Code Council course builds stronger path to fortifying building codes
Utilizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding, the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) provided its Division of Building Permits staff a chance to strengthen their knowledge of codes during a four-day Building Inspector Academy provided by the International Code Council late last year. The course — taught by Code Council Learning Center instructors John Gibson and Steve Van Note — covered a range of topics, including code administration, building planning and public safety, and was detailed in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance Division 2019 Year in Review report.
Douglas Hodge, DPNR’s Division of Building Permits director, said the course provided the agency’s site inspectors more expertise and support with its mission of being more resilient. “The rebuilding of our territory is geared toward building stronger, more resilient and safe homes, buildings, and structures that can withstand a higher wind and seismic load imposed upon them during future events,” Hodge said.
The DPNR’s unit chiefs for building inspections — Amanda Jackson-Acosta on St. Croix and Ronald Regueiro on St. Thomas — both said the course provided their teams with opportunities to strengthen their expertise with inspections across the territory. “The course has really helped broaden students’ knowledge with regard to different types of construction. An example is basements and crawl spaces,” Jackson-Acosta explained. “I see them a lot on St. Croix, but on St. Thomas they may not be typical.”
The Code Council course provided Regueiro and his classmates with a chance to refine skills that they have been implementing across the territory. “The course offers the ability to use and navigate through the codebooks,” Regueiro said. “That’s the most important thing. That’s a unique skill that you develop over time. The more you learn and navigate how different chapters work together then it is easier to go through the book and find information that you need in a timely manner.”
ICC instructors Gibson and Van Note both emphasized the course’s importance for strengthening building inspections across the territory. “The main thing is becoming comfortable and familiar with using the Code Council’s residential codes. We are teaching them where things are located. How to navigate. How to look up information. It is important students get to the right location in the book to see what minimum code requirements are,” said Van Note.
This class represents an ongoing collaboration between FEMA and DPNR to strengthen the resilience of infrastructure to withstand future disasters across the Virgin Islands.
“We are in a high-risk area for hurricanes, earthquakes, and inland and coastal flooding,” Hodge concluded. “The weather forecasters predict that what is to come can be even more severe. Therefore, we must continue to build stronger and enforce codes to meet minimum code requirements compliance and in conjunction with additional requirements implemented for stronger and more resilient homes, buildings and structures.”