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Special Structural Inspections and Tests

By Michael Eidson, V.P. of Structural Engineering at Southern A&E

The State of Georgia’s regulations for special inspections and quality control testing trace back to the adoption of the International Building Code 2000. This Building Code contained Chapter 17, which introduced the requirements for inspections and testing. Before these requirements became Code, it was common for concrete testing to be in the scope of work for the contractor, but for soils testing to be provided by the owner. The IBC 2000 attempted to standardize the testing requirements, to remove them from the influence of the contractor, and to give the local building official the authority to enforce the testing and inspection requirements.

The current IBC 2012 requires testing for soils, concrete, masonry, and structural steel. There are also inspection requirements for sprayed fire-resistant materials, exterior insulation and finish systems, and smoke control systems. The authority to waive any requirement rests only with the local building inspector. Special inspections and material testing firms are not allowed to be hired by the contractor – instead, they must either be hired by the owner or by the registered design professional.

The costs associated with special inspections and material testing vary with the size of the job, but they typically run from 0.5% to 1% of the constructed cost. For example, for a job that bids for $5,000,000, you could estimate the costs of special inspections and testing to be at least $25,000, but not to exceed about $50,000.  The costs are generally billed hourly each month, with unit prices for certain tests.

The services of a testing firm may be procured in various ways. Since these firms work on an hourly basis, it is common to just hire a firm based on their qualifications or previous work experience. Southern A & E recommends obtaining competitive pricing from 3 or more firms based on an estimated fixed scope of work to include unit prices for each category of testing services. A true fixed fee generally is not obtainable without significant costs to the owner, since the testing firm does not control how often it will be called to the job site. It is more common to obtain a lump sum fee based on an estimate of service to not be exceeded without written authorization. Southern A & E LLC is always ready to assist the owner in obtaining these proposals.