Responding to the “new normal” — Target and BOAT partnership supports expedited permitting and plan review for Texas jurisdictions
It goes without saying that the construction industry will not be the same as it was before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began closing down businesses in early 2020. Construction industry members — including owners, developers, building safety professionals, contractors and subcontractors, and supply chain vendors — have experienced varying degrees of impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These impacts have resulted in the need for industry members to address both short-term and long-term business challenges as the construction industry is faced with a new national, and even international, environment.
In early spring, as families across the U.S. – and around the world – began to feel the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Target Corporation moved swiftly to meet extraordinary challenges. Convenient, simple and safe ways to shop for essential items during the pandemic were becoming critical and with customer safety in mind, Target launched its contactless order pickup that would include fresh and frozen grocery items available for in-store and drive-up/curbside pickup. The goal was to have 400 stores using these fulfillment options by the end of June and 1,600 stores in time for the 2020 holidays.
Adding curbside and in-store pickup services for fresh and frozen items requires modifications to existing Target stores, including the addition of temperature-controlled storage in the pickup area in the front of the store. The scope of the interior remodels included the installation of a rolling, plug-in type cooler; wall, ceiling and floor finish updates; and electrical and mechanical work. The reconfigured spaces would create a flexible storage area for the new grocery pickup service. The proposed work had no modifications to the building’s structural systems or added square footage area.
Throughout the country, Target stores are largely built to a prototype, or replicable building model, that is consistent throughout most of Texas. Therefore, the required modifications to support Target’s fresh and frozen in-store and drive-up curbside pickup are essentially the same — the proposed remodel and plans would be repeated in many stores throughout the state. Since the repetitive plans would be consistent, Target considered the strategy of simplifying the permit process to help support expedited permitting. Target approached the Building Officials Association of Texas (BOAT) with an innovative idea of a public/private partnership in order to voluntarily perform plan review in an effort to help expedite permitting for all Texas jurisdictions.
The process began with creating an ad hoc BOAT Plan Review Committee formed of municipal and third-party, ICC-certified plan review professionals from around the state. The proposed replicable building remodel plans of the Target stores in Texas were reviewed by the BOAT Plan Review Committee for compliance to the International Building Code, International Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code and the National Electrical Code. Understandably, the necessary approvals for a permit application, submittal requirements and plan review rest with each local jurisdiction. The BOAT Committee provided the plan review with the express intent to offer local jurisdictions a valuable tool in expediting their review and permitting process. Field verification of site-specific conditions such as accessibility, asbestos state law requirements and any other unique building conditions where necessary must be provided to the building official for each individual project.
Once the review by the BOAT Committee was complete, a letter was included with the informational permit packet submitted to each jurisdiction explaining the BOAT Committee review and provided contact information to streamline questions. With BOAT’s completed review of all the documents, the project was assured of general conformance with all listed codes.
“On behalf of the Building Officials Association of Texas, we were pleased and honored to partner with Target Corporation on this important and successful project,” said BOAT President Jeffrey Widmer, CBO, chief building official with the city of Rockwall. “We are grateful to and commend the jurisdictions that joined us in the effort.”
The partnership between BOAT and Target was a success and demonstrates how valuable public/private partnerships can be in streamlining the plan review and permitting process. This strategy has the ability to influence responsible and efficient economic growth and supports the need for both public and private sectors to respond quickly to an immediate need or crisis within a community, a state or across the nation.
“During this uncertain time, public/private partnership and communication is more important than ever,” said Kelly Sadler, JD, government relations senior regional manager (Texas) for the International Code Council. “The quick and innovative collaboration between a major retailer like Target and the Building Officials Association of Texas is a best practice that can and should be replicated by the building and fire safety industry nationwide.”
The Building Officials Association of Texas is no stranger to mobilizing in the wake of disaster to help local communities. After Hurricane Harvey devastated areas along the Texas coast in 2017 — taking lives and causing extensive property damage — BOAT formed disaster-response teams and stepped up to the challenge by conducting structural assessments and helping residents move back into their homes as quickly as possible. This collaboration with Target is another example of the resilience and dedication of the many building safety professionals in the state.
Giving back to communities is — and always has been — a cornerstone of Target. Target’s relationship with the Code Council dates back to 2009 when Tom Phillips, Principle – Building Regulatory Strategy at Target Corporation, received the ICC Affiliate Award (now the Excellence in Public Safety Award). At the time, Phillips was leading a major initiative to streamline the approval process for replicable buildings.
Both Target and BOAT are dedicated to community resilience — the ability of a community to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural and man-made disasters. Both have joined the Code Council in a long-standing partnership to explore ways that local officials and organizations representing small and large businesses can make resilient investments and forward-thinking policy decisions that ensure communities and businesses are better able to thrive in the face of increasing disasters.
If you need extra support during this time, the Code Council offers online plan review as well as services including progress tracking, digital reports, online payments, automated notifications, and a customer dashboard. Additionally, the Code Council offers consulting on the technical aspects of the International Codes or other related code issues. Our professional staff is available to provide the necessary technical expertise and plan review in the building, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, energy conservation, accessibility, and fire protection disciplines.