Data from a recent survey by the International Code Council shows that although deemed essential, many code departments around the U.S. do not have all the tools and systems in place to work virtually. According to more than 1,150 building and fire prevention department respondents, 93% of offices are still performing inspections. Yet, with employees in two-thirds of departments working remotely, nearly a quarter of departments lack needed hard copy code books; 4 in 10 departments do not have the capability to conduct electronic/remote plan review; 3 in 10 departments do not have the capability to conduct electronic/remote permitting; and 6 in 10 departments do not have the capability for electronic/remote inspections. Survey responses received in subsequent weeks have been consistent with these results.
Code compliance is a necessary element in the building and construction space. Without the resources to conduct inspections, permitting and plan review virtually, departmentsóand the building, fire, plumbing, and mechanical officials and inspectors that comprise themódo not possess the capability to remotely carry out critical aspects of their work. This hinders departmentsí ability to provide essential functions, like overseeing the safe construction of temporary structures to provide medical surge capacity and ensuring the maintenance of hospital ventilation disinfection systems. According to construction industry surveys (such as those by NAHB and NMHC), virtual capability needs have also led to significant delaysócreating challenges for ongoing construction and the construction weíll need in the future that will help drive our economic recovery. Investing in these capabilities now not only addresses these challenges but also would produce lasting reductions in departmental operation costs and permitting timelines.
As a member of the building industry, we urge you to join us in advocating for funding for code departments to ensure our buildings are built in a safe, timely, efficient manner during the age of virtual work and COVID-19. Right now, the federal government has allocated billions of dollars for states and local governments to respond to the pandemic through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). On April 22, the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed ìExpenses to improve telework capabilities for public employees to enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautionsî as an eligible expense under a $150 billion state and local relief fund the Department is administering.
However, just because itís an eligible expense does not mean that governmental funding recipients will choose to help their code departments make the transition to virtual work. We need to convince them. Please join us in advocating for these measures by visiting our Coronavirus Advocacy Resources page, which includes background on federal programs that can support code departments, talking points to advocate for code departments, and contact info for Code Council staff liaisons by region who are active on these efforts.
Here are some additional resources about building safety and COVID-19:
- ICC Pulse Podcast Code Council Vice President of Government Affairs Gabe Maser shares information about the CARES Act and how it can help state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
- Join us on May 20 for a virtual panel discussion about the effects of COVID-19 on the building safety industry. Hosted by the Code Council and sponsored by NAHB, this discussion will pull from expertise across the industry to share expected short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic.
- Check out our Coronavirus Response Center page for the latest resources, news and events.