Structural Inspection: Everything you need to know
The quality of a building depends largely on the rigor followed in each structural inspection during the execution of the project. The Structural Inspection can be associated with a project that executes a new construction. As well as they can be made to already existing structures that need to be evaluated for different reasons. Instead, this article will only focus on structural inspections for new construction only. Considering that Eastern Engineering Group is located in Miami Dade, we will try to explain the county specifications for structural inspections.
In Miami Dade County, different entities associated with the project can carry out a structural inspection. Just as in most small constructions, inspections are performed by the construction department of the city where the project is located. Other types of larger projects may have to be inspected by engineers who have a special certification known as a Threshold Inspector.
The Structural Inspections
The Structural Inspections division at Eastern Engineering Group specializes in providing services in compliance of the Florida Code. However, Miami-Dade County has special guidelines for South Florida due to its specific conditions.
Structural inspections can be done by professionals certified by the State of Florida or a specialized inspector who can delegate the task to capable and experienced engineers. Furthermore, private institutions or a government agency can perform the inspection depending on the type of project.
In projects of three stories or less, the inspections are usually carried out by the city inspectors. However, in a building classified as Threshold, the inspections must be performed by a company with at least one inspector certified or endorsed by a threshold inspector. A building is classified as Threshold when it comprises more than three stories or it has a capacity of 500 or more people in an area of 5,000 square feet.
Prior notice of at least 24 hours must be given so the inspector can plan a visit and study the object of the work to be inspected. In any case, the inspector must ensure that the plans used for the inspections are those approved by the city. At the same time, the contractor must guarantee safe access to each structural element. The inspector has every right to postpone an inspection until safety measures are met. The evaluation criteria set by the inspector is usually captured on a card that varies depending on the provider of the inspection service. This card must always remain on site and sometimes, the inspector issues a report.
What is a structural inspection?
Structures consist of various elements that interconnect and integrate in the form of a building. These elements start at the foundation and rise through the columns that connect beams and slabs. Each one of these elements is essential to guarantee the structure’s stability. The structural design considers different types of loads that spread out through every structural element.
A structural inspection is one of the most important ways to ensure the quality of the work is up to standards. On the other hand, the number of inspections done on a work depends on many factors. For example: size of the project, terrain conditions, environmental factors, and execution planning. The method can vary depending on the inspector; however, it largely depends on the type of construction system.
The structural inspector must demonstrate that the structure is in accordance to the approved plans. He or she must also verify inconsistencies among the plans of the different disciplines. Furthermore, the inspector must ensure that the methods used in construction are up to standards. He or she must reject any bad practices during the construction process, making the causes clear throughout the report.
What does a structural engineer do during an inspection?
A structural inspection has three main aspects: technical aspect, methodologic aspect, and sampling and laboratory tests.
Under the technical aspect, the inspector must carefully observe the structural element. During this observation, the inspector will rely on tools to verify the dimensions of the structural elements. The amount of material must also be in accordance to the structural plan. The coatings of the steel, as well as the angles of the steel bars, their diameter and splices must all be part of the inspection. Another important detail to observe is that the utilities such as ducts do not interfere with the structural requirements.
The structural inspector ensures that the materials meet the specifications on the plans. In order to accomplish this, the inspector must demand the evaluation reports of the concrete mixtures, as well as observe the tests on the concrete mixtures.
The work starts at the foundation, this is the base of the building and an important element for its stability. On occasions, access to the preparation of the foundation becomes challenging, but the inspector must observe this process in detail in a safe and careful manner. The top part of the foundation, the excavation, and the formwork must comply with the current code in the state where the project is located.
In every project the foundation connects to the structure trough beams, walls, columns, or steel bars. Therefore, during the foundation inspection, all the above-mentioned elements must be examined.
The slabs can be of different types such as: lightened, solid, or reinforced with steel or post-tensioned cables. For that reason, the inspection must be done according to the projected system. However, regardless of the type, the inspection must be conducted rigorously. Because the slab provides the framing between the construction elements, often the inspector conducts the inspection in stages.
Columns and Beams
In the case of columns and beams, the inspector usually has a limited access to them. This is due to the reinforcement of these elements being inside the form, causing them to be less visible. Therefore, the inspector must observe carefully and in a safe manner, using the correct tools for the job.
The execution methodology is the procedure used to conform the structural elements and achieve a final product that complies with the plan. Each contractor has its way of execution, however in each construction system these may vary. The constructive methodology is known as Means and Methods. Almost always this methodology takes into account temporary facilities, machinery, tools, human resources, time and materials.
The structural inspector must be attentive to comply with the execution methodology used for the project. One item which requires considerable amount of time during the inspection is the pouring of concrete. In addition, its curing must be adequate to guarantee the optimal resistance of the concrete. In a certain way these factors fall within the methodology as well as the correct formwork and shoring.
Sampling and Lab Tests
The structural inspector guarantees that the sampling and laboratory tests are according to the specifications of the structural plan. The inspector also monitors transportation time from the concrete plant to the work.
When should you perform an inspection?
A structural inspection may be required under various circumstances. As previously explained, it may be necessary for a new construction or for an existing one. The fundamental difference is that one enforces the construction requirements of an approved plan and the other assesses the deterioration of an executed project over time.
In this article we focused on new constructions, and we have previously detailed how to perform a structural inspection. In this case, the structural inspection will be necessary when building one or more structural elements. The inspection will always be done before completion. Usually, the contractor calls in the inspector before placing the concrete.
Difference between a structural inspection and a home inspection
It is important to understand that there is a difference between a structural inspection and a home inspection. A structural inspection focuses on the structural elements that make up a building. However, a home inspection includes other elements such as the condition of the air conditioning, plumbing and electricity. Sometimes a home inspector observes structural damages and suggests that an engineer or structural inspector issue a specialized assessment.
In order to chose the right structural inspector, the requester must ensure that the company that will provide the service has the certifications required by the building code. Eastern Engineering Group supports the division of structural inspection with the license obtained by our president Raissa Lopez, PE, SI since 2006 as a Special Inspection. Eastern Engineering Group has a portfolio of projects executed as Special Inspector and Threshold Inspectors. You can view these projects on our website and include low, mid and high rises.
Our structural engineering firm located in Miami Dade, offers Structural Inspection services throughout South Florida and it is our honor to serve our clients.
©️ 2022 Eastern Engineering Group wrote and published this article. All rights reserved.