November 3, 2021

Structural Inspections During Construction

By Dan Martel, P.E.

We are often asked: “do you need to inspect the structure you designed during construction?” Of course, we WANT to see cool stuff be built, and we care that it is built according to plan. But the answer, in short, is no.

The 2015 International Building Code requires that many building elements and systems be inspected during construction and deemed satisfactory before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued. But the Code does not require that the structural engineer provide any in-person inspections. Section 110 outlines the systems and components that are required to be inspected, and those related to the structure are:

  • Footings and foundations
  • Concrete slab and under floor
  • Structural framing
  • Special inspections

The local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which in most municipalities in the building official, administers these inspections. At their discretion, the building officials themselves (or their staff inspectors or their third-party inspectors) may inspect these systems. The AHJ does has the authority to request the structural engineer of record perform these inspections, and that often happens on our projects such as when field conditions arise or the contractor proposes an alternate design.

Of course, there is a but: some states and municipalities modify the Building Code requirements, such as the Controlled Construction process in Massachusetts that require the structural engineer to perform inspections during construction.

Special Inspections are required specifically for structural systems with a mind on life safety. The Code requires that these inspections, including material testing, are performed by qualified third-party firms and individuals, they cannot be performed by the engineer of record nor the AHJ. The engineer of record is required by the code to identify in the construction documents what special inspections are required, including more robust programs for high-rise buildings, and buildings in high wind and seismic regions.

All that said, we believe that our involvement during construction, including inspecting structural progress and reviewing shop drawings, greatly increases the quality of the finished building project. In one way or another, we are involved during the construction of almost all our designs, and that’s how we like it!