Approved fabricators and the International Accreditation Service
Fabricator shops play a critical role in the world of construction. These shops are where the structural pieces are fabricated for churches, stadiums, malls and other places where people gather. Much goes into ensuring the final structural pieces are fabricated according to design and ready to be used in a building. It is the building official’s responsibility to make sure the job is fabricated according to the project’s specifications and the codes. So, what does the building code say about approving fabricators?
Section 1704.2 of the International Building Code (IBC) states:
“Where application is made to the building official for construction as specified in Section 105, the owner or the owner’s authorized agent, other than the contractor, shall employ one or more approved agencies to provide special inspections and tests during construction on the types of work specified in Section 1705 and identify the approved agencies to the building official. These special inspections and tests are in addition to the inspections by the building official that are identified in Section 110.”
In addition to the special inspection required on the job site, the code also states:
Where, fabrication of structural, load-bearing or lateral load-resisting members or assemblies is being conducted on the premises of a fabricator’s shop, special inspections of the fabricated items shall be performed during fabrication.
The requirement for special inspection of fabrication shops has two exceptions:
The first exception to eliminate special inspection at the fabricator’s shop requires the building official to approve the fabrication shop “…based upon review of fabrication and quality control procedures and periodic inspection of fabrication practices by the building official.” The emphasis here is on what the building official has to do;
The second exception is where the fabricator is registered as an approved fabricator as stated in Section 1704.2.5.1 of the IBC.
Who is an approved fabricator? Chapter 2 of the IBC defines an approved fabricator as follows:
“An established and qualified person, firm or corporation approved by the building official pursuant to Chapter 17 of this code.”
Section 1704.2.5 of the IBC provides two ways the building official can approve a fabricator. The first states, “Approval shall be based upon review of fabrication and quality control procedures and periodic inspection of fabrication practices by the building official.” Note that here the full review is being performed by the building official. The second way states, “Approval shall be based upon review of the fabricator’s written procedural and quality control manuals and periodic auditing of fabrication practices by an approved agency.” Note that here the review is being performed by an approved agency. Chapter 2 of the IBC provides a clear definition of an approved agency as follows:
“An established and recognized agency that is regularly engaged in conducting tests or furnishing inspection services, where such agency has been approved by the building official.”
In both cases, the building official has a role. In the first case, the building official is required to review the fabricator’s quality program and perform periodic inspections before indicating the fabricator as an approved fabricator. This review and inspection would be required for a fabricator who wished to be considered an approved fabricator. In the second case, the building official approves the agency that performs the review of the fabricator’s quality program and procedures as well as the periodic audits. If approved by the building official, the International Accreditation Service (IAS) could be designated as the approved agency in the second case.
To provide assurance that a fabricator is competent, IAS has several programs that establish the requirements for competence. When a fabrication facility has met these requirements and shows they are competent, IAS will issue the facility a Certificate of Accreditation, which can be viewed on the IAS website. This accreditation can be used by the building official to qualify the facility as an approved fabricator.
IAS assesses fabricators in conjunction with an IAS accredited inspection agency in the following fields of fabrication and has developed requirements, through an open public hearing process, in each of these fields:
- For precast/prestress concrete — Accreditation Criteria for Fabricator Inspection Programs for Reinforced And Precast/Prestressed Concrete (AC157)
- For steel fabrication — Accreditation Criteria for Fabricator Inspection Programs for Structural Steel (AC172)
- For wood panels — Accreditation Criteria for Fabricator Inspection Programs for Wood Wall Panels (AC196)
- For metal buildings — Accreditation Criteria for Inspection Programs for Manufacturers of Metal Building Systems (AC472)
Facilities that have earned IAS accreditation to any of these IAS accreditation criteria have demonstrated effective implementation of an internal inspection program. IAS accredits the facilities inspection program as a service to the building official who can base their approval process on IAS Accreditation. The building official can maintain a high confidence level to approve the IAS accredited fabricator to meet their obligation as stated in Chapter 17 of the IBC.
To be an approved fabricator means the facility does not have a disruptive flow of special inspectors coming in and out of the facility. Instead, the IAS accredited fabricator and metal building system manufacturers’ programs provide for periodic unannounced inspections each year by an accredited inspection agency, as well as an annual on-site assessment by IAS. The following benefits result from an IAS accredited fabricator:
- The facilities benefit from not having disruptive flow of special inspectors;
- The owners and building officials know that they are working with facilities that have a proven quality system;
- The owners benefit by understanding quality must be built into the members and components rather than attempting to inspect quality into the work;
- The owners benefit by not having to provide costly special inspection in the fabrication shop.
There are two other programs that augment the metal building program (AC472). These programs are:
- Accreditation Criteria for Inspection Programs for Manufacturers of Cold-Formed Steel Structural and Nonstructural Components Not Requiring Welding (AC473)
- Accreditation Criteria for Inspection Programs of Metal Building Assemblers (AC478)
These two programs have their own special place in the Metal Building Program:
The first is AC473 for cold-formed steel components. AC473 facilities mainly supply approved fabricators of metal building systems (AC472) with secondary structural members as well as roof and wall panels. If metal building manufacturers outsource any of their secondary structural members and panels, the outsourced supplier must either be an accredited facility or be inspected annually to the same requirements as the metal building manufacturer for the same components. Therefore, AC473 was developed to provide a means for cold-formed steel manufacturers to be accredited using the same basic requirements as do the metal building manufacturers.
The second program developed to augment the metal building program is IAS AC478 for metal building assemblers. Although there is not a requirement in the IBC for approved assemblers, there has been a request to add a section to Chapter 17 that would cover steel and metal building assemblers. Therefore, AC478 is the standard when the IBC is revised to include assemblers for metal building systems. Until then, there are many benefits the program offers to both the owner and the building official. Some of these benefits include:
- Demonstrates compliance with requirements in the IBC, industry standards and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
- Provides confidence for the building department that due diligence has been done to ensure life-safety and property protection during the erection of metal buildings.
- AC478 includes requirements that minimize the chance of metal building failure during erection that may result from lack of education, experience or quality materials and proven management processes.
In effect, IAS has developed specific programs to address the IBC requirements for approved fabricators in Chapter 17. These programs can help both building officials and owners to satisfy the requirements under Chapter 2 definition of an approved fabricator.