One of the things that architects do is provide site inspection services. In most cases, when we go to visit a project under construction, we are there to observe. If we see anything that is not according to the documents, we raise the issue with the contractor and with the owner. That is called Construction Observation.
Other times, the city building department will require specific special inspections. These are normally inspections that they want to be performed by a qualified “third party” while the work is being done, not the the owner or the contractor. City’s require the Special Inspections so that work can progress without a city inspector on site at the time the work is being performed. In most cases, either the architect or the engineer can provide these services. Most special inspections are related to specific structural or other engineering issues.
This kind of inspection is an additional service, as it lies outside my, and most architect’s, normal scope of work. I only do Special Inspections for items I feel qualified to inspect. If I do not feel qualified, I will recommend somebody who is.
I have project that is currently under construction in Oakland. The city required a special inspection for the anchor bolts. Given the nature of this aspect of the structural design, I feel qualified to perform this Special Inspection.
Anchor bolts are the bolts that attach the bottom of the wall to the foundation. In areas with earthquakes, the anchor bolts function to keep the house from jumping off the foundation when there is sharp upward motion in an earthquake. They also keep the house from sliding off the foundation when there is severe shaking.
The project in question is an existing garage we are converting into a back yard cottage (a Secondary Dwelling Unit). The existing anchor bolts almost met the code requirements. They were the correct size and at the correct spacing, but lacked the currently required washers.
I examined the newly installed washers to ensure they were the correct size and thickness. I also verified that the holes drilled to accept the few new anchor bolts were the correct depth. I checked the bolts to ensure they were the correct length and diameter. I also verified that the epoxy construction adhesive the contractor was using met the requirements.
When I was back in the office I prepared a Special Inspection Report which gets filed with the city’s Building Inspection division. I sent copies to the owner and to the contractor.
The entire process took about an hour, not including driving to and from the project site. It didn’t take long, but it is important to ensure that these critical aspects of the project are completed correctly, and that there is independent verification that the work was done correctly.
Providing Special Inspection services as well as Construction Observation services are just two of the services that an architect can bring to your project.by