No one person has all the technical knowledge to perform every commercial inspection single-handedly. Many commercial inspection projects simply demand that a number of experts and specialists be contracted to help complete the inspection project.
The International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties defines “consultant” as:
“a person with particular expertise in a subject who assists the inspector with portions of the inspection.”
And this from section 4.2:
“Any portion of the inspection, including the walk-through survey, research, and report generation, may be performed by the inspector, his/her staff, or any consultant hired by the inspector. This standard recognizes that, for the majority of commercial inspections, the inspector is likely an individual with a general, well-rounded knowledge of commercial properties, and that the inspector or client may want to augment the inspector’s skills with specialty consultants who have particular expertise in certain areas. The decision to hire specialty consultants will, of course, rely on budget and time constraints, as well as the risk-tolerance of the client.”
Some commercial property inspectors are qualified to perform some of the inspection themselves. Others become comfortable taking on certain portions of the inspection after acquiring specialized training or after some time working with their consultants.
However, the most successful commercial property inspectors don’t inspect much at all. Instead, like a general contractor who is building a house, the successful commercial property inspector acts as project manager… an inspection project manager. Duties of the commercial inspector include scheduling consultants, arranging for property access, reviewing documents, communicating with the client, assembling reports, authoring summaries, presenting findings, and bidding new inspection projects. Managing more than one project at a time can only be done with the help of a team of consultants. And because consultants are independent contractors with their own businesses and schedules, the commercial inspector should also have a second string of backup consultants in place.A chart that lists the types of consultants down the left side and information about each consultant across the top might be constructed. It could be in an EXCEL computer file or on a dry-erase board and should be regularly updated by the commercial property inspector.
The different types of consultants might include:
- commercial roofer;
- stucco/EIFS consultant;
- professional engineer;
- commercial HVAC contractor;
- roofing contractor/consultant;
- chimney sweep;
- Infrared Certified™ energy auditor;
- lead paint inspector;
- life-safety/fire protection expert;
- elevator/escalator inspector;
- commercial kitchen expert;
- radon inspector;
- mold inspector;
- indoor air quality expert;
- meth lab inspector;
- wood-destroying organisms inspector;
- accessibility consultant;
- green features inspector;
- fire door inspector;
- pool/spa inspector;
- parking lot/asphalt consultant;
- water quality inspector;
- seawall inspector; and
- septic inspector.
Information about each consultant might include:
- Will the consultant agree to a no-conflict-of-interest policy and not perform or offer to perform any repairs or repair-associated services to the client? CCPIA’s sample Professional Services Contract (between inspector and special consultant) prohibits the consultant from communicating directly with the client altogether without the inspector’s permission.
- If the consultant’s duties are found within the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties, has the consultant reviewed the Standards?
- Has the consultant previewed and agreed to the terms in the professional services contract between the inspector and consultant?
- Has the consultant provided a professional resume or at least a simple qualifications brief?
- Is the consultant licensed in his/her field of expertise?
- What professional certifications does the consultant have?
- Is the consultant considered an expert in his/her field?
- Has the consultant been an instructor or speaker in his/her field?
- Does the consultant carry Errors and Omissions or General Liability insurance?
- Are there times (of the week, month or year) when the consultant is unavailable?
- How far is the consultant willing to travel?
- What image does the consultant present? Does the consultant dress and act professionally? Will the consultant agree to certain attire or wear the inspection company’s uniform?
- What format (digital, typed, hand-written) will the consultant use to report findings? Verbal reports are not recommended.
- What is the turnaround time for the report?
- What is the consultant’s fee structure? Is the consultant willing to offer a discounted rate to the commercial inspector?
- What about travel charges?
Of course, most of the various types of consultants listed above will not be used in performing a commercial inspection, as the cost, in time and money, of having each consultant acquire information about the subject property would likely exceed the value of that information. This from 4.3 of the International Standards of Practice for Inspecting Commercial Properties:
Varying Levels of Due Diligence
This standard is designed as a baseline from which the inspector and client can develop and agree to a scope of work that may deviate from this standard, depending on budget, time constraints, purpose of the inspection, age of the subject property, and risk-tolerance of the client. The level of due diligence should be set where the cost, in time and money, of acquiring information about the subject property will not likely exceed the value of that information.
In summary, the commercial property inspector should have a team of consultants picked out in preparation for large inspection projects, clients who want a higher level of certainty about the property, projects where particular expertise is needed, and unexpected spikes in business.