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What’s Reviewed in 3rd Party Inspections for Modular Construction?

Aug 8, 2022 | Our Blog

OffSite Dirts' Audree Grubesic recently sat down with T.R. Arnold's very own John Duemling to learn a bit more about the internal construction code, testing procedures, training and our inspection process. Take a look at his very insightful interview here.

OffSite Dirts’ Audree Grubesic recently sat down with T.R. Arnold’s very own John Duemling to learn a bit more about the internal construction code, testing procedures, training and our inspection process. Take a look at his very insightful interview here.

Who is T.R. Arnold & and What Do You Offer?

T.R. Arnold is a third party for modular construction companies, which means we offer to our clients plan review services, inspection services and other consulting services related to modular construction, RVs and general engineering services.

Why are Third-Party Inspections so important to the construction industry?

There’s always going to be an inspection process with construction. Typically with a site-built building, that’s all going to run through a municipal building department. You’re going to achieve a certain portion of the construction and then you’re going to have an inspector come out and look at it and give you the green light to go ahead and proceed and they’re going to do the next segment.

For modular construction, this is an issue for two reasons:

  1. Municipal building department doesn’t really have the ability to travel all over the country and get into the different manufacturers facilities to look at everything
  2. Traditional way of coming to look at it doesn’t keep pace with a lot of higher speed that we see in factory built construction

Where the third-party agency comes in is that we have authority from jurisdictions and faith all across the country where we can come in and perform those inspection services which guarantees that the buildings have been looked at, they’re safe and everything has been taken care of so that your manufactures can ship to the site.

What do you look for and how do you evaluate those inspections?

Before we even inspect a building, we evaluate a manufacturer’s quality assurance. Every manufacturer should have a quality program, which is what they are doing internally to ensure they are producing a safe and quality product.

  • Internal Code: The internal code checks that they have people who understand construction code internally or constantly evaluating what they’re doing. It’s the training of the staff who are performing the work to make sure that they are doing things properly. It is testing procedures for electrical testing for plumbing testing to make sure that everything is getting done properly and you’re not going to have any issues once you get it to the field.
  • Construction Code: Every building, with a few exceptions, has to be built to some construction code. We go through and we develop a process based on what the manufacturer is doing during production and develop the style of construction their using to ensure that we can look at relevant aspects of construction so that we can evaluate it and make sure the client is meeting all requirements of the code and is doing everything they say they should be doing to ensure quality.

How does the plan review process work for new clients?

  1. You would start by having a conversation with one of our account managers to let us know who you are and what and where you’re looking to build
  2. Our team would then ask for a basic drawing just to get a better idea of what you’re trying to build
  3. Then, we would start the certification process with the different state agencies and ourselves, where we would then go into the detailed plan review where we’re going to be looking at structural, means of egress, general safety concerns and the code and all the specific requirements depending on what you’re trying to do.

How do you develop a good relationship with your inspector?

Having a great relationship with your inspector is a really big deal. One of the first things that needs to happen is your inspector actually needs to learn about you as a client, as a manufacturer, how you want to work, how your line of work operates, what your internal processes are for quality, when there’s an issue, how do you want to resolve it and so forth. These are all really basic things but over the years we’ve found that when you have those understandings in place it makes it a lot easier to have a mutual conversation about any issues that are going to come up as opposed to it being more argumentative or confrontational.

The second part is more on the manufacturer’s side of what they should do or what we’d recommend they do with their inspector is that they don’t just involve their inspector when they need to get a unit inspected. What we mean is that it’s very upfront, you need to talk to our team about when you’re going to need an inspection in the future if it’s not on a standing schedule. They should be telling us about what they like and what they don’t like about the ways we’re offering services. We work really hard to make sure we are meeting our customers’ needs and offering excellent service.

Additionally, when a manufacturer has a question or wants to try something different, we would recommend they reach out and they talk to their inspector and their plan review about what they want to do so that everyone’s on the same page as opposed to just submitting a plan blindly. If it’s not brought to our attention, this would lead us down a rabbit hole of issues that weren’t predicted.

Do you do the in-factory inspection and then the on-site inspection or are there two different people that handle this?

Typically your third-party inspector is only going to be doing the in-facility or in-plant inspection and all the site work performed associated with the modular building is going to be done with the municipal building inspectors. You could obtain permission from the local building department to have a third party or someone else perform inspections assuming they’re qualified.

Are you seeing more success with companies bringing you into the process earlier on?

Absolutely! It even goes further than that in terms of planning in general. In order to best take advantage of modular construction and what it can offer, a lot more planning needs to be done upfront. A big part of that is making sure everyone involved is on the same page.  As a third-party, understanding what our clients want to do helps avoid issues and delays.

The biggest point is communication and also know what the parameters are of what you are trying to build + safety to code. Is there something in there that I’m missing?

It goes back to quality control and quality assurance again. It’s absolutely critical for a manufacturer who wants to do really well producing modular buildings that they have a really solid program. What this allows them to do is instead of being a “build it, find a problem, fix it” – they are preventing a problem from happening in the first place or they’re catching it in the facility where it’s easy to fix and repair and come up with a solution to move forward, as opposed to issues happening later in the field that would require a lot more resources.

How do you guys keep up with what’s happening within your industry?

First off, we’re constantly looking at what we’re seeing as an inspector in the plant at different buildings and asking ourselves how does this building that I see fit into the structure of code that we have.

As new products, technology and techniques become available, things change but we have to constantly evaluate how that relates to the code. The codes are there to provide a minimum level of performance in our building so they don’t lock anyone into a specific form. Furthermore, there’s constantly internal and industry-wide issues that come up so we talk with other inspectors, plan reviewers and code professionals internally so we can try and stay abreast of trends – in addition to ongoing classes we attend.

What areas does T.R. Arnold serve?

Our headquarters office is in Elkhart, Indiana. We have inspectors all over the country and not only do we work with the United States, but we do International projects as well for businesses coming into the United States. 

Now you have a little more insight on third-party inspections in all the different facets of the build, the safety, the modular construction and renewable energy. To learn more about T.R. Arnold’s third-party inspection services, contact us today

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About T.R. Arnold & Associates, Inc.

TRA provides services to the Manufactured Shelter/Housing Industry since 1967. Our services comprise of engineering approval, drafting, DAPIA, IPIA, third party modular plan review and inspection services.

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