Code Council shares expertise in webinar dealing with the pandemic’s impact on technology in the built environment
The COVID-19 pandemic presented architecture, engineering and construction companies and code departments with an enormous challenge: transitioning an industry long reliant on personal relationships and in-person connections to a remote, digital environment. The pandemic also accelerated the need to bring building sites into the digital era through automated tools. Digital technology played a critical role in getting the $11 trillion construction industry back on its feet. The shift seen in the building industry not only shows its resilience but it is one of the major positive changes to emerge from the crisis.
On July 13, 2021, the National Institute of Building Sciences hosted a panel of experts from the International Code Council and CloudVisit for the Pandemic’s Impact on Technology in the Built Environment webinar. Subject matter experts discussed the safety and efficiency of virtual inspections, carbon footprint reductions, and access to building codes and standards in a digital environment with more than 400 registrants.
Ryan Colker, J.D., CAE, vice president of innovation with the International Code Council and executive director of the Alliance for National & Community Resilience, shared that the Code Council conducted a survey early in the pandemic to find out how code officials were coping with the professional challenges. The results showed trends on how jurisdictions were keeping up with inspections, building permits, plan reviews and construction.
According to the survey, 93 percent of departments were still performing inspections either in-person or remotely. A total of 1,158 responses were collected from jurisdictions of all sizes. The survey was reconducted in September 2020 to see how departments had adapted. That survey — which resulted in the report “Follow-up Survey: Building Safety and COVID-19 Analysis of Code Department Operations in the United States during the Pandemic” — found more departments were performing inspections (98 percent).
Working with the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Code Council conducted an additional survey on remote virtual inspections in March 2021. That survey resulted in the report “Building Safety and COVID-19: Analysis of Code Compliance in the United States during the Pandemic.” Jurisdictions reported performing all electronic plan reviews (34 percent), all paper (22 percent) or both (34 percent). The benefits to this are that it reduces paper/document management (65 percent) and streamlines review (50 percent). Some of the barriers include integration with other software (35 percent) and learning new technology (34 percent). By March 2021, jurisdictions reported in-person inspections were now 59 percent.
In addition to the need to shift to online processes, many code departments did not have access to code content, having relied on hard copy books housed in their office library. Additionally, hard copy code books also lack many tools that can be leveraged in a digital environment, including personal notations, linking code provisions in inspection reports, access to standards and other guidance referenced in the code, and being able to access code language in the field.
The Code Council’s Digital Codes Premium provides easy access to the codes and tools to support their usability. To help jurisdictions use codes even more effectively, Colker explained, the Code Council released a Digital Codes Premium Mobile app into beta on July 12. “It’s a mechanism for people to access codes from a smartphone or tablet,” Colker said. “[The app has] a lot of the functionality of our digital codes platform.”
The recorded webinar is now available.