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April 2015 BSJ

Evolving the Code Official continued more to offer. Code officials rarely get recognized for their work—and that is the way they like it. Code enforcement is not sexy. It does not make headlines—that is, of course, unless something goes wrong. In that rare case, code officials often are the focus of an alleged failure or impediment on a project or development. Little do people realize that code officials are the eyes and ears of the owner and design professionals. They ensure minimum compliance to the appropriate codes or standards, thereby safeguarding public safety. In fact, code officials often are referred to as “silent defenders.” Their work goes primarily unnoticed; yet, countless lives have been saved over the years because “nothing happened.” Buildings did not collapse. Fires did not happen. No one got hurt. Fortunately, residents of the United States do not live in fear of buildings or structures collapsing or failing. Through an open and transparent governmental, consensus based, development process, code officials, other government entities and the buildings industry found a way to make our buildings safe a long time ago. Now, though, the current trend in code development is based primarily on incorporating new technologies and enhancements within the construction sciences. Oftentimes, these technological advances result in cost savings and moreefficient construction practices. Unfortunately, technology continues to outpace code adoption and development, and the perpetual lag between development and adoption often poses a hardship for owners, design professionals and members of the construction team. Staying current on technology is one reason why jurisdictions benefit from adopting the most current versions of codes. Effective code enforcement is not an impediment to responsible development. Instead, a robust, well-trained and appropriately staffed code department can be a significant economic driver for development in a community. It is becoming increasingly more common for Fortune 500 companies to interview code departments in prospective communities to see if they are adequately staffed and trained to handle proposed developments. Providing timely and appropriate service encourages development and helps to dispel the perception that code officials do nothing but stand in the way. Unfortunately, inaccurate urban legends or unconfirmed anecdotal tales often depict code officials as tyrannical, power-hungry ogres. Nothing is further from the truth. Granted, there may be some who view themselves as “Masters of All They See,” but those are the exceptions and certainly not the rule. Responsible development results in an increased tax base and revenue generation, so anything that can help streamline the approval process is encouraged and, frankly, expected. That is where the educated code professional comes in. COMMUNICATION IS KEY Successful, responsible development does not happen in a vacuum. With increasing frequency, design teams are reaching out earlier in the process to involve local code officials at the very beginning stages of design. Including a code official as early as possible helps familiarize him or her with the extent of a proposed development, plus it also affords an opportunity to discover potential issues and address them—often prior to the regulatory approval process and, certainly, long before the completion of construction drawings—thereby avoiding future delays and expensive change orders. However, the time to meet a local code official is even before planning the next big project. Most code officials come from one of the various construction trades. Oftentimes, their knowledge is vast and untapped. They can be an invaluable resource for local information or about potentially problematic conditions. In fact, most successful projects usually are based on a fully integrated and collaborative effort among all parties involved—including the code official. With that being said, code officials and design professionals must reach out to one another. Attend each other’s meetings as either a guest or speaker. The exchange of information or ideas only helps to make each professional better at his or her job. As technology increases and the rapid exchange of information continues to expand at light speed, only those who embrace the “new normal” will succeed. Collectively, we should seek mutual areas of interaction instead of continuing to operate in isolated silos. Remember: We work best when we work together. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen D. Jones, CBO is code official for the Township of Millburn, New Jersey, and the Borough of Florham Park, New Jersey, and a governor at the World Organization of Building Officials. He serves as secretary for the Board of Direction at the Institute’s National Council of Governments on Building Codes and Standards. In addition, he is past president of the International Code Council. “Evolving the Code Official” by Stephen D. Jones, CBO, which was published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of the National Institute of Building Sciences (JNIBS), has been reproduced here with permission from the publisher. Learn more about JNIBS here, and access your free issue(s) by subscribing here. APRIL 2015 | 36


April 2015 BSJ
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