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Know your role

icodes NEC 2008NFPA

There are many types of inspectors that can provide enforcement in the community.  The requirement for inspector titles may come from the adopted code or statutory requirements.  Each inspector plays a critical role in ensuring safety during the building process and through the life of the building.  It is critical that we know what each person’s position is responsible for.  Secondly by understanding each role we can better coordinate our inspections and look for areas that require coordination.   Let’s look at some examples;

 Building Official:  The building official is the primary official based on the building code.  Section 103.2 of the International Building Code is the basis for the creation of the position which is appointed by the municipalities unit of government.  The code allows for the appointment of deputies and inspectors as necessary to enforce the provisions of the code.  Section 104 provides for the duties of the building official.  A key concept for the building official is that they are the Authority Having Jurisdiction for all matters of the code including enforcement and determining the “intent” of the code. 

Fire Code Official:  Will be appointed the same as the building official (by the communities governmental body).  The FCO is the primary official for the fire prevention aspects including the enforcement of the adopted fire code.  Some jurisdictions may call these positions the fire inspector, fire marshal, chief inspector, or fire prevention specialist.  The fire code (section 103.2 of the IFC or section  ?). 

 Mechanical Inspector:  Is responsible for the provisions of the adopted Mechanical Code.  As air handling and energy efficiency becomes more prevalent, this position becomes a critical component of the team.  The position will cover items such as air handling, systems piping, gas piping, air conditioning, and other ventilation concerns. 

Plumbing Inspector:  Is the official who ensure that the water and sewer systems are appropriate.  This includes proper installation of sinks, toilets, water lines, back-flow prevention devices, and the associated sewer and drainage.

Electrical Inspector:  Have you seen the new NEC 2008?  This is a code that stands by itself.  The electrical inspector may be a master electrician with many years of experience.  The responsibilities include low voltage systems, building power, building services, and back-up generators. 

Plan Reviewer:  This is one of the most critical positions to ensure a project goes smooth.  The reviewer can be the inspector, building official, fire marshal, or it’s own position.  The plan reviewer is responsible for ensuring code compliance before a foundation is dug or a steel is raised.  The plan reviewer is charged with reviewing documents that are prepared by a design professional and ensuring the provisions of the code are meet.  Prior to conducting any inspection the plan review must be complete and the permit issued.   

 Understanding and cross training of each role is critical for overall project success.  Our project sites require multiple, coordinated visits by each inspector.  Electrical inspector may need to inspect the location an connection of conduit installed in a new building.  If the conduit (an electrical code requirement) penetrates the two hour fire wall (building or fire code issue) then, the inspector must ensure the provisions of another code are meet. 

 Permitted projects are the beginning of a new customer (building occupant and owner) for our community.  If inspectors continue to build relationships across enforcement lines our customers will have a safer building and a greater understanding of codes and standards.  If the electrical inspector does not mention the need for appropriate fire stopping in the above scenario, it would be identified by the building or fire inspector.  Once the issue is identified the contractor must remedy the situation and a reinspection is necessary.  Studying the codes utilized by other inspectors can assist in providing complete timely and efficient inspections which result in less delays and greater safety during the building process 

 When is it okay for the inspector to enforce another code?  Does coordinating inspectors create any value during the inspection process? 

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