Two Questions by Oregon CBO on Code Compliance Approvals

Originally published by the following source: SBC MagazineSeptember 18, 2019
by SBCA Professional Engineers with contributions from SBCA Staff


SBCA and NFC sincerely appreciate all questions and feedback on articles written by our staff. Mr. Derrick Moon, CBO, a building services supervisor in Hillsboro, Oregon sent the following email based on an article (“Can a Building Official Deny Approval of a P.E.'s Work?”) that ran in the June 12 edition of the National Framing Council’s Framing News:


I would like to thank you for this article, it was thorough and provided a lot of information.  There are just a couple of points that are confusing to me.  In the first part of the publication it states the following:

This is a common question, particularly when a building official does not approve work that is signed and sealed by a professional engineer (P.E.) or a professional architect (A.I.A). The short answer is no, not according to the law.

However you state later in the article there is a caveat:

The only caveat to this is if, during the review of the documents provided by the engineer, a code compliance error is made. That error then needs to be brought to the attention of the engineer, along with the code section violated, so that the engineer can cure the error.

[Question #1] If the Building Official does not have the right to approve a P.E.’s work, why does he have the right to review it for code compliance?

[Answer #1] To use an analogy, a building official is similar to a policeman. The IBC definition states specifically that they are “the officer charged with the administration and enforcement of this code.” Section 105.3.1 defines more specifically what this means by saying that “the building official shall examine applications for permits and amendments thereto…. If the application or the construction documents do not conform to the requirements of pertinent laws, the building official shall reject such application in writing, stating the reasons therefore.”

Section 104.11 regarding alternative materials, design and methods of construction and equipment states similarly; “Where the alternative material, design or method of construction is not approved, the building official shall respond in writing, stating the reasons why the alternative was not approved.”

So the question becomes simply: What is the intent and purpose of this statement? Logic says that there needs to be a double check or peer review of the work of the registered design professional (RDP) because they are not, nor is anyone, infallible. This review can catch items, based on experience and using a second set of eyes approach, that will heal downstream pain given any non-compliance found at the site inspection stage of construction.

All professional building officials that we know take this a step further, whether with plan review or Section 104.11 alternative material approval. They point out any specific code section non-compliance issues and provide counsel on a way to resolve the non-compliance as they work through the issue with the RDP or ISO/IEC 17065 Accredited Third-Party Certification Body. This helps a project move ahead smoothly and in proper conformance with specific regulations.

[Question #2] Also can a Building Official review/ approve a P.E.’s work if he is not a licensed P.E.?

[Answer #2] Certainly. And when the process works collaboratively and professionally, that second set of eyes process will be sincerely appreciated and result in the best possible finished building. Not only that it is certain that the RDP will make the needed corrections and the building official will retain a new set of sealed and signed construction documents, research reports, and/or specialty engineered designs, for which the RDP will stand behind.

[Final thought #3] Thank you.

[Response] You are very welcome and your questions are very much appreciated.

Our goal is to provide perspective with respect to real discussions that are taking place in the market. Mr. Moon has provided us all with the ability to learn together because he took the time to ask for clarification. We look forward to any and all future questions that allow us to collaborate.

For additional information and commentary on the building code, please read the following articles: