The Importance of Preconstruction Meetings

Why CWIs should regularly attend preconstruction meetings to improve quality

AWS Publications | April 11, 2023 | Inspection
Welding Digest ►  The Importance of Preconstruction Meetings

Why CWIs should regularly attend preconstruction meetings to improve quality

Successful projects are built on a foundation of effective communication. For Certified Welding Inspectors (CWIs), that process often begins at the preconstruction meeting. A well-attended, well-run preconstruction meeting can set the job on a path to success. A construction team that communicates well, understands one another’s roles, and works collaboratively can overcome obstacles and accomplish the job.


A Powerful Tool for CWIs

I have worked as an inspector for the better part of two decades. Over that time, the need for preconstruction meetings has only gotten stronger. The internet and digital technology have boosted construction scheduling to warp speed. Also, materials and designs have become more complex, and codebooks keep getting thicker. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is that other than the CWI, no one else seems to know exactly what the CWI is supposed to be doing. Some superintendents may know a little about bolt installation but nothing about nondestructive examination (NDE). An erector may know a lot about weld inspection but not understand what constitutes as a good shear stud inspection. Because of this, structural steel preconstruction meetings can be a powerful tool for the CWI. At no other time in a project will you have the undivided attention of so many key stakeholders on the project. 


At the Meeting

Once you have done the document review and made the necessary visual aids, you are ready for the meeting. If the above information is not in the project file, then you will need to visit the site on a date prior to the meeting or arrive early to review the drawings and specifications available in the contractor’s trailer.

Remember, you are generally the most knowledgeable person in the meeting concerning the structural steel inspections. When the meeting arrives at the point where quality assurance (QA) inspection is discussed, you should have a lot to say.


Preparing for a Meeting

Inspectors should arrive to meetings prepared and with a plan. Here are a few tasks to do prior to arrival:

1. Carefully review the project drawings and specifications:

-Note the building’s risk category

-Review the statement of special inspections

-Note if there are any complete joint penetration (CJP) welds requiring ultrasound testing (UT)

-Note if the bolts are snug tightened, pretensioned, or slip critical

-Note if any requirements in the documents differ from standard requirements provided in American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) 360, Specification for Structural Steel Buildings, or AWS D1.1, Structural Welding Code — Steel. 

2. Make a hard copy of the inspection tables in AISC 360, Chapter N, and bring it to the meeting.

Fig. 3 copy-1In-process observation of field-welded CJP column splice.


Questions to Ask

1. When is the start date for erection? Discuss when the first visit should occur. Many factors can affect when the initial visit occurs that others in the meeting have not considered.

-Are there pretensioned bolts? You may want to perform preinstallation testing early before they get too far along with erecting the steel.

-Are there any slip-critical bolted connections? In addition to preinstallation testing, you will need to verify that the faying surfaces of connected plies are free of paint and meet slip-critical requirements. 

-Without a preconstruction meeting, this item is often missed, and by the time of your first visit, it’s too late to check.

-Are there CJP moment welds? You will want to look at joint fitup prior to any welding occurring.

2. If the building is risk category III or IV, are they aware of the 100% testing requirement for any CJP moment welds?

3. Check if the statement of special inspections (SSI) differs from the AISC 360 requirements and get clarification on the discrepancy. The SSI takes precedence over other project documents, but I have encountered engineers who weren’t aware their requirements differed from the code. Usually, when they learn their SSI falls below minimum code requirements, they typically want it “brought up” to local jurisdictional requirements.

4. Be ready to discuss any unusual items that are not a part of the standard codes and specifications. I have seen specifications that call for after-the-fact torque wrench testing for bolting inspection. This is not a part of any code or specification we use. If asked to do this, I usually want a procedure provided to us by others that the responsible engineer then signs off. If we just wing it or develop our own procedure and there are any problems with the bolts later, we assume a lot of liability. I would suggest extreme caution when deciding to comply with project specifications that ask you to do this. Flagging work as noncompliant means it didn’t comply with some aspects of the project documents. If we can’t point to clear language in a code or specification that the work doesn’t comply with, we are using our subjective judgments to evaluate the work.

5. Are the correct NDE methods being required? Occasionally, specifications for mechanical weld inspection are accidentally cut and pasted into structural steel field erection specifications. Instead of UT for CJP welds, the options of radiographic testing, magnetic particle testing, and liquid penetrant testing are given. These are clerical errors that need to be cleared up prior to erection.

6. Is the correct AISC specification listed? If AISC 341, Seismic Provisions for Structural Steel Buildings, is invoked instead of AISC 360, significantly more inspection is required. Most of us don’t work in seismically active regions, and structural steel is generally constructed in accordance with AISC 360. Inspecting a building to AISC 341 when it wasn’t required can add unnecessary costs to a project. Much like NDE specifications, this is usually a clerical error. The use of cut and paste with word processing programs has led to a proliferation of these mistakes.


Establish a Schedule with Hold Points

Using all of the above information, now you can lay out a basic schedule for the job. This is a good time to share the before, during, and after inspection tables you printed out. Make sure that you establish hold points, which is a place in the job that they should not proceed any further until you have been contacted. Some typical hold points areas are as follows:

Final tensioning of bolts — Is preinstallation testing done? Is in-process observation required?

Welding CJP connections — Is the fitup observed? Is in-process observation required? Is NDE scheduled?

Laying metal deck — Is the frame inspection complete? Is NDE completed on CJP welds?

Installing shear studs — An inspector should be present when production begins.


Now the site superintendent and the erector know you want to perform preinstallation testing once the bolts are delivered, not after they’ve already erected any stories of framing, for example. They know not to begin welding moment connections until you have checked the fitup. Also, now they know you want to periodically witness pretensioned bolt installation as it’s happening. In summary, you simultaneously improved the quality of the inspections and made your job easier.


This article was written by James V. Bowen or the American Welding Society.