Structural inspections and who does them
By Alex Wood
By Danielle Warfe
04 February 2022
Structural adequacy is a primary requirement of all building work in Australia – no-one wants their building to collapse. Buildings are inspected at key witness points during construction to confirm that structural elements have been correctly and apppropriately installed. If the building work is not inspected at these points, it can be difficult to confirm the building’s structural adequacy at completion.
Witness points are hold points in a work process where a person responsible for oversight is given prior notice to attend and review the work. Under Tasmania’s building legislation, witness points are called “mandatory notification stages”, where the building surveyor is notified so they can check the building work complies with the approved design and relevant building requirements, and then provide permission to proceed to the next stage of building work.
These points include the installation of major structural elements, such as when concrete is ready to be poured for footings, slabs or retaining walls. Or when timber framing is erected and braced, where lintels over openings are installed, or where decks and glass balustrades are installed.
Who does them
Building surveyors have traditionally carried out inspections of structural adequacy at these stages, however, Pudding Lane requires a structural engineer to witness these stages instead. Structural engineers are more appropriately qualified and experienced than building surveyors to determine the adequacy of structural building work, and are better positioned to identify and make minor structural modifications on site to account for site-specific factors. We follow up by reviewing the structural engineers’ inspection reports and providing instructions for proceeding with the building work.
We often receive comments that this approach is “highly unusual”, but it is actually becoming increasingly common across the industry and is seen as best practice for risk management. By witnessing the structural building work, structural engineers can carry out quality assurance and confirm their structural design has been correctly implemented. This approach also better accommodates project idiosyncrasies and anomalies and ensure each project receives the oversight it requires based on its risk profile. And when it comes to a legal context, a structural engineer’s opinion will always trump a building surveyor’s opinion on structural matters because they are deemed more expert.
The building surveyor’s role is to ensure the most qualified and experienced people provide witness to the relevant building work, so requiring a structural engineer to undertake structural inspections ensures the right expertise is being relied upon as witness. Having the right witness for your project is a no-brainer for better quality control, better risk management, and better protecting your interests in the long term.