Tag Archives: plans examiner

Dear Building Officials

Dear Building Officials

I have met (either in person, via phone or technology) more than just a few Building Officials, Inspectors and Plans Examiners over my nearly four decades of post frame buildings. I have even been privileged to be a guest speaker for several groups of these fine folks, regarding Code conforming post frame construction. My expert opinion – collectively folks who work in Building Departments most genuinely go above and beyond their call of duty to assist building owners in building safe structures.

Several members of Building Departments are either subscribed followers of this column, or regular readers of it via Linkedin posts. These are most likely ones who are providing excellent service to those venturing into their offices.

My most recent two articles covered questions we require our clients to ask of their building officials in regards to pre-construction of a new post frame building. With these answers in hand, we can assure our contracted Registered Professional Engineers have data necessary to design, meet or exceed structural requirements.

Unfortunately, there does not exist a central clearinghouse database for structural design criteria by jurisdiction. For builders and RDPs (Registered Design Professionals) who provide services over more than just limited geographical areas, this would be a tremendous tool.

Now I do have a “hero” building department and will give them kudos here. Kittitas County (Washington) Community Development Services provides a parcel-by-parcel load analysis covering their minimum design requirements (https://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/cds/building/cgdc-form.aspx).

Many building departments have posted climactic design requirements in their websites. When kept up to date, we find these to be quite handy. I would imagine RDPs appreciate availability of this information.

Recently, one of our clients in Wisconsin was facing a challenge – their Building Official would not provide them with minimum loading requirements for their proposed new building! Although rare, I have seen this occur before. In one instance, I had a Building Official refuse to provide accepted loading information. Instead they wanted us to submit engineer sealed plans and then they would tell us if what we had guessed for loading was correct or not!

Why this information was withheld baffles me. In some cases (especially where permits are issued without any sort of structural plan reviews) it could be a permit issuing authority just frankly does not know!

In my humble opinion, an expedient way to streamline permit acquisition processes would be to have readily available design criteria. For sake of public safety, I also feel all building plans not falling under prescriptive code requirements should be produced by a Registered Design Professional.

What Building Code Applies to Post Frame Construction?

What Building Code Applies to Post Frame Construction?

Being a Plans Examiner in a Building Department would have to be one amongst this planet’s toughest jobs. Besides having to listen to clients who have their own ideas about how things should be built, there are volumes upon volumes of Building Code books and referenced texts.

A Hansen Pole Buildings’ client in Arizona recently had some extended discussions with a Plans Examiner in regards to appropriate Building Code for a residential detached accessory post frame building. Plans Examiner really wanted governing code to be 2012 IRC (International Residential Code). Of course all of this becomes confusing and confounding to this future building owner, as he had initially verified Code information with this same Building Department previously and was advised 2018 IBC (International Building Code) would be applicable to his structure.

IRC has no language in it pertaining to post frame construction, while IBC indeed does. Your Building Department may require this building to be designed under IBC version 2012, even though later versions have greater accuracy for structural design due to advances in research and technology. This has to do with local jurisdiction code adoption policy.

To follow are excerpts from 2012 IRC justifying IBC use:

In “Effective Use of the International Residential Code”:

Paragraph 4:

“It is important to understand that the IRC contains coverage for what is conventional and common in residential construction practice. While the IRC will provide all of the needed coverage for most residential construction, it might not address construction practices and systems that are atypical or rarely encountered in the industry.”

IRC R301.1.3 Engineered design.

“When a building of otherwise conventional construction contains structural elements exceeding the limits of Section R301 or otherwise not conforming to this code, these elements shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice. The extent of such design need only demonstrate compliance of nonconventional elements with other applicable provisions and shall be compatible with the performance of the conventional framed system. Engineered design in accordance with the International Building Code is permitted for all buildings and structures, and parts thereof, included in the scope of this code.”

Applying for a post frame building permit and been told governing code will be IRC? Please print out this article and nicely provide it to Plans Examiner. It isn’t about proving them wrong, it’s about assisting them in a positive manner.

 

Pole Barn Footings

Some things in life amaze me – magicians are one of them. I have no idea how the do what they do, but I am totally fascinated by them (you can read about my college experience with a magician here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2014/08/lumber-bending/). One of the other things which amaze me are how clients will invest tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a new post frame building, only to cheap out on the footings!

Anything of high quality requires a good foundation.  In post frame buildings, the measure of a good foundation’s investment is small in comparison to the overall picture.

Reader CHRISTINE from SPOKANE writes:

“We see all these posts about footings. It seems here they just pour concrete around post with no footings. Is that due to the nature of our rocky soil. Our posts are in the ground, no footing and ready for concrete, architect plans, say “bottom of all footings to bear on undisturbed ,native, inorganic soil 1′ min below grade. Extend all footings 4′ min below finish grade.” Did I assume wrong and he’s calling for an actual footing? TYIA! ASAP”

Dear Christine;

For years we designed our post frame buildings without a concrete footing below the columns, instead relying upon the concrete encasement around the posts to adequately bond to the pressure preservative treated column. The bond strength between concrete and wood is documented and more can be read about it here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2013/04/pole-barn-post-in-concrete/. There were some Plans Examiners who did not look kindly upon this as a design solution.

The Building Codes do specify the requirement for a concrete footing, and as such we moved several years ago to a design which placed eight inches thick of concrete below the column.

As an architect designed your building and placed his seal upon the plans, you are obligated to construct the building per his/her solution. There should be a detail on the plans which shows exactly what the architect had in mind. If there is not, request a clarification as this is something you paid for in your fee for the work.

Mike the Pole Barn Guru

Looking for a post frame building with a column embedment design which both makes sense and works structurally? If so, only consider a building which comes with plans done specifically for your building, on your site, and sealed by a Registered Professional Engineer.

Pole Barn Plans – Goin’ For A Plans Check

Pole Barn Plans – Goin’ For A Plans Check

You did your homework….you have been through the hoops of your local planning department, and they have told you the dream pole building you want can indeed be constructed on your property, where you want it. After their blessing, you have stopped in at the building department and verified all of the required building code and loading information. This has been passed along to your pole building provider, who has given it to their engineers to produce the plans for your building.

Pole Barn Plans

Pole Barn Plans

Finally, plans in hand, you head to apply for your building permit. Somehow, this all feels like waiting for a new baby to arrive. The fears pop up in your head – what if my plans will not pass?

In some cases, building departments have prescriptive requirements for pole barns. This means, as long as your building fits within the dimensional limitations (width, length, height) and you construct the building “their way” you will be issued a structural permit. Some problems with this scenario – rarely are the prescriptive methods the most practical or cost effective way to construct your new building, but even a worse danger may lie hidden within them!

The danger is – often prescriptive requirements have inherent structural deficiencies, some of them enough so as, (under extreme load conditions), your new building could fail.

If your building department has prescriptive requirements, the best solution is to have your new pole building plans produced by a registered professional engineer. The engineer’s seal overrides any prescriptive requirements.

Back to fighting the fears – as long as you have provided the correct code and loading information to the engineer, you will obtain a structural permit for your pole barn.

In some instances, the plans you submit will not be reviewed at all, and a permit will be issued “at the counter”. In most cases, a plans examiner (or plans checker) will look over the plans to make sure the required information is stated on them (correct snow load, wind load, etc.). In many cases, your local building department does not have an engineer on staff. Only in rare circumstances will a design professional be reviewing your plans for structural adequacy. In fact, usually when your building permit is issued it includes a statement which absolves the building department and its staff of any liability, in the event your building fails structurally!

Do your homework in advance and have your pole barn plans produced by a registered design professional, and the process will be relatively painful – other than having to write the check for the permit fees.