Located on the Atlantic coast of southern Florida, the city of Port St. Lucie is the eighth-most-populous urbanized area in Florida by population, and is ranked as one of America’s best 100 communities by Forbes magazine. The city’s building department also has the honor of being among only 25 similar departments to be fully accredited by the International Accreditation Service (IAS), which is a subsidiary of the International Code Council. This accomplishment puts the city’s building department among the best across the globe for timeliness, quality assurance and customer service.

Port St. Lucie Building Code Administrator Joel Dramis has been with the city of Port St. Lucie for 30 years, serving as administrator since 2008. In 2016, he brought a proposal to the management staff that they should pursue building department accreditation. Accreditation was simply a challenge to make the department one of the best.

“We care, and we wanted people to know we care,” said Dramis about the result of that meeting. “We decided we want to be the best.”

Building department accreditation is a third-party review of all building department processes, including permitting, inspections and plan review. The department is evaluated in the areas of quality of work, timeliness and customer service. In order to be accredited, a building department must meet satisfactory marks in these three categories. A department’s budget, staffing levels and quality assurance are also examined to ensure it meets the standards. Accreditation tells the community that the building department applies the highest quality standards in all functions.

IAS conducted an intense pre-evaluation of the city’s operations on Feb. 24-25, 2016, which included personal observation of all department activities as well as interviews with stakeholders, elected officials, trade association leaders and staff. The full evaluation was on Sept. 28-30, 2016, with a final hearing on Dec. 20, 2016. After the intensive 18-month process, the building department had achieved full accreditation by IAS.

“Building department accreditation belongs to the whole department. Building officials don’t get accredited, the whole department does,” said Dramis. “The Port St. Lucie Building Department is proud to be one of only five in the state of Florida and one of only 25 to achieve the recognition of being an accredited building department.”

The process took several steps to attain, including a culture change for the department, a personal assessment and lots of teamwork. The main areas for review were timeliness, quality assurance and customer service. The policies and procedures that Port St. Lucie developed and put in place to ensure quality customer service include:

  • Feedback surveys sent to each contractor following the completion of each permit, an in-depth survey sent to contractors when they complete large commercial permits.
  • Discussion of customer service feedback at each of the 16 stakeholder meetings held annually.
  • The city received 135 written compliments from our customers this calendar year on the level of service provided.
  • A customer service topic is added to the agenda of each weekly Administration Staff meeting.
  • Each supervisor is also required to conduct “quality assurance reviews” of staff performance.
  • The entire quality assurance process for customer service is 100 percent paperless. IAS will conduct a follow-up review of the Building Department sometime within the next 12 months. The department will be subject to a re-accreditation every three years.

The city also created a computer program to put the department online. Because the program was designed in-house, the city was able to save thousands of dollars.

In September 2017, IAS recognized the city of Port St. Lucie Building Department in its Building Department Best Practices Manual for “Noteworthy Practices”.