top of page
  • Writer's pictureHammer Missions

REs, QEWIs, RBIs - Who is responsible for facade inspections?


As fast as new buildings go up, old ones crumble and keeping an eye on this ever-changing landscape is a challenge for the authorities. As we looked at in our recent article, mandatory facade inspections are becoming commonplace for buildings over a certain height in many major cities, but who’s actually responsible for the reporting?


This article looks at the members of AEC (architecture, engineering & construction) industry responsible for facade inspections.

QEWIs:  NYC, United States


manual facade inspection New York City
Creator: Max Touhey | Credit: Max Touhey | www.metouhey.com

The first role we’re going to look at is the QEWI. A Qualified Exterior Wall Inspector will often also be a Professional Engineer or Registered Architect who is responsible for filing reports under the FISP in New York City.


As a city known for its towering architecture, New York realized the requirement for periodic facade inspections quite early on. Since 1979, buildings over 6 stories have been subject to mandatory inspections, with FISP strengthening the legislature in 2013. The Department of Buildings requires inspections of exterior walls and apertures every 5 years, with a technical facade report of findings submitted to the Department.


You may be a registered architect or engineer in New York but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically qualified to conduct and submit FISP reports to the Department of Buildings. A QEWI must demonstrate relevant skills and experience to then become a qualified QEWI.


The DOB has strict rules for the QEWI filing the reports. Some of the most common grounds for rejection include lack of photographs and/or sketches for SWARMP or Unsafe Conditions, lack of current and clear colour photographs and issues with scaffold locations. 


Mayor Eric Adams flies a drone
Image Credit: New York Post

Last year, New York City Major, Eric Adams made the job of the QEWI a whole lot easier and allowed drones to fly in the city to aid the speed, accuracy and safety of facade inspections. Drone facade inspections make light work of capturing imagery and remove the need for scaffolding meaning that those QEWIs already utilizing drones for other tasks were way ahead of the game.



Registered Building Inspectors - RBIs: UK-wide


Grenfell Tower burning

In the UK there are no specific laws which cover the frequency of facade inspections. That said, the new Building Safety Act became an Act of Parliament in 2022 following a report into the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster. This act is the most fundamental reform of regulations in AEC in the UK in living memory.


The Building Safety Act appointed the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as the new Building Safety Regulator which is still being developed but will eventually cover responsibility for the safety of buildings from planning and design to occupation. 


building safety act visual
Image Credit: MIDFIX

As part of the new BSR programme, the HSE is establishing a register of building inspectors, or RBIs. A competence framework (BICoF) has been created to ensure that all RBIs have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to carry out internal and external building inspections to the correct standard. There are 4 classes of RBI and a building’s height plays a large part in the classification - only Class 3 Building Inspectors can inspect buildings taller than 18m and those which are considered to be ‘high-risk’.


The Building Safety Act also included measures to introduce a ‘golden thread’ of information for new constructions which builds a record of information over a building’s entire lifecycle. You can read more about the BSE and how the Golden Thread of Information works in AEC here.



Professional Engineers (PEs) - Singapore


three images of drone pilots flying drones for singapore facade inspections
Image Credit: R. A. K. Materials Consultants

In Singapore, the Building Construction Authority is responsible for administering the country’s Periodic Structural Inspection programme. The definition of periodic depends on whether the building is residential or non-residential with detached, semi-detached, terraced or linked houses exempt from inspection altogether. 


The responsibility lies with the building owner to appoint a Professional Engineer (PE) to carry out the structural inspection, with the PE then being responsible for submitting a visual inspection report of the building and recommendations for repairs to any identified issues. 


engineer flying a drone for a facade inspection in singapore
Image Credit: The Straits Times / NG SOR LUAN

The Professional Engineers Board of Singapore is part of the Ministry of National Development and sets and maintains the standards for PEs under the Professional Engineers Act.



Registered Inspector (RI) - Hong Kong


mandatory building inspection scheme graphic
Image Credit: Hong Kong Buildings Department

Under Hong Kong’s Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) owners of buildings aged over 30 years are served with statutory notices for building inspections. Owners must then instruct an inspector registered with Hong Kong’s Building Authority. The RA will conduct an initial facade inspection, including windows, and submit a report to the Building Authority. If the RA decides that the building requires a more thorough inspection they must submit a proposal to the BA.


people in Hong Kong inspecting a building
Image Credit: thestandard.com.hk

As part of the initial inspection, the RA must ascertain whether a building is safe or liable to become dangerous, or has already been rendered dangerous. The inspection also covers balconies, planters, drying racks and canopies. After carrying out the inspection RAs must submit a report within 7 days and provide recommendations for any repair work and supervise the work needed.


Last year, Hong Kong’s Housing Department introduced drones for facade inspections on their own buildings, leading the way for RAs to do the same.


Conclusion


Whatever name they go by, the importance of the role of a building inspector cannot be underestimated. Each year there are instances of structural failure in major cities around the world and each government is responsible for keeping residents and pedestrians safe from harm. The tragic circumstances of the Grenfell disaster also highlighted that construction methods and materials must be traceable throughout an entire building’s lifecycle and that building regulations must be water-tight. 


Conducting thorough building inspections should be mandatory in every major city, but these examples show that the onus lies at a government level and it takes time to pass new legislation. But there’s light on the horizon. Before the drone revolution building inspections would take days, sometimes weeks to conduct. Inspectors risked their lives conducting inspections at height and scaffolding inconvenienced everyone. 


facade inspection in hammer missions
Drone Facade Inspection in Hammer Missions

Drones make facade inspections and building surveys cheaper, faster, safer and more repeatable and AI is only making life easier for inspectors. Using tools such as Hammer Missions new Spector AI, you can also auto-detect structural issues in buildings. You can spot spalling, cracks and if using thermal imagery water-ingress and heat transference, all from the safety of the ground.


Reports are more comprehensive and easier to file using drones too. Depending on your workflow you can now package up a neat report including annotated colour images of the entire building with details of any flaws and a 3D model to accurately show owners and stakeholders where structural issues lie.


Usually, when governments introduce new laws and legislation it makes life harder for people. When it comes to building inspections, drones stand to make life easier and safer for millions.


 

Try Hammer Missions for Facade Inspections


video of a building inspection with a drone

Want to know more about how drones can help your building inspection workflow? Perhaps you’d like to learn more about collecting and sharing drone data for inspection reports.


Take Hammer Missions for a test flight with our free 14 day trial or contact our friendly team for a demo.






Comments


For more articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter!

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page