Chicago Department of Buildings: New Structural Peer Review Program Rules

Christopher E. Chwedyk, CSI, AIA

Posted by Christopher E. Chwedyk, CSI, AIA

In December 2017, the City of Chicago Department of Buildings (DOB) adopted new Structural Peer Review Program rules (Rules) that became effective January 1, 2018. The voluntary program to expedite the building permit process has existed in Chicago for over a decade. It is very important to be aware of the Rules which contain new requirements.

Chicago_skyscraper_lights_by_Alex_Shutin.jpgPhoto by Alex Shutin

When Can Structural Peer Review Be Used?

Structural Peer Review may be used for permits under Chicago’s Standard Plan Review and Self-Certification Permit Program. According to the new rules, a Structural Peer Reviewer’s Report (Report) may also be submitted as part of the programs for larger projects (Developer Services and Director Developer Services) with the prior written approval of the DOB Commissioner.

Importantly, the Rules also note that DOB always has the right to require conventional plan review by the department, even if a Report is submitted and the criteria for Structural Peer Review are met.

Who is a Registered Structural Peer Reviewer?

A permit applicant wishing to use Structural Peer Review must hire a Registered Structural Peer Reviewer (RSPR) prior to submitting the permit application. For those in need of finding an RSPR, DOB maintains an RSPR list.

Pre-approval of the RSPR for a project is not required but may be requested by following DOB’s pre-approval process found at Rule D, No. 8. Also, DOB must be notified within 10 business days if the RSPR changes or the RSPR becomes ineligible for RSPR status due to a violation of the Rules.

RSPR Eligibility Requirements

To be an RSPR, the reviewer must comply with the Rules’ eligibility requirements, including having a current Illinois Structural Engineer License; a minimum of six years as a licensed architect or structural, civil, or professional engineer in any jurisdiction; a minimum of three years as an Illinois Licensed Structural Engineer; and experience on at least five projects in the last 60 months as a professional of record, project lead, or RSPR.

An RSPR is also required to complete DOB’s Structural Peer Review training program and obtained a certificate of completion. The Rules state that the DOB Commissioner will set the training class fee, but the minimum fee will be $1500. Additionally, an RSPR must carry professional liability insurance that meets the Rules’ requirements. See Rule M.

RSPR Application and Renewal

The Rules also contain specific RSPR application and renewal procedures. See Rules P & Q. The RSPR’s registration must be renewed every five years depending on when the RSPR initially registered relative to the Rules’ effective date. See Rule N. To obtain a renewal, the RSPR must have attended a Structural Peer Review training class in the past year.

The DOB Commissioner may periodically require RSPRs to provide written confirmation they are aware of significant revisions to the Chicago Building Code’s structural provisions or the Rules.

Avoidance of Conflict of Interest

The Rules are designed to assure the RSPR does not have a vested interest in the project they are reviewing.The RSPR must be independent of the applicant as well as the design and construction team and must not have a financial or other interest in the “structures and components” subject to their review.

Additionally, the RSPR must maintain their independence from the project, except as a reviewer, for at least 18 months after concluding the review.

Chicago_night_skyline_by_Pedro_Lastra.jpgPhoto by Pedro Lastra

What is Included in the Review and Report?

Scope of Review

The Professional of Record needs to provide the RSPR with all the materials necessary to completely review all the required topics, and the RSPR must base their analysis on the current permit drawings.The RSPR is required to use the same level of care as an Illinois Licensed Structural Engineer would use for any similar project.

When the structural review includes earth retention systems, one Report may be submitted by two different RSPRs. However, the Report must clearly delineate between the earth retention portion of the Report and the remainder of the structural review following the labeling procedures identified in Rule E, No. 6.

If the RSPR is unable to completely review any of the required topics, they must provide the Professional of Record with written comments so that the Professional of Record may revise the drawings or provide supplementary information. See Rule E.

Inclusion of Basic Information About Project and Certification

The Rules contain general requirements for completing the report, such as the inclusion of the permit application number, project address, and specific language that appears in Rule F that must be used in the Report to certify that the review was conducted in compliance with the Rules. This certification language may not be changed nor may the Report: “include any conditions, limitations or unresolved issues.” See Rule F.

Evidence of RSPR Qualifications and Insurance

Importantly, the Rules also now require the RSPR to state in the Report specific information about other projects they have worked on as a professional of record, structural peer reviewer, or project lead of “similar scope and complexity to the project under review.” Also added to the Rules is the mandate that the RSPR include in the Report evidence of their professional liability insurance and a copy of their current Illinois Structural Engineering License. See Rule F.

Review and Report Details

In addition to specifying that the Report contain all required correspondence between the RSPR and the Professional of Record, the Rules enumerate under Rule F, No. 8 a long list of items that must be included in the Report. It should be noted that Rules state this information, “must be presented in substantially the order listed in the Rule.” (Our summary does not follow this order.) Additionally, the RSPR must clearly distinguish their own pages of calculations from those of the Professional of Record.

Highlights of the Rule F, No. 8 listed items are: the verified codes and standards used in project design; verified structural design criteria; technical basis and supporting documents for any design criteria not found in the codes and standards; information relating to the existing site conditions investigation; and the title, sheet number, and revision date for each supporting structural and architectural drawing.

Additionally, the Rule F, No. 8 items include verification of: the proposed design conforming to existing site conditions; structural drawings conform with the architectural drawings as they relate to conditions affecting the structure; major mechanical items; the structural drawings, structural calculations, and notes “are suitable for permitting;” and the structural design is compliance with the Chicago Building Code.

Report Submission and Miscellaneous Requirements

The Report is based on the current permit drawings, but if they are substantially revised, the RSPR must prepare a revised Report or a formal letter following the Rule G, No. 3 instructions. 

For phased construction permits, the Report must be similarly filed in phases.

The Report is to be submitted through DOB’s E-Plan system. However, if any questions arise, DOB may ask to meet with the RSPR and/or the Professional of Record. If the Report doesn’t comply with the Rules, conventional review may be required. The reviewer may lose their RSPR status if the Report contains significant errors or doesn’t comply with the Rules.

In addition to DOB retaining the right to require conventional review of a Report as randomly selected or for cause, DOB may audit a Report for similar reasons after permit issuance

It should be noted that DOB will follow its Rules Regarding the Suspension and Revocation of Licenses, Registrations, and Certifications, updated in in March of 2017 and effective April 8, 2017, to suspend or revoke a reviewer’s status as an RSPR.

The next DOB  Structural Peer Review training is being held April 23, 2018. 

Please check the Chicago Department of Buildings' Structural Peer Review Program rules for specific requirements.



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