Appendix D
Tips for Site Observations – General

The architect undertaking field review should refer to one of the many published checklists for assistance in conducting site visits. The following is a partial list of very general matters to review on construction sites. See also Appendix A – Professional Standards for Field Review/General Review above.

Aesthetics includes the location and appearance of exposed mechanical and electrical components, particularly in areas exposed to view which should be finalized during roughing-in.

Cleaning of trapped areas must be undertaken continually. The architect reviews and checks that accumulated dirt and dust is not allowed to build up and be covered up by the work of later trades. This includes dirt and food products left inside chase walls, above ceiling areas, and in interstitial spaces which could eventually find its way into areas occupied by the public. This also includes cleaning of areas such as cavity wall spaces which could affect the performance of weep holes.

Code requirements include stairs, exiting, life support systems, and anything which involves public health and life safety.

Datums and tolerances involve points used to determine floor levels with respect to outside grades or adjacent structures, and also required to maintain setbacks from other buildings or property lines and plumbness of vertical elements such as elevator shafts.

Deflections require that appropriate allowances be made during and after construction for the deflections that will occur in beams, floors, and slabs as they are loaded. Beams and lintels above masonry and deflection of steel decking under roof parapets are typical examples.

Drainage includes the provision of adequate slopes to drain water in floor slabs, pits and vaults, paving areas, and below slab weeping tiles. Inadequate slopes and drainage are a major cause of claims and litigation.

Expansion and control joints must align with related joints in the building structure and at areas of expected movement. Joints should be consistent in all planes of the building envelope and interior, must not be constrained by construction, and must be allowed to expand and contract freely. The damage to the building fabric and visual impact of improperly designed joints are among the most significant problems with construction.

Fireproofing of building structures requires checking the thickness and densities of materials. There must be sufficient room to apply spray on fireproofing, and it must not interfere with mechanical and electrical systems. Patching of damaged fireproofing must be undertaken so as to not impair the tested ratings of the system, and testing and inspection should be done by recognized testing companies.

Fire protection must maintain the required fire separations mandated by building codes. Provision must be made where fire separations are penetrated by other building systems such as mechanical and electrical systems as well as vertical services such as elevators and stairs. The materials used must meet current standards. Confirm that the materials have the required fire ratings, and that they are installed by approved methods and in all required locations.

Hardware on building projects is subject to substitutions and changes of hardware, changes of use or occupancy, and requested changes from authorities having jurisdiction. The architect requests the hardware supplier to check and accept the methods of installation and confirm that the requirements of the occupants and authorities having jurisdiction are met.

Humidity and water infiltration trapped in wall and roof systems during the construction phase can lead to problems with rot and damage. The architect checks for excessive moisture in insulation materials, windows, and roofing systems. Excess humidity during the installation of many building materials will also lead to long-term problems. Gypsum board or acoustic ceiling panels will swell or sag when subjected to moisture levels exceeding permitted levels.

Mechanical and electrical equipment such as elevators, escalators, fans, pumps, operable doors, etc., require break-in periods. To avoid excessive breakdowns and callbacks by the contractor, these break-in periods should be done before the owner accepts the building. Access panels and other items require coordination with architectural finishes.

Operating space is required to allow maintenance operations to be undertaken when the building is turned over to the owner. This includes space to allow staff easy access to filters, fans, valves, air handling equipment and life safety items. The architect checks that equipment is installed so that maintenance and replacement is simplified and also so that space is available to move equipment in and out. This includes doors, access panels and corridors.

Public safety requires that proper hoarding, overhead protection and scaffolding, and barriers be provided. The architect should be aware that the contractor is responsible for controlling the site and its safety. If the architect sees a potential problem, the architect should report this immediately to the project site superintendent; however, the architect does not make any recommendations as to how the safety problems should be solved.

Wall and floor thicknesses should be confirmed on site to ensure that they are sufficient to conceal the services which are to be installed inside them. Typical services include ductwork, plumbing and waste stacks, washroom equipment, etc. The architect makes observations to ensure that any required fire resistance ratings are maintained where services are installed in walls or in furred-out walls. Services which are installed in concrete floors should also be reviewed so that sufficient cover remains to ensure that the fire rating is maintained, or the structural requirements are not impaired.

Water in new construction poses problems because systems installed on wet or damp substrates can have long-term problems. When materials such as bituminous membranes are installed on wet concrete or damp masonry, the adhesion may fail. The contractor should be made aware of the importance of protecting all sensitive materials and the strict adherence to manufacturers’ requirements for moisture content.