail address ending in .EDU.) So he's using some student's free copy of AutoCAD -- and one of the terms of service for the student version is that it cannot be used for commercial work.

As noted, my municipality won't allow me to report any of this, so all I can do is keep holding his feet to the fire to produce satisfactory plans.

What would you do? Would you report him for practicing architecture without a license? Would you report the plan stamper for plan stamping? Would you decline to accept the plans because they were produced using an illegal copy of AutoCAD?
Ill put on my a$$hat for a minute....What is the violation you are citing? Is it WWOP? Is it the Town didn't do their job in 1988? Did they possibly get a mod? How good are your records on the property?

In the immortal words of Dan Tierney...."Has the $#%&ing FM ever been in the building?"....My approach would be to have the FM cite the 101 violation or look for an actual violation I could cite or get the egress corrections through the IEBC if I could....

I am generally not chasing licenses, but I would continue to waste time on plan reviews and it would likely rub up against the 30 day clock for each of the next 3 revisions....
 
Ill put on my a$$hat for a minute....What is the violation you are citing? Is it WWOP? Is it the Town didn't do their job in 1988? Did they possibly get a mod? How good are your records on the property?

The violation is means of egress (exit discharge) that never met the building code.

In the immortal words of Dan Tierney...."Has the $#%&ing FM ever been in the building?"....My approach would be to have the FM cite the 101 violation or look for an actual violation I could cite or get the egress corrections through the IEBC if I could....

The Fire Marshal acknowledged (to us in the Building Department) that he never noticed the non-compliant exit discharges and the fact that the two exit vestibules share the same atmosphere. I guess he was laser-focused on exit signs and emergency lights, because the issues were evident to me within a couple of minutes after stepping into the building.
 
I would write the formal denial based on the facts ( improper exiting... ) and the original building as non complaint building citing chapter and verse along with the remedies, submit complaint drawing or appeal.

As for as the RDP, they under controlled construction need provide to comply with 107.1 & 107.3.4.
 
IMHO … you’re conflicted between doing whats right and being petty. And time is a factor … with your workload, how much time do you have to be going beyond plan check & approval? Maybe a phone call to the architect who is stamping the drawings: “hey bubba, i’m calling you as a fellow architect, not as a building official. Are you aware that our creed requires me to report you? Etc”. And then continue to redline the submittals.
 
You are in a unique position as a fellow architect, and because of that can't help but interject justifiable concerns about professionalism, practice and accountability. You wear two hats, and I am an avid reader of your insights into issues like this (I bet we have all faced similar issues with DP's over the years). However, I think you focus on the hat you wear as a plans examiner/building official, cite code issues and sit back and wait. Eventually they will attempt to do their job, or revert to finger pointing about things for which you have no control.
 
The violation is means of egress (exit discharge) that never met the building code.
And yet the Town approved it and the FM was negligent to cite it for the last 4 decades.......I'm just saying be careful.....FWIW I would kick the crap out of that in court....Not against you or your boss, but you know what I am saying....

[A] EXISTING BUILDING. A building or structure, or portion thereof, erected in whole or in part, for which a legal building permit and a certificate of occupancy has been issued. Buildings or structures or portions thereof erected prior to October 1, 1970 shall be deemed existing buildings regardless of the existence of a legal permit or a certificate of occupancy.


[A] 102.6 Existing Structures


The legal use and occupancy of any building or structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change, except as otherwise specifically provided in this code, the 2021 International Existing Building Code portion of the 2022 Connecticut State Building Code or the 2022 Connecticut State Fire Safety Code.
 
"PRODUCED BY AN AUTOCAD EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT."
Autodesk got rid of those watermarks a few years ago according to an Autodesk marketing manager that teaches a class I'm taking. I have a student version of some of Autodesk's software for that class that don't produce those watermarks anymore even though it definitely use to. You don't need an .edu email to get the student version either. Seeing that watermark alone would cause major red flags in my head because that shouldn't even be possible anymore. Although idk what I would do about it since I'd have no evidence of what's causing that...

However, the terms and conditions of Autodesk are not your responsibility to enforce. That's for Autodesk to enforce, and they don't seem to care from what I've seen. There is no law that I know of that makes it "illegal" to submit plans on a student version of some software.
What would you do? Would you report him for practicing architecture without a license? Would you report the plan stamper for plan stamping? Would you decline to accept the plans because they were produced using an illegal copy of AutoCAD?
If I were in your shoes, I would just scrutinize the plans extremely thoroughly. If the powers-that-be prevent you from taking the actions you want to take (seems very odd you can't file a complaint - I know for a fact my local jurisdictions could and would file formal complaints), then all you can do is your job. Seems like the jurisdiction just doesn't want to deal with it rather than it being illegal to do.

I'm petty though and would probably report the designers if I was 100% sure they were breaking the law, regardless of what my boss says, unless they can point me to something that actually prevents me from doing that.
 
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