What is a Building Official, and what is their Scope of Work?
The average potential new post frame owner (as well as most building contractors) has little or no idea of what a Building Official’s scope of work truly is. Sean Shields and Kirk Grundahl, P.E. (Professional Engineer) recently published an article in SBC Magazine in regards to this very subject. At the end of this article, I will tell you why this is so important.
I will include here only excerpts from the authors’ summary:
“The following simply summarizes what the model code states, as it is adopted into law:
A building official’s role is to administer and enforce the adopted building code, nothing more and nothing less.
The building official shall examine all aspects of the construction project for compliance with the specific charging language and scope of the section of the code being evaluated.
If anything about the construction project does not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall, if there are any non-conforming issues, reject in writing, stating the reasons therefor.
Implied here is that the written rejection shall provide:
- Specific evidence of non-conformance, and
- Enough information for the owner of the building to be able to cure the non-conformance based on the evidence provided, and
- A clear and easy to understand pathway to cure the deficiency.
The building official is also authorized and directed to enforce the provisions of this code. The building official shall have the authority to render interpretations of this code and to adopt policies and procedures in order to clarify the application of its provisions. Such interpretations, policies and procedures shall comply with the intent and purpose of this code.
Implied here is the fact that not everything needed to enforce the code is going to be written in the code. Hence, interpretations will need to be made with respect to what meets the intent of the code. This is generally and easily undertaken as follows:
- A registered design professional (RDP) or approved source provide an accepted engineering analysis or research report and signs and certifies their belief that the issue being dealt with conforms to the code.
- A research report is provided by an approved source.
- A research report also known as a technical evaluation or accepted engineering analysis is provided by an ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Product Certification Body
- Obviously, the best-case scenario for building official authorized interpretations is to have them based by an RDP that signs, certifies and seals conformance with the building code provisions. Why?
- This says that the given RDP takes responsibility for their engineering evaluation scope of work.
- The work of the RDP is under the authority of a legal entity generally called a Licensing Board and by law has to work in their area of expertise or be subject to fines and loss of their license.
- The work of the RDP is also generally insured through professional liability insurance.
As a final analogy, a building official is identical to a police officer, where all of us desire that the police officer follow the rule of laws as written. In other words, we would not want a police officer to do the following:
- A police officer picks me up for driving under the influence.
- My hair was just dyed scarlet and gray because I am an Ohio State fan.
- The police officer thinks this is weird and says you must be intoxicated.
- The police officer handcuffs me, takes me down to the station, and puts me in jail.
Preferably, the police officer would do a definitive science-based test to ensure I was indeed intoxicated before putting me in jail.
Thankfully, all professional building officials we know base their decisions:
- On following the rule of law, and
- Using accepted engineering as the basis of interpretations when needed, and
- Provide evidence of non-conformances to the law, and
- When non-conformances exist, provide an easy to understand pathway to cure it.”
I told you I would tell you why this is important – because a building official cannot merely say something is wrong. He or she is required to put any non-conforming issue in writing and why. And, most importantly, provide an easy to understand method to solve the issue.