Lynn Underwood has been interested in construction since he grew up on a farm in New Mexico.
“We built all our barns,” said Underwood, who was elected to an at-large position on the ICC Board of Directors during the 2013 Annual Conference in Atlantic City, N.J. “We never hired anyone to do it. I’ve just always loved construction.”
But it was a few years later when Underwood had an epiphany that enhanced his attraction to sawn wood: He could help people not only build, but build safely. That realization led the affable Underwood on a voracious quest for knowledge and a yearning to share what he learned with people throughout the nation and across the globe.
He has done so working in New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and the United Arab Emirates. He has done so as an instructor and an author of numerous articles and nearly a dozen guides, including “IRC Compliance for Builders and Inspectors.”
And as an ICC Board Director, Underwood hopes to reach an even larger audience, sharing with them the important work the ICC does to keep communities safe.
“I would love to see the I-Codes expanded more globally,” he said. “We have a really good start getting our codes out internationally. But we’ve got some of the best science on earth, as well as vast knowledge and expertise on a variety of subjects, such as wind science and seismic measures.”
For example, he said, adobe is the most popular type of construction in the world, “and the ICC has the knowledge and experience to know how to build the best.”
Ever since he was on that New Mexico farm, Underwood wanted to build the best home. He finally did that after graduating from New Mexico State University with bachelor’s degrees in Engineering Technology and Journalism. He enjoyed it so much, he decided to become a licensed contractor and build homes for others.
The poor economy of the late 1970s and early 1980s chased him into getting a state license and becoming a Building Official/Inspector for Dona Ana County in Las Cruces, New Mexico. A few years later, Underwood moved on to become Plans Examiner for Pima County based in Tucson, Ariz.
Underwood thought he was moving on for the money, but he ran into something much more valuable in Pima County: a mentor named Leroy Sayre, the county’s chief building official. Sayre, then-Director of the Education Department for the legacy organization International Conference of Building Officials, was as anxious to share his expertise as Underwood was to get it.
“He was a walking encyclopedia,” Underwood says of Sayre. “He knew all of the code requirements without even looking. I wanted to be able to do that. So I began to collect certifications.” And he did, culminating in his becoming an ICC Master Code Professional.
From Sayre, Underwood also picked up a source of pride common to building officials in Arizona, where the nation’s first Uniform Building Code was adopted in 1927. Sayre helped him get involved in the code development process, including attending meetings and code hearings.
“It was really cool to see people like me who were deeply involved in the code process,” Underwood said. And when the codes merged into the ICC, Underwood added, “that was the coolest thing on earth. One national code.”
That also led Underwood to delve into the ICC with participation on many committees, including Chair of ICC’s Governing Committee for Global Membership Council, which he gave up upon his election to the ICC Board of Directors.
With vast experience on both coasts as well as in Arizona, Underwood said he understands the unique challenges facing each area. And he can’t wait to help tackle them.
And when he’s not tackling code issues, Underwood—married to Glenda White, budget director at the College of William and Mary—dives into photography, reading and writing articles.
But it’s pretty easy to tell his first love.
“I’ll be driving, and I’ll see some construction off in the distance,” Underwood said. “And I’ll just have to go over and check it out. I love construction.”