Three people inspecting a building

(No, we’re not talking about “passing” or “failing.”)

Seems like this one should be easy to answer, right?

A good inspection finds and notes areas that are problematic and a bad one just glosses over them. But, as any inspection expert will tell you, it’s a little more complicated than that.

Let’s break it down. At the end of the day, a building inspector is responsible for minimizing the risk of injury, death, and economic loss due to unsafe buildings and systems.

That seems like a lot of responsibility, and that’s because it is a lot of responsibility. Especially when your name and signature are attached to a project in perpetuity. Therefore, good inspections go well beyond a simple checklist of building compliance and approved plans. According to the International Code Council (ICC), “…to be effective, building inspectors must be familiar with the principles of construction, not merely the specifics…” and they must have the strong ability to “…apply the principles and methods of construction to judge the work and decide whether it meets the applicable standards or codes.”

To use a ubiquitous phrase, there is a lot of nuance involved. Some aspects of inspection are obvious, while most others are more subtle. It takes a seasoned expert to know the difference–hence all the rigor to become a certified inspector. However, there are a few distinct ways to gauge the “success” or “failure” of a building inspection, regardless of the end result:

  • Integrity- A good inspection takes time. There are many factors at play at different stages of a project. No matter the size of the project, the materials in use, and how many different systems there are to inspect, there’s no such thing as rushing a good inspection. It demonstrates a commitment to doing what’s right, not just getting through what’s right now.

  • Communication- A good inspection comes with questions–both from, and for, the inspector themselves. Asking relevant questions about the project at hand is a sign the inspector is engaged and looking to understand the previously mentioned process nuances. Likewise, while the inspector needs to focus, they should be able to reasonably answer questions about what they are or are not seeing (i.e., they will take the time–see above–to communicate with the interested parties).

  • Expertise- A good inspection is thorough, as is the report on that inspection. Whether pass or fail, the inspection report (or job card as it is sometimes referred) should include detailed, specific observations from the inspector, as opposed to generic information simply intended to “check the box” and move on. Providing pictures, and even videos, of possible issues and recommendations on how to address them is a great indicator of what kind of inspection is taking place.

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SAFEbuilt is a community development services company. We provide comprehensive building department, private provider, and other professional services with the goal of helping our customers build better, safer communities.