There are plenty of building codes that aim to ensure that buildings are stable when finished. But what about stability during the construction project? Temporary bracing can help to withstand the stress on the structure—and you—during the building process.
Partially-completed buildings are especially susceptible to collapse due to high winds and other stressors, yet building codes are often silent on what construction crews should do to keep them standing during this vulnerable time. Collapses can result in damage to structures, tools, and building materials, and can leave workers badly injured or worse. Trade associations such as the National Concrete Masonry Association have their own bracing guidelines, but there are no legal consequences if failure to brace properly results in a collapse. What can church leaders do to push for better bracing?
According to Paul Meng, a risk control specialist at Brotherhood Mutual, safe construction projects start with choosing the right contractors. That means researching the contractors’ safety records with OSHA and the Better Business Bureau, checking that they have the proper licenses, looking for examples of completed projects, and contacting references to confirm the quality of the contractors’ work. You may also consider asking the church attorney to include bracing requirements in the construction contract.
Engineers generally give plenty of bracing instructions when they draw up building plans. It’s up to the building contractors and construction crews to follow those instructions. Meng, who has 32 years of experience in construction, says that church leaders should feel comfortable asking contractors about bracing, especially if they see something that doesn’t look right.
“The key is to get builders to read what the engineers say about bracing,” Meng says. “Sometimes they get in a hurry to meet a deadline and cut corners, so it’s good to encourage the crew to be safe and brace. In the end, it’s a lot easier to double-brace than to have a collapse and lose a wall—or see someone get injured.”
As a rule, church leaders ought to make sure that general contractors and subcontractors have adequate liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Each contractor should be able to present a certificate of insurance that verifies that workers are insured. In addition, either the church or the contractor should carry builders’ risk insurance during the project.
Construction projects can be exciting for ministries, marking times of success and growth. Encouraging proper bracing can help to ensure that a building stands firm in its formative stages and becomes a permanent part of the ministry.
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