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Metal Building System Inspections

Mcn  Prod Feature  Jan17 2 Low Rez

Inspections help produce quality metal building systems

A business cannot succeed unless it is profitable, and a company that fails to produce a quality product will lose its customer base and lower its overall profitability. This is true for metal building systems as well; inspection during construction helps ensures their quality.

"As metal building systems are used on more and more projects with increasing complexity, inspection using the approved construction documents and awareness of how metal buildings are unique will ensure that all components are acting as a system to meet the design team's intentions and owner's expectations," says Dustin Cole, PE, SE, director of engineering, Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb. "Inspections can give the owner or end user the peace of mind that the finished building is built per the specifications," adds Dan Walker, PE, associate general manager, Metal Building Manufacturers Association (MBMA), Cleveland.

Metal building system inspection examines primary faming, secondary framing, metal roof and wall cladding, and other building components. Inspections ensure that metal panels are installed exactly as specified, and engineered with fasteners and/or clips spaced properly, laps installed as engineered, and sealants applied at the specified rates. Inspections also focus on materials common to the building envelope, such as windows, doors, skylights and insulation materials. Without inspections, buildings can suffer from roof blow-off, paint finish or protective coating failure, metal-to-metal corrosion, waterproofing failure and liability issues.

"Anytime that you incorporate inspections into a process that involves manufacturing and/ or assembly of a product, you are going to benefit from cost savings and improved quality," says Greg West, marketing manager, International Accreditation Service (IAS), Washington, D.C. "The inspections will help identify areas where there are errors that need to be reworked. If these areas are missed, it can be even more expensive to fix later on in the process. Undetected small problems also have a way of turning into bigger, more expensive problems that can take even more time and money to fix, not to mention unhappy customers."

"Metal buildings that are not installed correctly may have serious problems that take time to develop," says John Pierson, PE, engineering services manager, The Garland Co. Inc., Cleveland. "Problems with limited expansion and contraction, penetrating through fasteners, poor detailing and reliance on exposed sealants may all lead to serious performance issues long after the installer's limited warranty is up. Inspection during installation can catch long-term problems which may be covered up once the job is complete."


Inspect Throughout Construction

Metal building system inspections should be scheduled on regular phases and stages during installation. Pierson suggests that during critical detail work, inspections should be as often as once per day. Without scheduled and continuous inspection, uninspected gaps might imply the structure was not certified as being installed in compliance with industry standards. Many key components of a metal building system are closed to view during installation. Because they cannot be seen or inspected without removing, disengaging or disassembling portions of the building, it is critical to conduct ongoing inspections during the installation process and make whatever corrections and/or adjustments at that time.

Metal building system construction inspection starts when materials and equipment arrive. "Delivery, storage and handling instructions are essential," says Dr. Denis Leonard, ASQ Fellow and president of Business Excellence Consulting LLC, Bozeman, Mont. "Waste due to damaged material is a huge cost issue. Pre-construction inspection is also needed to review the job site prior to starting work. Has all the other work been completed correctly so that you can start work on time? This includes all structural and nonstructural components."

Every metal building is different, so the number of inspections will vary. "Inspections from all parties (owner, engineer, and contractor) should commence with review of the shop drawings to ensure everyone is on the same page prior to work starting," says Joe LaFave, president of LaFave's Construction Co. Inc., Landis, N.C. "Then individual and collective inspections should be scheduled at least monthly, and more often for critical conditions."

There should be a final inspection and a final review. Rely on the pre- and in-process inspections to have caught any errors; this is a final check on obvious and visual issues.


Inspection Importance

Many metal building system construction companies have an installation manager who visits the site daily to inspect. He walks with the construction crew and general contractor during which time any questions or concerns are addressed. Deficiencies must be noted and corrected. Punch lists aid the process. Often, installation concerns can be cleared up by going to manufacturers' websites to confirm correct installation via installation manuals. On installations that involve a manufacturer's warranty, many manufacturers require the contractor to retain their services for a technical service representative to inspect the project at the beginning, mid-point and at completion.

Probes can ensure that proper waterproofing methods and procedures are being followed. Flexible scopes can check into hard-to-see locations. Inspection mirrors see places not available for direct viewing, such as the underside of roof panels and sealants under eaves. Knives can check sealant adhesion, and detect a gap between metal panels. A micrometer can check metal gauges. Always verify all metal-to-metal connections are properly sealed and under compression.

Progress photographs can show both proper and improper installation. "A simple tool to record all inspection stages is digital photographs and video," says Leonard. "Digital storage and backup is easy today and these are excellent ways in which a picture tells a thousand words. Video key component parts, noting with a simple sheet of paper the exact location of the component and the time recorded. To have a good system in place you should have a detailed scope of work that links to specifications, drawings, details, cross sections, photographs, and of course, manufacturers' instructions."

LaFave says an important inspection tool is an updated set of plans. "It is imperative that all parties are using the same approved shop drawing and contract documents," he says. "The ability of the inspector to translate the intent of the shop drawings into field installed conditions will allow for a very sufficient inspection process." For inspection analysis, use detailed and fully completed hardcopy checklists. Ensure that dates, detailed locations of the building and components, as well as the job, supervisor and crew are all recorded.

However, "The use of handheld devices that can record all of the above makes life so much easier, as is the ability to download the data to your home database," Leonard says. "The gathering of all this data can be nullified if you do not have a good way to store, retrieve and analyze it. If you cannot analyze the data then you cannot track defects and find root causes, let alone be able to find the data for clients, contractors or insurance purposes."


Two Installers

Walbridge, Ohio-based Rudolph Libbe Inc. of the Rudolph Libbe Group is required by the state of Ohio to inspect, test and document the steel connections of the metal building systems it installs. "We value that process," says Ron Kuzma, project manager of building systems, Rudolph Libbe. "We work to prevent delays by planning, designing and executing our projects carefully, and inspections and testing are very important to that process. Inspections and testing provide valued confirmation that our work is accurate. We review the manufacturers' requirements with inspectors before the inspections. We make sure we have enough work completed so we get most value from each inspection and make the best use of the inspector's time. Inspectors confirm that proper materials are used, details are followed, and steel connections are assembled and tested per the project documents."

Arnold, Mo.-based Kozeny-Wagner Inc. has a superintendent who coordinates with an independent testing agency on field inspections. The independent testing agency will make visual observations of welded connections, bolt testing (tension/torque), and welder certifications from the workers performing the erection. "Scheduling frequent inspections during the erection process can help identify problems before they stop work on the erection and avoid any possible rework items," says Michael J. Kozeny, vice president at Kozeny- Wagner. "Inspections start for the metal building once the anchor bolts are set. Verification of the placement of the anchor bolts need to be double checked to avoid field modifications and avoid possible delays on starting the erection. Subsequently, the independent testing agency will make visual observations of welded connections, bolt testing (tension/torque), and welder certifications."


Trained Inspection

Expert experience and training aid the inspection process. "The best tool for inspection is the visual observation of an experienced and qualified metal expert," says Pierson. "However, there are great software applications for portable devices which can help the customer and/or design professional with immediate project information. The inspection provider should have an online customer asset management program for accessing reports."

Lack of training and experience can be a cause of one of biggest field problems: anchor bolts being mis-located. "Placement of anchor bolts is typically done by the foundation crew; not the metal building erector," says Gary Mitchell, PE, IAS technical assessor. "The problem is caused by not using anchor bolt templates at each column location and either not doing a survey for the anchor bolt locations or the lack of expertise in conducting the survey." Use any training materials manufacturers provide to aid inspection.

Association Inspection Assistance

The MBMA has released its new "Guide for Inspecting Metal Building Systems," a resource intended for use by individuals who are responsible for contracting, performing, and reporting the various inspection tasks related to the construction of a metal building project. "It is very important to make sure third-party inspectors understand what makes metal buildings different from other construction methods so they don't try to apply things that shouldn't apply to a metal building project," Walker says. This comprehensive guide is available for online purchase, in print or PDF format, at

A few years ago, MBMA partnered with IAS to implement IAS AC 472,"Inspection Programs for Manufacturers of Metal Building Systems." The Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA) has created a companion program for metal building assemblers, called IAS AC 478, "Accreditation Criteria for Inspection Practices of Metal Building Assemblers." "AC 478 is a complement to AC 472," says Jacqueline Meiluta of MBCEA. "IAS AC 478 governs assemblers of metal building systems (which are commonly referred to as erectors and contractors) and the process of quality assembly.

For AC 472, IAS will schedule an assessment to observe the inspection practices of the metal building assembler on job sites and in the office. "The purpose of this assessment is for the metal building assembler to provide evidence that they are following the management system and inspection practices and related criteria in AC 478," says Sandi McCracken, IAS senior manager. "This includes evidence of following safety plans, training programs, inspection protocols and the organization's method of determining compliance with contract documents." Learn more about AC 478 in our April 2017 issue of Metal Construction News.


Sidebar: What are Metal Building System Inspectors Looking for?

• Correct and complete installation of structure and bracing
• Correct installation for point load conditions and special conditions including cranes and hangar doors
• Weathertight roof installation including penetrations, sealants and flashing-especially in warranty conditions
• Correct insulation type and thickness
• Wall panel and trim conditions are properly installed

Jim Peckham, manager of marketing, Varco Pruden Buildings, Memphis, Tenn.


Sidebar: Erection and Inspection

Make sure the erector is installing everything per the final erection drawings from the manufacturer. We've had issues where the erector installed a roof beam or column in the wrong location and needs to be relocated if it's caught early enough. If not, the member may need to be reinforced since it wasn't designed for that location. Obviously this can cause significant delays and costs! An erector having to go back and install, fix or replace a missing/damaged part costs time and money. You could also have the costs of the replacement parts plus freight.

Most of the inspections are done when the project is complete or nearing completion. The typical items they are looking for are anchor bolts tight, structural connections tight, any missing flange braces in the roof and walls, purlin/girt bridging, missing lap bolts and brace rods being tight. I like to inspect the project weeks before they are finishing in case we need to order additional parts. The final inspection is typically done by an engineer or local building inspector when the project is complete. Making sure that everyone is on the same page on how the bolts will be tightened, etc., before the project starts makes a huge difference!

Keith Wentworth, vice president, Dutton & Garfield Inc., Hamstead, N.H.


Sidebar: Seeing the Inspector

Third-party special inspectors are employed by the owner to perform the special inspections and tests identified in and required by the statement of special inspections prepared by the registered design professional in responsible charge. Other third-party inspectors may also examine the metal building project related to insurance underwriting, nonstructural quality assurance, etc. Inspectors need to be part of the construction team.

Inspectors' involvement throughout the construction process instead of coming in at the end will result in avoiding unnecessary conflict. Inspectors compare the work to the requirements of the approved construction documents. They are to examine completed or partially completed work, and provide reports to the building official and the registered design professional in responsible charge as to whether or not the work confirms to the requirements of the approved construction documents.

Dustin Cole, PE, SE, director of engineering, Chief Buildings, Grand Island, Neb.


Sidebar: Analyzing the Metal Building System Inspection

What are metal building system inspectors typically looking for? We conduct our own job site inspections to ensure compliance with the manufacturer's drawings and our own quality standards. Beyond that most jurisdictions now require a bolt-tightening Inspection. We sometimes see specification written requiring a "Manufacturer's Certification". Most manufacturers will not perform this type of inspection and we hire an outside structural testing agency to perform the inspection. We do not specifically prepare for the inspection; we incorporate proper assembly as part of our way of doing business so any building we build should pass inspection. Inspectors will typically check a certain percentage of bolts on a project checking for proper tightening. They will also check for "plumbness" based on the project/manufacturers specifications. They will often look for certification of any on-site welders and in some cases for extremely critical connections, asked for non-destructive testing of field welded members.

Arthur E. Hance, president, Hance Construction Inc., Washington, N.J.