During most training classes, I provide a brief explanation of the inspections that are required for the production of manufactured housing. It occurred to me that most installers and retailers don’t really have a good understanding of these processes, so let’s take a closer look.
Just like any other type of residential construction, manufactured homes undergo both design / plan reviews as well as inspections of the actual construction of the home. To perform these two functions, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) utilizes “Primary Inspection Agencies” (PIA). These PIA’s perform surveillance of the production process in the factories and review designs and details to see if they meet the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code). A PIA can be either a part of state government or a private agency.
There are two types of PIAs, the DAPIA and the IPIA. Today we will try to give an brief overview of the role of the DAPIA.
The acronym DAPIA stands for Design Approval Primary Inspection Agency. There is only one state (Nebraska) that performs the DAPIA function. In the rest of the country, each manufacturer must contract with one of the 5 agencies that HUD approves for the task of design review and approval. You have seen their stamps of approval on installation manuals. A stamp of approval from any of these five private agencies; HWC, NTA, PFS, RADCO, TRA, and the state of Nebraska, is equivalent to an engineer’s stamp used in other construction types.
The main premise of the DAPIA process is that the home manufacturer must document all of their construction drawings, floor plans, calculations, installation details and in-house “Quality Assurance” procedures and submit them for review. If determined to meet the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards, the DAPIA will stamp these documents as “approved”.
This process is similar to the plan review conducted by a local code official who reviews building prints to see if they meet the local or state code. When new manufactured home designs are stamped as “DAPIA Approved”, the local code official can be confident that when the home is constructed and installed according to these approved designs, it will meet the federal HUD code.
Each DAPIA had to go through an application process to show that they are qualified to perform this function prior to receiving their approval from HUD. After initial approval, each DAPIA undergoes a yearly performance review. HUD (through a contractor) collects information and checks samples of designs for errors or violations. HUD can then make recommendations for each DAPIA to improve their performance if they aren’t doing a good job. They can even disqualify a PIA if the recommendations and corrective action do not led to improvement. To the best of my knowledge, only one PIA has ever been disqualified since 1976 when the program began.
I personally feel that the DAPIA program works great for the construction in the factories, but not so much for installation. Below are my two main concerns of the DAPIA process as it relates to installation.
One area of the DAPIA program that does not work well for installation is the lack “Design Control”. Home manufacturers routinely modify, create and delete installation designs. Out dated designs are removed from the process. However, there is little or no procedure to provide notice to the installers or retailers of these changes. As a result, installers often work from obsolete designs. There is a mistaken assumption that installers wait for the latest installation manual to be delivered with the home when it arrives at the site. However, most installers plan their installations long before the home is ever delivered. As a result, too many installers are relying on installation designs that are no longer applicable for the home. If you have been using the same installation designs for a long time, it is a good idea to check with the factory Quality Assurance Manager to see if the designs you use are still current and ask him to let you know about all future changes to the installation manual.
Secondly, most agree that the current DAPIA approved installation instructions are not “user friendly”. It is very easy for the most experienced installer to get lost paging through the maze of charts, columns and rows of data and countless footnotes. As a result, many installers and building code officials reply on old, outdated methods, single page pier prints, or just “the way we have always done it”. I believe that the current “one-size fits all” installation manuals that are commonly used today are too complicated and cumbersome to be an effective tool for installers. Maybe someday both DAPIA’s and manufacturers will work with the folks that actually install manufactured homes to write a streamlined, easy to use installation manual. Until then, consider using a building permit cover sheet to help organize and make sense of the installation instructions. Click the link below for a sample you can use.
You can learn more about the responsibilities of the DAPIA at 3282.361 of the Manufactured Home Procedural & Enforcement Regulations HERE.
Next time, lets talk about the inspection agencies, known as the IPIA.