5 Common Questions About Special Inspections


The International Building Code defines Special Inspections as "the inspection of construction requiring the expertise of an approved special inspector to ensure compliance with code and the approved construction documents." Shield Engineering proudly performs Special Inspections for our clients, ensuring that compliance is reached in a timely manner to keep projects on track without sacrificing safety or quality of the project. After decades of performing Special Inspections, here are some of the most common questions that we've heard from our client base. 

1. Why were Special Inspections created?

Special Inspections began to be widely enforced after several strings of construction-related failures occurred. In the early 1980s, U.S. House Subcommittee examined the causes of construction-related failures and determined one of the primary culprits was the lack of sufficient inspections performed by design engineers during the construction process.

Some of the most notable construction-related failures are:

While these instances mark some of the most well-known incidents in history, there are both minor and major oversights discovered each day that could have otherwise been identified and remediated through Special Inspections. 

2. What is commonly included in Special Inspections?

Special Inspections are covered by the International Building Code in Chapter 17, and are sometimes referred to as “Chapter 17 Inspections”. Special Inspections on a project may include one or several of the following items:

  • Verification of Soils
  • Excavation and Fill
  • Deep Foundations
  • Modular Retaining Walls
  • Reinforced Concrete
  • Post Tension Concrete
  • Pre-Cast Concrete Erection
  • Pre-Stressed Concrete
  • Inspection of Pre-Cast Fabricators
  • Inspection of Structural Steel Fabricators
  • Structural Masonry
  • Welding
  • High Strength Bolting and Steel Frame Inspections
  • Sprayed Fire-Resistant Materials
  • Exterior Insulation and Finish System (EIFS)
  • Seismic Resistance
  • Smoke Control
  • Detention Basins
  • Special Cases

3. What are the requirements for Special Inspections?

The requirements for special inspections are based on numerous factors such as occupancy class, intended use, height, seismic categories, and wind zones. The DPIRC (Design Professional in Responsible Charge) typically indicates what inspections are required based on a review of the code. However, the authority having jurisdiction may require additional inspections.

Special Inspections per North Carolina Building Code 2012, Section 1704 are required for building, building components or other structures per the following:

  • Buildings or other structures listed in Table 1604.5 in Occupancy Category II if:
    • Building height exceeds 45 feet or three stories, or
    • The building is an Underground building per 405.1
    • Buildings or other structures listed in table 1604.5 in categories III or IV
    • Piles, piers, and special foundations
    • Retaining walls or mechanically stabilized earth walls exceeding 5 feet height with a horizontal distance of 50 feet or less per 1806.2
  • Smoke control and smoke exhaust systems
  • Sprayed fire-resistant materials, or
  • Special case described in 1704.13
  • Retaining or mechanically stabilized earth walls exceeding five feet in height on a site require permits and special inspections by the engineer of record and the owner shall reserve funds for same in the project budget or engage an independent firm at their expense

4. Who do Special Inspections firms report to?

Special Inspections firms work for owners or for the DPIRC (Design Professional in Responsible Charge) acting as the owner’s agent. A special inspections firm does not work directly for the contractor in cases where the inspection requirements are required by code, as this could be construed as a conflict of interest.

5. Do Special Inspections firms work with building officials?

When required by code or by the authority having jurisdiction, Special Inspections are always performed in conjunction with the building official. The requirement for Special Inspections does not alleviate the building official from their obligation to perform required inspections.

Shield is a full-service Civil Engineering firm based in Charlotte, NC with a strong staff of engineers, inspectors and technicians. Our team is capable of performing the required Special Inspections for numerous types of projects, and our Special Inspectors have a large experience base with multistory residential, municipal and industrial construction.

For more information on how Shield Engineering can assist with Special Inspections, please fill out the form on our website or call 800-395-5220 to speak to a Shield team member.  

View All Blogs

Contact us for additional information


Contact Us

Call us at (800) 395-5220