Typical language for commercial narratives. Comments?

I’m going through IBC SECTION 10, Means of Egress
1024.2 Width.

This is pretty typical wording:

“Although it served an occupant load listed as more than 49, an exit passageway that formed part of a means of egress in this building had a width measuring less than the minimum 44 inches (1118 mm) mandated by widely-accepted modern safety standards. Although this condition may have been acceptable at the time this building was originally constructed, and buildings are not required to be upgraded to comply with newly-enacted standards, this condition would not be allowed in new construction for safety reasons. The Inspector recommends that action be taken to correct this condition at any such exit passageways in a manner that complies with applicable safety standards.”

I’m guessing that a lot of non-compliant buildings will be older, and if they’re not, it’s faster to delete the next-to-last sentence than it is to write it or copy and paste it.

I went back and forth about using only “applicable” modern safety standards, but if a property is not required to be upgraded to meet current code, then it could be argued that the code wasn’t applicable, so I wound up using both that and “widely-accepted modern safety standards”.

Also, unlike the residential narratives, I’m not making recommendations for who should make corrections like “qualified contractor”. I think at this level clients will be sophisticated enough to understand that corrections, repairs, further evaluations, etc. need to be performed by competent people, and some of those may be in-house, like maintenance staff. If an inspector wants to make a specific recommendation, they can add that themselves.

Don’t under any circumstances turn a commercial inspection into a code inspection. I’ve witnessed well intentioned people get sued through the roof over it.


Does that mean that even mention of widely-accepted modern safety standards is a bad idea? I’ve included a disclaimer saying that even if something mentioned in the report is a code violation, the purpose of the inspection is not to identify code violations.

My two cents: Nothing wrong with reporting safety issues, like improper wiring, elevators that don’t stop at the floors properly, improperly flashed seismic gaps, trip hazards, etc. But don’t call them code violations.

Google “ASTM E2018-15 property condition assessment code violations”, download some reports from the big firms, and you can see how it’s properly done.

You should bring up building code violations three times: in your site contact questionnaire (where you ask the contact if they are aware of any), in your FOIA request (where you ask the AHJ if they are aware of any), and in the body of your report, where you state clearly that your report is not a code inspection or code review. If you find something questionable, by all means report the deficiency as a safety issue. But never state that it is a code violation.

You can easily and safely navigate a report for a site with obvious code issues by sticking to this model. Report them as safety issues. New York City had a brief era of self-certified construction. The builder could construct a skyscraper without waiting for code inspections if they hired a third party to certify the various trades. This went about as bad as you could imagine. I’ve written reports for buildings that were constructed under this self certified nonsense, and at no point do I call out code violations. I call out safety issues. Code violations are the building code official’s responsibility. I don’t want that liability, nor should anyone else doing a PCA. Talk this out with your client for sure, but in the report, list them as safety issues.

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Code is a stickler, Kenton.
Your narrative above is very long.
Observation: Poor egress clearance. Location: Stairway width. All floors.

As well, in certain manipulates, safety features are grandfathered in. IE: Exterior Guardrail height.

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Morning, Kenton. Hope to find you in good health and spirits today.
Try to keep it narratives short, complete, as to describe the required.

A commercial building inspection is much like a home inspection. Same building components. Same defects per say. Just more of them.

When I started inspecting homes/buildings, canned narratives clouded my objective. To many.
My objective. No fluff or filler. No more nor less than required to get the point across without unneeded liability.

Most new inspectors turn to software narratives. I remember winning the InterNACHI narrative CD. I also tried reporting software. With both, there was so/too much to choose from. Information overload.

As you know, a proper narrative is specific per situation.
Example. Lot/Grounds: Positive slope. All sides.
Then in the field you discover, yes the majority of lot/grounds slope is posative, except for under eaves.
Narrative: Positive lot. Settled Back-fill under eaves.

What I am trying to explain Kenton is, Keep It Simple Student. Build short narratives that can interact with other features.

Personally I was so overwhelmed with all the canned narrative I chose to use Carson Dunlop Horizon reporting software due to the fact it comes as a clean slate. You build your own narrative pool per specific feature.

I hope my thoughts helped friend.
Wishing you only the best with all your endeavors.


I’m kind of in the same camp as Robert Young. I’ve never used canned narratives for commercial work, quite simply because they limit your ability to communicate opinion and context. Example: a canned roof defect narrative might be 2 or 3 sentences long. I’ve written reports where a roof defect discussion lasts a page and a half.

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Pre-written narrative libraries are useful:
We often find the same relatively easy-to-describe defects repeated on various inspections, and that’s where having a library of pre-written narrative saves time.

But there are also certainly times when you’ll find conditions that are unique or that have unique aspects that you’ll need to explain in more detail than could be supplied by a typical pre-written library narrative.

  1. Sometimes you can use a narrative right out of your library;
  2. Sometimes you can edit an existing library narrative to get what you need; and
  3. Sometimes you have to write something original.

Commercial/industrial inspections are often more challenging than residential:
The big collection of buildings and properties that fall into the categories of “commercial” and “industrial” contain a great number of systems and components with which most residential inspectors are not familiar.

Developing the skills necessary to identify defective conditions in these systems and components is one of the challenges facing those who want to graduate from residential inspections to commercial/industrial inspections, and along with that expansion of services goes the corresponding expansion of an inspector’s narrative library, since no one wants to keep writing the same narrative repeatedly.
At present, no comprehensive pre-written library of narratives for these types of inspections is available (I’m working on that).

Pre-written narrative libraries like mine have their advantages and limitations, no doubt about it. These depend on the quality of the library, the types of inspections they’re designed to support, and the needs of the inspector.

Y’know Robert, we basically agree. No filler, as short as possible, but where we may part is that you shouldn’t shorten a narrative enough that it leaves room for interpretation. Everyone reading your narrative, no matter what their position in the transaction is, needs to come to the same conclusion about what it means.
For example, I would never use “Lot/Grounds : Positive slope. All sides.” The term “positive slope” alone means just “slope” in some direction, although you can specify that, but you don’t. It’s simpler and clearer to say “grade sloped to route surface runoff or drainage away from the foundation”, although usually you’d be commenting on improper slope.

A large library of narratives is overwhelming only if they’re poorly organized. In my templates, you’re seldom looking at more than 10 narratives on any single defect, and even those are separated into groups of 4 or 5 so that you can see at a glance what you’re looking for.

I know what KISS stands for Robert :wink: LOL