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Re: Special Inspection

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Hi Gail,
I'll provide a California perspective (strictly my own).  Special Inspection as a concept is fine, in practice and implementation it frequently tends to fall short.
The special inspector as originally developed is supposed to be the eyes of the engineer on the job site.  We have some mandatory structural observation, not enough in my opinion, but the engineer cannot be on the job site full time to observe the work in progress for conformance with the construction documents.  The special inspector is supposed to be an independent observer, qualified in the type of work, who verifies the materials and placement or operations are being conducted in conformance with the engineers requirements.  Basically they keep the contractor honest in one view, and verify details and requirements are properly interpreted and understood in another view. 
Unfortunately, the special inspection requirement, like ICBO or NER approval, has become somewhat of a panacea for the building departments.  The building department inspector cannot be on the job site all the time either, and special inspection is a good substitute.
I have had numerous good experiences with the special inspection process, however also some that were not so good. I have found weld inspectors inspecting from their lounge chair listening to the ball game on unannounced visits to the job site.  I have had special inspectors start directing or approving modifications in the field without my knowledge or approval.  In one extreme case I have had a special inspector directing work, additional inspections and requirements, all in my name even though I had never spoken to the man.  There is room for abuse at all levels.
The qualifications of the special inspector can vary greatly.  For the past couple of years we have required the special inspector to submit their qualifications to our office as part of the special inspection notes and again under "engineering submittals and approvals" on the design drawings.  Not once has a special inspector complied with this requirement without our specifically having to ask for the information.  Either they are not reading the drawings, or choose not to comply.  Or maybe the way things have evolved they figure they are there to represent the building department and not the engineer, so our requirements are irrelevant.
The rational behind basing the need for special inspection on seismic category stems from the perception that at higher levels of demand, critical applications need additional verification.  Whether you agree with the break point as to when it is or is not required would be the basis for an entirely different and lengthy discussion.  There are many inspection requirements in the UBC that are independent of the seismic category, so it is not simply "if your not in a high risk region the concrete can be cr*p".
Deputy Inspector is a local terminology, separate from Special Inspector, typically applied to the building department inspector.  I guess if you really piss him off he'll call in the "Marshall" :-)
Yes, insurance companies are death on the word "inspect".  Engineers do not inspect we observe.  Inspection companies who have a representative whose specific function is to inspect are the ones who inspect.  The code has the word inspect all over in the special inspection section and in reference to the building authority, but there is also a section on observation with regards to the engineer.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, October 31, 2003 8:03 AM
Subject: Special Inspection

Although this is probably discussed in something I should have read,  I thought I'd ask anyways ...
What is the rational behind requiring special inspection based on Seismic Performance Category?  I understand the definition of "special inspection" to be inspection paid for by the owner, as opposed to inspection by the building department.
This seems to imply that if you are in an area with a low risk of earthquakes,  it doesn't matter that your concrete is cr*p and you have left out half of the reinforcing steel.
Also, insurance companies advise engineers never to use the word "inspect" in their reports.  How can you not do that, when the Code sections on special inspection uses the word about two dozen times?
Finally, the term "Deputy Inspector" seems to be a California thing.  How is it defined?  Did it come out of SEAOC literature?
Gail Kelley