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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Q: What is the primary purpose of a Testing Lab?

A: Independent Testing Labs ensure adherence to the appropriate building code and project specifications. Many times this can allow the Engineer to make a less costly design. This is achieved by special/deputy inspectors and trained technicians, performing observation of the work and by laboratory testing of the construction materials.

2. Q: Why do your proposals contain “estimates” rather than “fixed” costs?

A: We can only give you an estimate based on an accurate construction progress schedule. As soon as there is a bust in the originally submitted schedule lengthening a portion of the project requiring inspection, your budget and/or estimate is lost. The testing lab has no control over the manpower the contractor or subcontractor places on the job. Many times we have seen contractors pull manpower from a project to start another project and thereby increase the time he spends completing his portion of the work requiring inspection. A contractor can see he is behind schedule and increase his manpower to finish the work on schedule. The testing lab is powerless to hurry the contractor along to finish within his submitted construction schedule. This is where a competent construction manager can persuade the contractor to follow his submitted schedule or deduct the owner’s increased inspection cost from the contractor’s submitted pay application. Typically we must rely on our client’s representatives, usually the General Contractor’s superintendent, to schedule inspections effectively and efficiently. Other variable factors such as weather, unforeseeable circumstances, and delays affect overall project schedule, which, in turn, affects the final costs.

3. Q: Why would it be more beneficial for us to hire a firm employing full time
Special/Deputy Inspectors such as yours?

A: Full time employees have more vested interest in the success of their company and therefore, the successful completion of your projects.

4. Q: How do you arrive at your hourly rates and why do they vary from project to project?

A: Our pricing is based upon the size, duration, type, location and, most importantly, the jurisdiction of the project. As an example, the City of Los Angeles, the City of Long Beach, and the Division of State Architect (DSA), just to name a few, each operates independently under different licensing requirements. The cost for the fees for licenses and the time involved to go through the process, are translated into the rates.

5. Q: Why do testing labs work for the owner or owner’s representative rather than the general contractor?

A: The Uniform Building Code (UBC) dictates that the Lab protects the interests of the owner and the Building Official as it relates to adherence to structural specifications. The UBC considers a Lab working directly for a general contractor a conflict of interests.

6. Q: What is the difference between continuous and periodic inspection?

A: According to the UBC (1701.6.1) the explanation is as follows:
Continuous special inspection means that the special inspector is on the site at all times observing the work requiring special inspection. (This could include structural concrete, masonry and welding.) Some inspections may be made on a periodic basis and satisfy the requirements of continuous inspection, provided this periodic scheduled inspection is performed as outlined in the project plans and specifications and is approved by the Building Official. (This could include reinforcing steel, diaphragm nailing, and some welding.)

7. Q: What is NDE or NDT?

A: The initials stand for Non-Destructive Examination or Non-Destructive Testing referring to a group of tests conducted primarily for welding which do not destroy or harm the material being tested. These include Ultrasonic Testing (UT), Magnetic Particle Testing (PT), Dye Penetrant, and (RT) Radiography Examination. These tests reveal flaws that might normally be missed in a visual examination.

8. Q: What are the logic and rules behind the inspection report distribution?

A: The report distribution is designed to keep all of the involved parties informed of the Testing Laboratory’s findings. According to the UBC the Structural Engineer, the Architect, and the Governing Agency MUST be on the distribution list. The owner and the general contractor are logical recipients of the reports as well. Other than those entities listed, no one else may receive reports if they are not on a distribution list approved by the owner.

9. Q: Other than competitive pricing, what are the most important attributes I should verify prior to engaging a testing Lab?

A: Are the personnel experienced in performing the kind of testing and inspection I need? Is there a clearly definable written procedure available to the personnel performing the inspection or tests? Is the testing lab certified or accredited by the City of Los Angeles and AASHTO? Are the lab personnel certified by ACI to perform the test? Is invoicing clear and easy to manage? You want to make sure that the firm offers the right mixes of specialized expertise backed by history of projects comparable to your specific needs. Of course, personalized service is the key toward the timely completion of any important project.