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When a building is erected, there are many disciplines involved in the process of construction, from architects through to the bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, tilers, glaziers, roofers and all other specialists who play their part in the actual physical construction itself. Whilst they all know their own roles in the process, there is one specialist who is responsible for ensuring that all the various aspects of the build are carried out according to specific codes and bylaws which are there to ensure that the final building complies with legal safety requirements. This is the role of a building inspector.
A building inspector is a defence barrier against shoddy building workmanship and contractors who try to bypass the rules and regulations of their trade. He ensures that all building work is up to government or municipal bylaws and codes. He is usually involved right from the initial planning stage and design documents, ensuring that all legal requirements have been complied with to ensure safety and usability of the final structure, whether this is a new build or a renovation project. Many building inspectors are employed by private engineering, contracting and construction companies, although there are government and municipal building inspectors who perform the same duties. They are there to check that all necessary safety factors, for instance, wiring diagrams and number and construction of fire exit doors comply with the required building regulations. He is the final sign-off authority on building plans, once he has satisfied himself that the building codes have been complied with and the construction will be safe for human use.
His job does not end there, as he will periodically conduct on-site inspections to ensure that there have been no deviations from the original plans and that the build is proceeding strictly according to these plans. If amendments have to be made due to unforeseen factors not originally taken into account and therefore not planned for, the building inspector will ensure that any such alterations comply with standard approved building codes and regulations. For those builders and contractors who may choose to take short-cuts which may affect the safety of any building, the unexpected arrival of the building inspector on one of his periodic on-site inspections will often prove to be their undoing.
Any deviation from the original approved plans and schematics will have to be explained, and should have been approved by the building inspector prior to implementation, so this could possibly lead to tearing down non-approved construction, wiring, plumbing, etc. and re-doing the job according to building code regulations. For this reason, it is always better to halt work pending approval of unexpected changes than proceed without informing the building inspector of the deviations from the signed-off plans and schematics.
The building inspector is there for safety reasons, and is a specialist in his field so his word is final when it comes to approval and deviations. If a contractor chooses to ignore the warnings of a building inspector, it is possible that he will be forced to demolish any work which is not up to code regulations and re-build at his own cost.
A building inspector typically needs to have an engineering qualification from a university or college, and must keep himself updated at all times on changes to local and national building codes, regulations and practices. He should hold the appropriate certifications as proof that he is continuously updating his education and awareness in this regard, particularly since building codes are subject to continual change in view of improved building practices and materials.
Building inspectors are not, at this point, easily found by searching the internet. They are usually Government or Municipal employees, or are contracted to private engineering, construction or contracting firms, and may be contacted through these firms. Even so, internet search sites like Uptasker can definitely assist in this regard, listing per specific geographical areas and providing online ratings and customer reviews. Building inspectors may also be found through architectural, house and renovation magazines and the Yellow Pages, and by enquiries through construction companies and allied industries who deal with these specialists all the time.
Safety is paramount when renovating existing buildings or constructing new properties. It is always wise to employ the most experienced, knowledgeable and skilled specialists when undertaking work in this sphere, but it is good to know that there is an additional unbiased expert overseeing the project from a purely safety point of view. For more tips, see our building inspector articles.