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CA Tightens School Project Oversight

Friday, June 7, 2013

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California has cracked down on oversight and enforcement of school construction, in light of a state audit that found deficiencies in thousands of projects statewide.

As of June 1, architects, engineers, inspectors, contractors, public school districts and community colleges face new requirements with regard to project certification systems and other processes.

California Division of the State Architect

The Division of State Architect supervises design and construction for K-12 schools and community colleges in California. New oversight mandates follow a critical 2011 state audit.

The California Division of the State Architect (DSA) now reviews school construction throughout the process, rather than waiting until the end of the project, according to the agency.

Further, a new Inspection Card Process standardizes division procedures with those used by every municipal building department in the country and will ensure that school facility projects achieve proper certification, the agency said.

Call for Consistency

State Architect Chester Widom recently explained the changes, fully described in DSA Procedure PR 13-01, to a room full of design and construction professionals. Widom noted that the office sought to use fewer forms and abbreviations, while providing more consistency and transparency.

A webcast of the training is available on the agency’s website.

The division, part of the Department of General Services, supervises design and construction for K-12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and -leased facilities in California.

Audit Finds Weaknesses

The recent changes come nearly two years after a state audit of the state architect reported the office was weak in oversight and enforcement of the Field Act, California’s landmark earthquake safety law for public schools.

“These changes are designed to streamline the DSA construction phase process and to ensure that projects are certified at the completion of construction,” according to the state architect.

school construction

In 2011, state auditors said the agency failed to use stop-work orders and other enforcement tools to ensure compliance on school projects.

The auditors found that the agency did not adequately document structural safety issues identified or prioritize projects with safety concerns.

Further, the agency failed to use enforcement tools it possessed, including orders to comply and stop-work orders, according to the auditors.

The report also noted deficiencies in the state’s oversight of inspectors, finding that more than 16,000 school projects in the state lacked proper Field Act certification.

Since taking office in January 2012, Widom says he has shaved the number of uncertified projects to about 13,000, according to the webcast.

Widom has more than 40 years background as an private architect and is a former national president of the American Institute of Architects.


Tagged categories: Architects; Building codes; Contractors; Good Technical Practice; Government contracts; Health and safety; Schools

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