The Commercial Building Inspection Guide (For 2023)

Managing commercial building inspection is a challenging task at the best of times. Regulations change, shady contractors, try to hide their mistakes, and businesses are stuck, in some cases quite literally, in the middle.

Keeping up with inspections should not take your day from productive to problematic. Regular inspections do quite the opposite by providing opportunities to prevent problems with your facilities before they present an incident.

So we thought it prudent, being experts in inspection technology, to compose a comprehensive guide about commercial building inspections for 2023.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly fit everything into a single article, or becoming a certified inspector would be easy. However, we’ve gone to some lengths to provide you with a general guide covering what types of inspections you need and how often these need fulfillment. So, like your building, we hope to have you covered. Let’s get started.

Commercial Building Inspection Basics

A commercial building inspection comprehensively evaluates a commercial building’s construction, safety, and compliance with local and international building codes.

The inspection involves internal and external assets, including elevators, fire extinguishers, fire exits, sprinklers, roofs, walls, and drainage systems.

What Is Involved In A Commercial Building Inspection?

Depending on the property, facilities, and reason for inspection, there may be one of any number of possible inspection requirements. The factors that determine the scope of work and local regulations will ultimately determine the required inspection types.

As far as typical commercial building inspections go, there are a few more common inspections that you need to be aware of as a building manager. We’ll cover these inspections in the types below.

Everyday commercial building inspection tasks include visual observational surveys, mechanical operations tests, accessibility reviews, and sometimes specialized inspection tools like drones, thermal imaging cameras, or even x-ray devices.

Commercial buildings should be thoroughly inspected before occupancy for public safety reasons and to ensure that any new property is up to the highest code standards. Similarly, the building characteristics relating to the expected occupancy will require consideration before occupancy.

Common Types of Inspections For Commercial Buildings

There is, as mentioned, an almost unlimited supply of potential inspection types. However, some standard inspections cover many commercial building operation and management aspects. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of essential inspections you will encounter when managing commercial facilities. Remember that all of these may not apply to every situation, so just skip those items that do not apply to your scenario.

Balcony or Mezzanine Inspection

A balcony or mezzanine inspection is essential to any commercial building inspection. This inspection examines the structure, safety features, and accessibility of balconies and mezzanines in detail. The objective is to ensure that all balconies and mezzanines are structurally sound, safe for use, and in compliance with local regulations.

Drywall Inspection

Drywall inspections typically occur after drywall installation and before drywall tape, and mud application occurs. Inspectors will look for fastener spacing, securement, and other concerns around fitting around electrical boxes, in corners, and other items of related interest.

Electrical Inspection

An electrical inspection is critical to avoid finding itself on the neglected list. Typical electrical inspections happen following changes performed by a certified electrician to the existing system. It could mean during building fabrication or following renovations. A certified electrical inspector must complete and approve an inspection, or there may be hazards that require mitigation.

Elevator Inspection

Any facility that utilizes elevators (or escalators) will require an elevator safety inspection. These inspections typically occur annually for facilities operating with such equipment. Furthermore, they are often completed by a third-party company as most companies need to be equipped to service such equipment.

Emergency Exit and Egress Pathway Inspections

Like a fire prevention system inspection, the emergency exit inspection is a specialty within the fire and building code scope of things. Emergency exits and egress pathways require specific maintenance and must remain clear and useable at all times. So, it’s critical to ensure that your facility maintains this standard.

Energy Efficiency Inspection

Energy Efficiency Inspections are somewhat new to commercial buildings, being a more recent innovation. However, the fact that as of 2017, the average building age was 50 means that those aging commercial buildings are all due for a severe facelift.

The advent of the energy efficiency revolution brought about the EEI or Energy Efficiency Inspection. These inspections depend on the local availability of the latest energy-efficient products and solutions. Still, the assessment remains the same: the audit looks for ways a building wastes energy and how it can improve.

Environmental Impact Inspection

Performing an Environmental Risk Assessment is critical for any new construction or change in operations that could affect the local environment. These inspections typically only occur when significant changes take place. Still, environmentally conscious organizations may institute a semi-regular assessment of their operations to improve how the organization affects the environment.

Facility Inspection

Typical facility inspections are a general form of inspection that covers the basics of an entire facility. Often performed after new construction, renovations, or when a building changes ownership or occupancy, the inspection is necessary to ensure the facility is appropriately prepared for occupancy.

We recommend using our Facility Inspection Checklist or inspection app, 1st Reporting, in order to make it easier to perform, document and manage the facility and other inspections.

Fire Protection System Inspection

The fire protection system inspection reviews all fire protection systems, from smoke detectors to sprinklers to fire exit signs, and evaluates the safety effectiveness of each system. It also looks for code violations in the fire protection system or other related infrastructure. This inspection is one that every single building and facility must complete, so it applies to all scenarios.

Foundation Inspection

Foundation inspections occur after new construction or renovation on or around a building foundation. It may include checking for waterproofing or observing the foundation’s structural integrity. On larger projects, it might even have ground-penetrating radar and concrete x-rays to determine structural integrity. However, your engineer will decide the appropriate inspection types for your facility foundations in those situations.

Framing Inspection

Framing inspections are standard inspections on new construction. Although we hear more about residential home construction framing, commercial building construction similarly has inspections to cover interior wall construction. That is, interior walls that utilize studs, whether wood or steel.

HVAC Inspection

From HVAC commissioning to regular inspection, heating and cooling systems is one of the most expensive systems of any commercial building. These systems include air conditioning units as well as heaters.

Lowest Elevation Inspection

If your building is located within a flood hazard area, you may require an elevation certificate or FEMA elevation certification. You will need a professional to perform the lowest elevation inspection in these cases.

Overhead Door and Dock Inspection

Often disregarded, overhead doors and loading docks are one of the most dangerous two pieces of equipment in most commercial facilities. Overhead doors, by definition, raise to an overhead position. That means the counterbalance system holds the entire weight of the door, and if it should fail, the door will crash down (in most scenarios). If a person were underneath, it would be catastrophic.

Any major equipment like doors and loading docks, whether hydraulically, pneumatically, or mechanically powered, must have regular inspections to ensure safe operation. Check with your local regulations to determine the frequency, but we recommend that they receive a periodic review if this equipment is used regularly.

Rooftop Inspection

Rooftop inspections are essential for ensuring that you don’t have leaks in your facilities. Roofs, like everything else in life, tend to deteriorate over time. Similarly, work on HVAC equipment, roof vents, skylights, or other roof-mounted items can disturb the roof surface membrane causing a weakness that you might only find after a good rainfall. That’s why regular rooftop inspections are a must for every commercial facility.

We recommend using our concise Rooftop Inspection Checklist. However, if you want a more robust solution, look at our inspection reporting app, 1st Reporting.

Under-Floor Inspection

Under-floor inspections occur before foundation, or lower-level floors’ concrete pouring occurs. The assessment is typical in new construction. However, it can also be a requirement in renovation or significant structural change.

Walkway Inspection

Walkway inspections are a part of regular maintenance at every facility. However, certain applications will require a specific inspection, such as installing a new walkway, new or repaired handrails, or similar changes. These inspections are particularly essential for essential fire escape and gathering point paths.

Required Inspections and Frequency

Depending on the scenario, there are several reasons why a commercial building inspection becomes a necessity. However, five direct action points call for building inspections.

New Construction – Any new commercial building will require thorough and often specialized inspections, especially concerning electrical, structural, safety, and general regulation compliance, such as fire prevention.

Renovations and Major Repairs – Similar to new construction, a building inspection is a must to ensure safety and regulatory compliance whenever a significant repair or renovation occurs.

Pre-Occupancy – When a new business or organization moves into a building, performing a pre-occupancy commercial building inspection is a good idea. The inspector will note anything they observe that you must acknowledge before accepting the building or facility.

Post-Occupancy – Typically, a post-occupancy commercial building inspection takes place after a business has moved out of a building. The building owner will perform or have performed this inspection to ensure that the previous tenant did not leave things in a state of disarray and concurrently to ensure new tenant conditions are acceptable.

Annual/Periodic – The most common frequencies for inspections of commercial buildings occur annually or periodically. Most property owners want to ensure their investment is maintained and thus will schedule annual or periodic building inspections. Similarly, if your organization owns your facility, you will likely want to follow suit with your own commercial yearly building inspection.

What To Expect From Inspectors

A man gives a thumbs-up to the 1st Reporting app on his smartphone.

If your team is not responsible for the building inspection, you’ll want to ensure you get the correct information from your inspector. Usually, a third-party commercial building inspector offers a concise and complete package and may utilize technology such as drone aerial photography to ensure you get the information about the facility you need to know.

Commercial building inspectors will have your interests in mind. They will provide you with a complete report detailing all significant and minor observations. You can review our different facility templates to get some idea of what they might be looking for during the inspection.

Common Problems Found During Commercial Building Inspections

Commercial buildings have a whole list of potential problems. However, if we know the most common building and fire code violations, we can easily commit to preventive measures that ensure organizational compliance.

To help you achieve building perfection, here are six common commercial building issues that you might encounter.

Improper or Missing Fire Prevention Equipment

Between 2007 and 2011, a study by the NFPA estimated that each year of the study, US fire departments attended to 3,340 office fires alone. Considering the deaths, injuries, and approximate $112 million per year in property damage, it makes sense to pay attention to fire prevention equipment.

One of the simplest ways of saving lives is preparing for the possibility of fire. And one of the most common issues commercial buildings face is improper, missing, or broken fire prevention equipment.

Consider the simple yet effective lit fire exit sign. It’s as simple as a small light fixture with a semi-transparent exit sign face. Believe it or not, a simple fire exit sign can save a person’s life when it’s hard to see due to smoke or power failure. Yet commercial buildings are notorious for faulty, damaged, or missing fire prevention equipment. This equipment includes updated fire extinguishers and possibly even a building-wide alarm system.

Fire Exit Doors Missing Closures

A faulty or missing closing device is a common OSHA code violation on commercial building fire exit doors. Fire exits have a purpose: to let people out and close after to keep the air inside. This feature of fire exit doors is a big help to firefighters because it cuts off the air supply any fire might get if the door were left open.

Handrail Missing, Damaged, Or Incorrect Height

Another typical violation is a damaged, missing, or improper handrail. Mezzanines in old buildings are notorious for incorrect railings, as are railings that face the elements.

Insufficient Bathroom Venting

Commercial buildings have specific requirements for washrooms to suit the intended building occupancy. That includes ventilation to restrooms and other such facilities.

Gas System Duct Insulation

One of the most common issues facing commercial buildings is improper gas system duct insulation. This insulation is critical for optimal efficiency and safe operations of finely-tuned building systems. Yet most commercial buildings need to install, correct, or include gas system duct insulation properly.

How To Prepare For An Inspection (With Tips)

Inspection preparation can be hectic, like in this stock image. However, with 1st Reporting, it can be a lot easier.

When it comes to inspection preparation, knowledge is power. So, the more you know before an inspection, the better. There are a few ways to prepare for a commercial building inspection. Some tips will help your business save time and money, so take advantage of them.

Use A Commercial Building Inspection Checklist

First, we recommend acquiring an inspection checklist to suit your building. You can find our facility inspection checklist here. It will help pinpoint many areas of your commercial building that need attention and remind you of tasks you may have overlooked.

Hire An Expert

If possible, hire an expert to inspect for you before the official one takes place. A professional inspector knows which questions to ask and what to look for when assessing a building’s safety features and compliance with local laws. It allows you to address any concerns before the official inspection.

Use An Inspection And Incident Reporting Tool

If paper checklists or hiring a third party are outside your agenda, you can set your team up with inspection software on their smartphones or other devices. In fact, you should use software regardless because every organization will benefit from streamlined reporting communications.

Most companies use smartphones these days, so using this technology to your advantage can speed up inspections and any other incident or scenario that requires forms or checklists.

Let me introduce you to 1st Reporting – an application you can get here on our site, Google Play, or The Apple App Store. Our application replaces paper forms and streamlines communications and reporting within your operations. However, it doesn’t stop there.

With 1st Reporting, you can create dynamic and custom checklists and forms in a straightforward yet surprisingly intuitive form-building environment. Next, your assigned team enters information and completes a form. An instant notification you set notifies the area manager via an instant notification so they know the form has been completed, whether it’s in-house or in the field.

You can sit back and review each occurrence, incident, or inspection input into the system using convenient map views and filters of your choice. It makes it easy to create reports, report incidents, and document inspections.

Lastly, you can create custom reports to catch trends and analyze your operational reporting. The power is in your hands to move from the world of paper to a digital environment. The question is, are you ready to move your organization forward because your competition is? Make a move to 1st Reporting and get ahead of the curve. Try it free today.

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