DSA Procedures and Final Certification
The following information is copyrighted (2001) and was
Failure to obtain timely DSA final certification is one of the most common and worrisome issues in public school construction. Horror stories abound: projects never closed out, board members receiving letters warning them about being held personally liable for failure to obtain DSA final certification, architects and district personnel searching for long-lost documents. DSA has closed and every day continues to close an alarming number of projects that lack final certification. Although a closed project can be reopened for $150, with the provision of the missing documents, it is very difficult and time-consuming to return to an old closed-out project and identify the required documents. Sometimes documents are required that were never created in the first place; sometimes they are impossible to obtain. Yet without completing this final step in the approval process the entire project is considered “non-conforming” and the district and its board members are put at unnecessary risk.
All of this angst is unnecessary. Projects can be and are being closed out within a few months of completion. The common wisdom is wrong: it doesn’t have to take years to accomplish this task. But accomplishing closeout quickly takes a focused effort by the district and its architect. By understanding the requirements you can learn how to take a proactive role and obtain DSA final certification in a timely manner.
The project architect must actively pursue final certification by adhering to all the procedures discussed, and not considering the project complete until DSA says it’s complete by issuing the final certification. Although the architect is chiefly responsible for obtaining DSA certification, some documents must be provided by the school district, the district’s project inspector(s), the district’s special inspector(s) and the district’s independent testing laboratory. Ultimately, it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure the architect, inspectors, testing laboratories and all applicable contractors follow the necessary procedures to obtain final certification.
Toward this end, consider incorporating in your Owner/Architect Agreement a provision requiring the architect to obtain DSA Final Certification. A stipulated percentage of fees should be held back until certification is obtained. The agreement should also incorporate language requiring the architect to work with the project inspector and testing laboratory to obtain necessary documentation and maintain project controls to ensure DSA Final Certification is received. Similar language should also be included in the Owner/Construction Manager Agreement, if applicable. Furthermore, the Owner/Project Inspector Agreement should include specific tasks and deadlines, as outlined below, to ensure that all required documents are provided in a timely fashion.
Another key to obtaining DSA Final Certification is to make sure all correspondence to DSA is correctly and appropriately addressed, keeping copies of all everything for your records. All correspondence sent to DSA must have a letter of transmittal clearly referencing the DSA file and application numbers and project description. To avoid sure trouble, never send DSA correspondence referencing more than one application number. The school district must be copied on all correspondence sent to DSA by the architect, inspector, and testing laboratory. For your own protection, it is important that every school district maintain a separate project file for each DSA application number, with copies of all related correspondence sent to DSA correctly filed. The checklist provided below should also be included in the file and used as a tool to monitor progress.
Following is a step-by-step review of the requirements for obtaining DSA Final Certification. The school district/owner’s role is to ensure that the architect, inspector, and testing laboratory adhere to these requirements. If a district is using a construction management firm, most of these tasks would be the CM’s responsibility, however for clarity we will assume that the owner is monitoring the process.
· DSA Approval of Construction Documents:
The owner must verify that DSA has approved the bid documents before any project work begins. DSA’s approval should encompass stamped plans, specifications, Testing and Inspection list (SSS103), and all addenda. Special note: because the addenda approval is often obtained after bid, it is sometimes overlooked until final closeout. It is important for the owner to verify the architect is following up in a timely manner with DSA for approval of all addenda. If addenda were issued without DSA approval, the architect must issue a change order to incorporate DSA’s approval.
If at all possible, projects should not be bid before obtaining DSA approval of complete plans and addenda. Although DSA has allowed projects to bid without approval, DSA approval of construction documents, including addenda, must be obtained before starting any work. The risk of bidding prior to DSA approval is that DSA may require significant changes that would greatly affect bid pricing and schedules, due to delays in obtaining DSA approval. Also, any revision made to obtain DSA approval subsequent to bid requires change orders to the contractor.
· Contract Information Form 102:
· Inspector Qualification Form 5:
Owners should confirm their project’s classification before selecting an inspector, and should verify potential project inspectors’ DSA classification status to ensure they are currently certified for the appropriate project classification. This information can be verified on the Department of General Services web site at www.dgs.ca.gov/dsa. Once verified, the owner should carefully check all references and check with DSA for prior employment with school districts that may not be listed as a reference. While DSA does not screen certified inspectors and doesn’t provide recommendations, it provides list of prior projects. Finally, the architect and structural engineer should interview the candidate.
Before submitting a “form 5,” the owner should enter into a contract with the inspector that stipulates specific job duties, reporting requirements, and compensation. The contract should be contingent on DSA approval of the candidate.
DSA requires an “Inspector Qualification Form” to be submitted for approval for each inspector on a project; DSA must approve the inspectors before construction begins. The form 5’s must be submitted in duplicate, but a third original is recommended for the district’s file. Note that “Special Inspectors” (such as welding inspectors and masonry inspectors) must also complete these forms before work can begin on their specific project areas. A “Structural Tests and Inspections” form SSS 103 (T & I list) is included in the DSA approved specifications that indicates what, if any, special inspection is required for a project.
The owner must give the inspector and testing laboratory the following information:
The owner must review the three original, completed, and signed form 5s from each inspector to verify accuracy and completeness. The owner then forwards the forms to the architect for their signature and that of their structural engineers. When all necessary signatures are obtained, the architect must forward two originals to DSA for its approval, sending the third original to the district to file. As always, the owner must ensure that the architect forwards these documents in a timely manner and gives the district a copy of the transmittal to DSA, with a copy of the signed form 5s for filing. DSA will return one of the originals with signed approval, if acceptable. Once DSA has returned the approved form 5, the owner must distribute copies to all parties.
· Testing and Inspection:
The owner must provide the testing laboratory with plans, specifications, and the T & I list. Form 5s are required for special inspectors for steel and masonry, and DSA must approve these forms before any associated work can be performed. The owner, architect, and project inspector must monitor the lab and the contractor to make sure the special inspections are performed. “Final Verified Reports” are required from the lab and from all of the special inspectors who witnessed work, as required by the T & I list, in order for DSA to provide “Final Certification.”
The testing laboratory is responsible for submitting test reports for all required material testing directly to DSA, copying the owner, architect, and project inspector. The owner should carefully review these reports to ensure no non-conformance issues are raised. If any test results indicate non-conformance, the owner must resolve the issue with the architect, who will work with the testing laboratory. Appropriate must be noted in writing from the testing laboratory to DSA.
· Semi-monthly Reports:
The owner should read these reports carefully to verify that if any issues are raised regarding non-conformance, they are tracked on subsequent reports until resolution is specifically addressed. Also, if any DSA “Field Trip Notes” (from a DSA field engineer) were issued during the report period, the owner should verify that the project inspector addresses the status of items listed on the “Trip Notes” on subsequent reports until resolution is specifically addressed.
· Daily Reports:
· Quarterly Verified Reports:
· Field-Trip Notes:
Because DSA field-trip notes are a significant source of problems in obtaining final certification, the architect should respond to all field-trip notes in writing. Both the project inspector and architect should jointly sign the response. While this is not a DSA requirement, it is very important to have on file in order to obtain final DSA certification. DSA’s perception that it lacks a response from an architect to a field-trip note is the most common reason for a project to encounter difficulty obtaining final certification. As the owner, you should thus make sure field-trip notes are addressed in a timely manner.
It is also very important for the project inspector to address the DSA field-trip notes in the daily and semi-monthly reports, including a copy as an attachment. Each unresolved item must be carried on the semi-monthly report until fully resolved. Copies of the architect and project inspector’s joint response letter should be attached to the inspector’s semi-monthly report to close the item.
DSA will not always respond to the architect’s letter if the response is acceptable. However, sometimes DSA stamps the architect’s letter “approved;” this is preferred, and you should request the architect to seek such clear approval. If the architect obtains the approval stamp, the approved letter should be distributed to all parties and copied in the DSA closeout file. If DSA is not satisfied with an architect’s response, it will typically mark up the letter and return it to the architect for further response.
· Change Orders:
The change order must contain specific information about the revision. At a minimum, DSA requires each change order item to provide a detailed description of the change, including references to contract drawing and/or specifications, attached revision drawings if applicable, and calculations, if applicable. In addition, a reason for the change is required, as well as information about cost and time impacts on the project. The change order must be signed and stamped by the architect of record and any engineer whose scope of work is affected by the change.
It is not unusual if the DSA fails to approve a change order the first time it is submitted. DSA frequently requires additional information, drawings, and calculations from the architect. The owner must monitor the change order process to ensure all change orders obtain DSA approval.
· Deferred Approval:
The owner needs to make sure the architect obtains DSA approval of all deferred approval items in a timely manner. Without this approval, final certification is nearly impossible to obtain, and it is very difficult to get retroactively. The contractor needs to submit all deferred approval items ASAP, since the architect must first review and approve the submittal with no exceptions noted, and stamp and sign the submittal package before submitting to DSA. The DSA review and approval process takes a minimum of six weeks, and must be completed before execution of deferred approval work.
· Weighmaster’s Certificate:
If a plant is not certified, the testing laboratory must be present at the plant whenever structural concrete is being supplied for a specific project and must include a statement regarding inspections on their “Final Verified Report.”
The owner needs to make sure that the contractor, testing laboratory, and architect work together to ensure that concrete batching is properly executed. The testing laboratory must verify if the contractor’s proposed concrete supplier is certified. If so, the contractor must submit the “Weighmaster’s Certificate” to the architect before contract close-out. The architect then forwards the certificate to DSA, the project inspector, lab, and the owner. If the supplier is not certified, the architect must ensure that the lab provides the necessary inspections and references to such inspections on its Final Verified Report.
· Final Verified Reports:
The owner must ensure all final reports are submitted to DSA, with no disclaimers or exceptions. It is best if the owner collects the reports from all parties and submits them together to the DSA field engineer, with a request for final certification.
· Laboratory Affidavit:
· Recorded Notice of Completion:
· Final Certification:
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