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Why RDPs are required to go through municipal plan review

Discussion in 'Architects & Engineers' started by jar546, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

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    I've been thinking about this one for a while now but after some recent thread topics, I figured it's time. Architects and engineers are human, just like contractors, inspectors and plans examiners. We all make mistakes, we all miss things. None of us live in Perfect World and the last time I checked, I still can't afford a ticket there. There are a lot of reasons why Registered Design Professionals (RDPs) should go through the municipal plan review process, even though it may be flawed.

    First and foremost. As stated before we are all human and make mistakes. It is always good to have a fresh set of eyes on the plan and specs. Many firms have draftsmen doing the work and a quality QC review is sometimes lacking. RDPs have a vested interest in their client and have a tendency to try to push the rules as far as they can in order to accommodate their clients. I am NOT saying that RDPS are unscrupulous but that they are not as objective because of the flow of the money, aka "don't bite the hand that feeds you." It takes a lot of training and experience to get to the level of RDP and I have worked with some fantastic, knowledgeable ones and of course some that I still wonder how they ever got a license. I get complaints from contractors that think that some of the required inspection are "BS" and a waste of time, effort and money. I remind them that not all contractors are like them and until you walk in the shoes of an inspector and see the disparity of code compliance and construction quality on like jobs, they will not understand. What one person routinely passes, there is another contractor that fails miserably. This is also true for RDPs. I have some that really shine, have fantastic, detailed, code compliant drawings and others that quite frankly just plain, well,..you know what I mean. Although I am a bit harsh here with the reality of the situations with RDPs, the same can be said about plans examiners.

    As plans examiners most of us are held to a minimum standard for reviewing documents that is set by our state, county, or even municipality. We should know what is and isn't required and what we need to see in order to ensure that the job is planned to the minimum code standards. This does not always happen. There are still areas of the country that have no competency based requirements for plans examiners and many are thrust into the position with little to no training or experience. In addition, some are overwhelmed by having to review all disciplines and not just the one they are best suited for. We also have to overbearing, chest thumping examiners that want what they want too. Finding common ground is important to create a good balance between the code requirements and submissions is really the key along with good communication.

    Another factor that the RDPs don't seem to always grasp is the quality of the contractors that will be carrying out the design. Unfortunately we see a lot of the problems in the field that the RDPs do not as most never see the jobsite. Often when a contractor fails an inspection, they point to the plans and say "but it's not shown on the plans" even though it may still be a requirement. On another side, whenever we ask for more information on the plans we are told that we are holding up the job and creating additional costs. This is a no-win situation for the AHJ. On one end the contractor uses the plans for an excuse and on the other, plans have more information to eliminate those excuses. As always, this is a balancing act but in the end, plan review is always a necessity, no matter how good you think your plans are.

    What are some common items that you write up on RDP submitted plans as an examiner? Please share below:
     
    #1 jar546, Jun 13, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2019
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  2. RLGA

    RLGA Sawhorse

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    Jeff:

    You state RDPs "push the rules as far as they can in order to accommodate their clients." From my experience working with architects, it is the architect pushing the limits on the rules to accommodate their designs--their clients, for the most part, want the projects to be safe and permittable. I have found that school districts and higher education institutions are very safety-conscious. Many developers couldn't care less about code compliance as long as the projects get built and it doesn't cost them a lot of money in the end.

    However, your point about the need for jurisdictional review is spot on. Architects, who are supposed to be code experts, routinely do not understand the basics of code application. If there was no jurisdictional plan review, I'd say we'd be seeing a lot of architectural malpractice suits. I can't speak for the other design professions (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, etc.), but even then I see a lot of comments coming back from plan reviews for those disciplines.

    With that said, I'm working on a project right now to correct a situation where the jurisdiction screwed up royally--they permitted a medical gas facility as a Group S-2 when the quantities submitted clearly indicated it was a Group H-3. It wasn't caught until the inspector was performing the CofO inspection! Now, the owner is having to pay around $100,000 dollars to modify the building to make it work legally.
     
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  3. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

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    Yes, I have seen many instances where a submission was nowhere near code compliant and when I called the RDP, the response was usually something like: "I told my client it would not work but we would submit it anyway and see if it gets through." Enough said about that.

    I do inspections for a county-wide school district and they are extremely safety conscious and the electrical specifications and requirements go well beyond the codes so I have to know both.

    Yes sir, it is not a perfect system.
     
  4. TheCommish

    TheCommish Sawhorse

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    The FBI Has Arrived

    No, not the Feds; the Fringing Building Inspector

    If your reaction to the integration of a code official, plans examiner or other inspectors to your project either during the design process or for an inspection fills you with dread, maybe it is time to rethinking when the project team starts interfacing with the code officials.

    While it may seem like the various code officials, community departments and other regulatory agencies sole purpose is to slow a project, raise the cost of the project or even stop the project I do not believe that is true. Community officials are torn by a multitude of masters; first the code or regulations in place, second time which none of seem to have enough of, third the opinions of many, internal and external both for and against your project.

    Some of us work in small community’s facing staffing changes, limited knowledge base for complex or large projects, what seems to be lack of infrastructure support the proposed project, impacts on the community and community opposition to a project. Or we work in a metropolitan area where there are engineers and other professionals on the city’s staff, full time inspectors and development departments to see the project through the labyrinth of planning, regulatory review permitting, construction, inspections, commissioning and occupancy.

    It is my view that early interaction with the community’s regulatory agencies is beneficial to all. By using a collaborative approach and involving the communities’ regulatory staff in the permissible project process, following the submittal process as prescribed by the regulations, answering the staffs’ question and providing large, clear, color and appropriate visuals showing your project in the planning phase will go a long way to the project’s success.

    As a building official the set of plans that presents the code summary and analysis, life safety information, occupancy load calculations with exiting distance travel on the in the first pages is the basics for an easy plan review. If you think the code official may have a question about it, include the answer in the code summary narrative cite the code section you are referring to. Follow up with summary information for each of the major building system at the beginning of those drawing sets will make those reviews much easier.

    The process move much smother if you are using the correct code versions for the location you project is to be built in. Nothing is more frustrating than have a submittal that does not include the local code amendments, or worse the plans sheet indicate a code edition that has not been in use for years. I have seen plans submitted that had the building code edition wrong by two editions, with the reference codes wrong by 3 editions. Or the civil designer that was using neighboring states’ storm water calculations and did not want to understand close enough was not acceptable.
     
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  5. RLGA

    RLGA Sawhorse

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    Bingo! If you don’t mind, I want to quote this paragraph for my presentations when I talk about code information on the drawings.
     
  6. mtlogcabin

    mtlogcabin Sawhorse

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    I had one last year that referenced the 2012 Uniform Building Code.
     
  7. MtnArch

    MtnArch Sawhorse

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    In all fairness to we poor, heartless RDP's - I recently received a set of plan check comments on a residential stand-alone garage addition that referenced the UBC and ICBO. I called the fire prevention professional to discuss it and he said "You're the first person who's brought up that our notes are so out-dated!" I let him know that I wasn't picking on him, but they REALLY should have someone review ALL of their standard plan check boiler plate notes that they shovel back at US!!
     
  8. Mark K

    Mark K Platinum Member

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    The purpose of the building departments plan review is to review the project not to subject the RPD to a plancheck. The RDP who did the work will assist its client in responding to the plan check comments. This distinction is more than semantics.

    I have never relied on the plan checker or inspector to find flaws in the documents Experience has shown that in many cases the plan checker has either not looked at the project or has done an inadequate job.

    Of coarse when the RDP finds evidence of an inadequate review he dos not spend time complaining about the plan checker. Instead he focuses on performing his job.

    Do not assume that the RDPs are ignorant as to the likely quality of the contractors. But realize that the RPD did not typically have a say in the selecting of the contractor. Also remember that the RDP is not in a position to perform detailed inspectionof the work nor to direct the contractor. All the RDP can do is make recommendations to its client.
     
  9. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

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    Yep, like I said, it is a problem in both direction.
     
  10. TheCommish

    TheCommish Sawhorse

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    QUOTE="RLGA, post: 200037, member: 33"]Bingo! If you don’t mind, I want to quote this paragraph for my presentations when I talk about code information on the drawings.[/QUOTE]
    you are free to do so, also Ii have a list o do the things to cover if you would like to have a copy
     
  11. mtlogcabin

    mtlogcabin Sawhorse

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    Like any professional, there are those that excel, those that are good, those that are mediocre, and those we wonder how do they keep their jobs, and as jar as pointed out it goes both ways.
     
  12. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    Having worked in large and small Architectural Offices for over thirty years, I can tell you that most of the actual working drawings are done by NON-Licensed individuals. They usually do the best they can but do not have the expertise a "RDP" may have. Unless there is a inhouse review drawings go out, stamped, in haphazard condition.
    There is a time restraint, every minute you spend on that project, cost the firm money. Getting it submitted gets them the money to may payroll , "We will fix it latter, when there is more time". Some companies rely on the governmental plan checker to do the back check.

    Plan checking is crucial.
     
  13. ADAguy

    ADAguy Sawhorse

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    In CA all K-12's & CC's must go through DSA for review and be subject to full time inspection with oversight of inspectors by DSA SE's.
    Low bidders have a ball with this if coming from the private sector.
     
  14. Rick18071

    Rick18071 Sawhorse

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    I try to do a plan review so I only need to fail it once or just red line a few things and pass it. But lots of times I don't even get basic information and if I don't make a long list of the info I need, sometimes just guessing on what they are doing, they will leave stuff off. And then they still will leave stuff off.

    Just got a stamped plan that shows how a high rack system will be built. Nothing about if it is inside or outside, anything about a building (I assume it's inside), site plan, codes used, occupation use, construction type, if there is any sprinklers, what will be stored, township wrong on application, egress, etc. I wonder how many times I will be reviewing this.
     
  15. tmurray

    tmurray Sawhorse

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    The way I always put it is that architects and engineers are old professions. Much older than building officials. There must be a reason we exist.

    I often get push back from architects because the "client wants it that way", but if I talk to the client, they don't really care. They just want a good building.

    Sometimes I get a little education from RDPs on something I missed. It goes both ways.

    I remember working on a tenant improvement project for a coffee shop. One of my notes asked for grab bars for the urinal and asked that if was possible within the scope of the project, to mount the urinal at the proper height for barrier free access. Unfortunately, this shop was built before these requirements came into the code, so the clear space in front of the urinal did not meet. My thoughts were to improve it as much as was practical. The response from the architect was initially a little worrisome, but after digging into it, they thought I wanted to make them move a plumbing wall to get the clear space as well. When I explained to them my position, they became super positive and, even though re-mounting the urinal was not initially part of the project, they included it in the scope of work to improve accessibility after consultation with the owner. There are always distinct advantages to us all working together.
     
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  16. rktect 1

    rktect 1 Gold Member

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    Man, I don't even want to talk about my pet project right now. I get pretty worked up and usually have a headache thinking about it.
     
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  17. jar546

    jar546 *****istrator

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    Here is a perfect example from today:
    I had an application to replace a slider on the 9th floor of a high-rise with a new hurricane/impact slider. When reviewing the stamped letter from the engineer, I noticed that he based his design pressure on 15' elevation rather than the elevation of the actual install on the 9th floor. In this case I suspect that he ran a calculation for a typical residential home, and may not have been told by the window installer that it was on the 9th floor of a high-rise.
     
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  18. mark handler

    mark handler Sawhorse

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    Design Professionals are routinely given wrong or intentionally given misinformation.
    In almost forty years in the buisness, I know of only two engineers that have actually gone to a site, most send a low paid staff member or rely on second/third hand information.
     
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  19. MtnArch

    MtnArch Sawhorse

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    Slightly OT .. I worked in a firm and was asked to take over a restaurant remodel because the client was very upset with the project architect originally assigned to it; I was told that the "as-built" drawings had been field verified but there wasn't anything in the file showing any field dimensions, photos, etc. As a personal rule I never trust anyone else's dimensions and took the as-built floor plan out to the existing space to verify a few of the dimensions - only to find out that if you crossed your eyes and squinted they kinda-sorta-maybe resembled each other. It cost the firm a week of my time of field measuring and photographing the existing space and re-drafting it CORRECTLY; happy clients at the end of the project!
     
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  20. Ty J.

    Ty J. Sawhorse

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    I just received a covered deck designed by an engineer. Used the wrong minimum live load (WA amended to 60psf). Deck joists were over-spanned at both 40 and 60 psf LL. Ridge beam of cover was over-spanned and failed by 238%.

    Negligence is a strong word to use, but what else do you call it? Anyone here ever turn anything over to a State Licensing Board?
     
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