ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Alan Chambers
Code professionals ensure building safety today, for a stronger tomorrow. As the individuals behind modern codes and standards, these professionals are responsible for ensuring the safety and compliance of codes and standards, shaping the safety of the world around us, and serve as the safety foundation for our buildings. They don’t just ensure that buildings are constructed to withstand the stress of everyday use, they are behind the security and stability of every building. They specialize in preventative measures to help communities weather unforeseen natural disasters and ensure that first responders have less to worry about and can do their jobs safely. Code professionals are an essential piece in the building and construction puzzle and are engaged in the building process from the initial building plan to the finished product.
The International Code Council is a member-focused association with over 64,000 members dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. They protect the public through their commitment to building safety; enforce code compliance to empower and educate stakeholders across the built environment to embrace and integrate safety standards in their work; support economic development by making our buildings sturdier, and therefore longer lasting. Their knowledge, skills, and abilities impact every building, in every community.
The Code Council recognizes the importance of continuing to grow awareness of the important work that code professionals do and the impact they have, in the hopes of encouraging aspiring building safety professionals to join in on the building safety movement. In this exclusive feature for the Building Safety Journal, we asked Alan Chambers, Building Official, Charles Abbott Associates, Inc., to share his experience in the industry, highlights of his professional career, and any insights or advice he has concerning the industry and the future of building safety.
Charles Abbott Associates, Inc.
Los Alamitos, California, United States
International Code Council member for three years
Orange Empire Chapter
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Chambers: I graduated high school on a Wednesday, left Thursday on a long weekend water ski trip, and then went to work the following Monday for a contractor who built high-end custom homes who also did everything in-house. I was able to learn so much in multiple trades. After 3 years, I then went to work for a commercial contractor performing structural reinforcement, learning a very different scope of work. My role there, primarily, was as a project manager. Nine years later I started my own business as a General Contractor, doing residential construction as well as high-end custom homes, that career lasted for 26 years. With the evolution of the local custom residential home industry, business came to a point where there was less joy in what I did each day and I couldn’t see myself in that mindset for the rest of my career. Looking forward, I didn’t want a job where I was managing someone else’s headaches as a project superintendent. I love the trades, it’s how my mind works, I wanted to stay involved in the trades to not only make a living but also to help mentor others to be better at providing their clients with a more professional and safer product. A couple of building officials and inspectors that are friends of mine encouraged me to look into Building Inspector opportunities. I was intrigued, I tested and obtained 3 certifications in 3 months and then started interviewing.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Chambers: Knowledge, humility, and a heart for others.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Chambers: I moved out of my home at 18 because of an overall negative atmosphere. I was fortunate that early on I understood that if I was to go anywhere in life, I needed to surround myself with others that are who and where I want to be, whether that being personality, character, or in living out their faith. So in my early 20’s, I started seeking out those people and actively engaging with them. I employed that same plan as I was seeking a career change in my 50’s. I intentionally met one on one with others I knew that had the knowledge that I needed to know. It has certainly changed my life for the better. I am a firm believer that we need others in our lives- those ahead and those we pore into.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Chambers: It was important to me to portray that I am serious about what I do and that it was apparent that I had invested in my career path and not just looking for a job. Becoming an ICC member and obtaining the certifications, to me, expressed that I had made an investment in what I do, that I understood the trades and that I have the knowledge of what it is that I express to others in my field whether as a leader or as a teacher.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Chambers: I currently hold 23 ICC certifications. I am not a part of any ICC committees.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Chambers: 40 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Chambers: Fortunately, I have witnessed the improvement in the personality tone coming out of most jurisdictions over the years as the cities have made a conscious effort to become more consumer-friendly. Contractors and homeowners are much more willing to become compliant when they are not made to feel like second class citizens.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Chambers: Seeing the next generation or two becoming involved in the industry while bringing a fresh perspective. Witnessing the upcoming generations having the desire to learn from those that have already paved the road. Also seeing that generation looking at the building codes as a given and not just nice history.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Chambers: Surround yourself with those that are where you want to be, realize that you don’t know it all, no matter how many certifications you have, learn from them and how they got to where they are. OK, so that was a long one piece of advice.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Chambers: I would say the most surprising for me, moving to this side of the Building Dept. counter, is how few contractors have a real understanding of the how’s and why’s of the building codes. They were likely really good hands-on at their particular trade, and that’s what made them forge their way to contracting, but their overall grip on the codes and how few have the ability to read plans has been very surprising and disappointing since they are “professionals.”
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Chambers: Because of my growing up I have always had a passion to come alongside and mentor young men struggling on their own without masculine leadership in their lives. I would love to run a place where young men come in and pair up with a mentor and spend a period of time away from the hustle and bustle and partake in events to intentionally build positive character and self-esteem in these men.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Chambers: Time with my family, boating, and weekends away. A big passion for grilling and smoking some amazing dishes for family and friends.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Chambers: Alan — He lived his calling/gifting to encourage others.
There’s a world of opportunity in being a member of the International Code Council. Membership provides the tools to get the most out of each workday: from discounts on essential International Codes and other publications to the best prices on top-quality training and ICC certification renewals, Code Council membership helps budgets go further. Exclusive member benefits include code advice from expert technical staff as well as access to member-exclusive news and articles at the Building Safety Journal news portal. Plus, only Code Council members vote in the ICC code development process. An online Career Center allows job postings and searches for new job opportunities — all at no additional charge.
The Code Council offers numerous councils, committees, and resources to help code professionals grow and network with colleagues. Six discipline-specific Membership Councils offer members a place to come together and be a more powerful force in shaping your association, your industry, your career, and your future. Code Development Committees are an instrumental part of the ICC code development process and are responsible for the review and evaluation of code change proposals submitted to the International Codes. Professional Development Committees serve to better align the ICC education programs and certification programs to ensure that quality training is available to meet the needs of all members, customers and certification holders. Finally, the Value of the Code Official toolkit helps members to heighten awareness of the importance of code officials to their communities and to highlight the code official’s role as a helpful advocate for community safety, health and welfare, and economic development.