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This article is a continuation of the Whats This Report For?

series, based on a technical session sponsored

by ACI Committee E702, Designing Concrete Structures. In keeping with ACIs mission to provide knowledge
and information for the best use of concrete, the articles will be posted on the ACI Web site (
education/edu_online_CEU.htm) and, along with sample reports and multiple-choice questions, be used for
educational materials.

The Special
Inspection Report
What the designer needs to know

by Bryan R. Castles

he purpose of special inspection is to verify that key

components of the structure are constructed as
specified. The first appearance of special inspection in
the Uniform Building Code was in 1927. Since then, the
scope of special inspections has broadened considerably,
often in response to structural failures that exposed
weaknesses in the then-current procedures.
The 1981 collapse of the walkway at the Hyatt
Regency in Kansas City, MO, was the impetus for an
investigation of the causes of structural failures by the
House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.
Two of the most critical factors identified were the need
for improved organization and better communication
among participants on construction projects and the
need for construction inspection by the Structural
Engineer of Record during the construction of principal
structural components.
The subcommittee found that the Structural Engineer
was often not on site during the construction of
critical components of the structure; this absence
permitted construction deficiencies to go unnoticed. It
recommended that:
Professional organizations, such as the Building
Officials and Code Administrators International, the
International Conference of Building Officials, and the
Southern Building Code Conference International,
should make every effort to ensure that provisions are
written into building codes and adopted in public forum
which make the on-site presence of the structural


March 2011

/ Concrete international

engineer mandatory during the construction of structural

components on public facilities.1
Chapter 17, Section 1702, of the 2009 International
Building Code2 (IBC) defines special inspection as:
Inspection as herein required of the materials,
installation, fabrication, erection or placement of
components and connections requiring special expertise
to ensure compliance with approved construction
documents and referenced standards.
Its important to note that the implementation and
enforcement of the special inspection process is the
responsibility of the Building Official. Therefore, special
inspection processes are quite variable in implementation
and enforcement. The Registered Design Professional in
Responsible Charge (RDP) develops a special inspection
statement tailored to each structure.2 The statement
identifies which items must be inspected and at what
frequency. IBC Chapter 17, Sections 1704.3 through
1704.16, and the associated tables outline special
inspection requirements of the code. A special inspection
certificate is submitted to the Building Official during the
permitting process.

Qualifications of Special Inspectors

If special inspection requires special expertise to
verify compliance with the project specifications, what
qualifies someone for this work? Because the type and
complexity of the inspection vary from project to project,
the RDP can, with the approval of the Building Official,

decide what needs to be inspected and what qualifications

to require. Some of the options are summarized in Table 1.
In addition to the relevant licensing or certification
and appropriate experience for the individuals involved,
the special inspection firm should be independent.2 The
IBC requires the Special Inspector to be engaged and paid
by the Owner or the Owners Agent, not the Contractor.2
Any conflict of interest, such as working for the same
Contractor on another job, must be avoided. The special
inspection agency is to disclose any potential conflicts.

What Does the Special Inspector Do?

The Special Inspector is the individual or firm responsible for managing and coordinating the inspection
and testing program that may directly perform the
required inspections and tests and/or assign them to
other inspection and testing agencies approved by the
Building Official.

The Special Inspector has no control over the Contractors

means and methods of construction and no authority to
stop the work. The Special Inspector is not responsible
for construction site safety and does not inspect the work
for OSHA compliance.
If any item fails to meet the requirements of the
contract documents, the Special Inspector first notifies
the Contractor. If the Contractor does not or cannot
remedy the deficiency, the Special Inspector notifies the
Building Official and the RDP before the completion of
that phase of the work. The design and/or specification of
remedial measures are the responsibility of the RDP.
The Special Inspector submits interim reports to the
Building Official and the appropriate RDP. The final
report of special inspections certifies that all of the
required inspections and tests have been completed and
that all identified deficiencies have been corrected,
resolved, or remain unresolved. The Special Inspector

Table 1:
Who does what? Possible licenses or certifications for inspection1
Governing body



Professional Engineer (Structural or


Inspection of critical structural or

foundation elements


Inspections that could be performed by

an engineer who has not yet attained

Concrete Field Testing Technician

(Grade 1)

Sampling and testing of fresh concrete

Concrete Construction Inspector

Inspection of reinforcing steel, concrete

placement, and curing

Laboratory Testing Technician (Grade

1 or 2 or Strength Testing Technician)

Laboratory testing of concrete

Certified Welding Inspector

Visual inspection of welds

Certified Structural Steel Inspector

Structural steel inspection

Nondestructive Testing Technician

(Level II or III)

Nondestructive testing of welds (for

example, by ultrasound)

State Licensing Board

American Concrete Institute

American Welding Society

American Society for Nondestructive

Structural Masonry Special Inspector

Structural Steel and Welding Special Inspector
International Code Council

Spray-Applied Fireproofing Special Inspector

Prestressed Concrete Special Inspector
Reinforced Concrete Special Inspector
Concrete Technician (Levels I, II,
III, and IV)

National Institute for Certification in

Engineering Technologies

Soils Technician (Levels I, II, III,

and IV)

Materials for highway and transportation


Geotechnical Engineering Technician

(Levels I, II, III, and IV)
Concrete international

/ March 2011


should distribute reports to the RDP,

Contractor, and Owner.

The Special Inspection


Once the RDP has developed the

statement of special inspections for
the project, a preconstruction

conference should be held to make

sure that all of the participants
understand their roles and responsibilities. It should include the Special
Inspection Coordinator, RDP, other
design professionals involved in the
project, Contractor, Subcontractors,
Inspectors, and Testing Agencies.

These conferences are often not

held or are held without all of the
essential parties present.
The Contractor schedules all
inspections and tests, giving ample
advance notice (preferably at least
24 hours) to the Inspectors and
Testing Agencies so that the work
will not be delayed. Any deficiencies
identified during an inspection and
any test failures are to be reported
immediately to the Contractor for
corrective action.
The Inspectors and Testing
Agencies prepare reports that
document each inspection or test
and clearly identify the work that
was inspected or tested, any
deficiencies that were identified,
and their resolutions. These reports
must be submitted to the Special
Inspection Coordinator in a timely
manner. The Special Inspection
Coordinator collects and reviews
the inspection and testing reports,
then distributes them to the
Building Official and RDP. Interim
reports should also go to the
Contractor and Owner.
When all required inspections
and tests have been performed, each
Inspector and Testing Agency
submits its final report of special
inspections to the Special Inspection
Coordinator, who submits a final
report of special inspections
certifying that all of the required
inspections and tests have been
completed and that all identified
deficiencies have been corrected
or resolved.

Concrete Inspection

Special inspection of concrete

construction covers both cast-inplace and precast concrete. Most
foundation concrete for buildings
less than three stories, including
footings, frost walls, and slabs-onground, are exempt from special
inspections. Inspection and testing
are required for all other concrete,
including slabs on metal deck and
structural topping slabs.2


March 2011

/ Concrete international

Reinforcing steel must be inspected prior to concrete

placement to verify the grade, size, cover, spacing, and
position of reinforcing. The Inspector should confirm that
the surface of reinforcing steel is free of form release oil
or other deleterious substances. Bolt and anchor installation
should be checked for correct size and embedment.
The inspection should verify that the concrete
proportioning is consistent with the approved mixture
design by reviewing the batch tickets for each truck.
The inspection should verify all field testing of concrete,
including slump, air content, temperature, and casting
and handling of compression test cylinders. Testing
should be continuous during concrete placement. That
is, the Testing Technician must remain at the site for the
duration of concrete placement. Its common practice
for a Testing Technician to remain at the site only long
enough to cast a set of cylinders and perform a set of
tests. But the Inspector also needs to be present while
the slab is being floated and power troweled, which
may be several hours after the actual placement is
completed. Concrete curing and protection procedures
must also be inspected.

Whats in the Report?

Inspection reports

Date, time, and weather conditionsthis information

is beneficial in evaluating test data and assessing any
anomalies in the hardened concrete.
Name of Inspectorclarifications may be needed. It is
beneficial to be able to contact the Inspector.
What was inspecteddetailed descriptions of the
elements inspected are necessary to track inspections.
For example, retaining wall may not be sufficient if
there are several retaining walls or large walls requiring
multiple inspections.
Whether tests were takenthis data will allow for
matching tests to the inspection.
Results of tests, if availablesummarizing the test
data in the inspection report simplifies review.
Does the item inspected conform to the approved
plans and specification?a brief statement of
conformance or nonconformance allows for efficient
identification of nonconforming items.
Who was notified?this is particularly important with
nonconforming items.
Reviewer name and dateeach report should be
reviewed for accuracy and clarity.
Interim reports should contain:
A statement noting period covered by the interim
report, such as This report covers the inspections
performed between June 15, 2009, and July 31, 2009;
A summary of inspections to date, for example,
Inspections completed include reinforced concrete
for the foundations and Level 1 of the parking

structure. Tensioning of the Level 2 slab is not

complete at this time;
Status of nonconforming items. Statements such as,
Two noncompliance items are outstanding. The
28-day strength cylinders molded for Footing G-2 were
more than 500 psi below the design strength of 3000 psi.
No. 5 bars were used for the vertical bars placed in
the Level 1 Column 5-G. The plans call for No. 4 bars,
are beneficial;
A copy of the conformance log;
Unresolved inspection items, such as conflicts
between plans and specs;
Copies of all inspections performed in the period
covered; and
Copies of all test reports for the period.
The final report should contain:
A summary of inspections performed, indicating items
inspected and when the inspections were conducted;
A statement that the work inspected was done in
conformance to approved construction documents;
A list of exceptions and unresolved inspection items,
if any;
Copies of all inspections performed; and
Copies of all test reports.

1. Council of American Structural Engineers, Guide to Special
Inspections and Quality Assurance, third edition, 2004, 23 pp.
2. International Code Council, International Building Code, 2009,
676 pp.
Selected for reader interest by the editors.

Bryan R. Castles is a Principal and Senior

Materials Engineer for Western Technologies,
Inc., Phoenix, AZ. He has extensive
experience with construction qualitycontrol methods and procedures and has
provided quality-control management and
administrative services for numerous DOT,
Corps of Engineers, and FAA projects. He is
an active member of ACI and Past President
of the ACI Arizona Chapter. He is a member of ACI Committees
211, Proportioning Concrete Mixtures; 214, Evaluation of Results
of Tests Used to Determine the Strength of Concrete; 221,
Aggregates; and E702, Designing Concrete Structures. In 1983, he
received his BS in civil engineering at the University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign. He is a licensed professional engineer in
Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada.
Concrete international

/ March 2011