ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Andrew Holter
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 studier, 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 Andrew Holter, founding principal at the Strategic Municipal Group, 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.
Strategic Municipal Group
Laflin, Pennsylvania, United States
International Code Council member for 10-plus years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Holter: My path started in the fire service as a young volunteer firefighter. Through school, I began to realize how important codes and standards were to preventing emergencies from happening or mitigating them from becoming disasters. I became a code enforcement officer for a local government with this passion for making the built environment safer for people. I learned from experienced professionals, took many courses and pursued certification. While there, I conducted more than 400 residential rental property inspections. After that, I knew that prevention was the key to life safety. We nearly eliminated fires in residential rental properties during that time period. Since that experience, I have been committed to pursuing building safety in many forms. I completed a bachelor’s degree in fire science and worked for the NFPA before returning to my home state to begin an organization focused on making code enforcement easier for local governments.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Holter: Integrity, patience and commitment.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Holter: My mentors have played a huge role in my success. In my first job as a code officer, the Borough Manager believed in me and in empowering his employees. I was fully empowered to pursue classes, certifications and any growth opportunities I wanted. In four years there I obtained numerous certifications and was given the freedom to use those new skills. Since then, many of my mentors haven’t been technical experts but people who supported me and would enable me on my path.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Holter: I believe in finding value in things, and Code Council membership is a great value. It helps keep me engaged in the industry and compared to other organizations it is inexpensive.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Holter: I’m not involved in any Code Council committees or councils at this time. I currently have two ICC certifications, Fire Inspector and Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Holter: 10-plus years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Holter: Recognition of hazards associated with lightweight construction and the acceptance of sprinkler systems in all residential settings. The complicating factor of security on life safety systems.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Holter: There is so much potential to get better at what we do and get better at our messaging. We have a long road ahead of us getting lawmakers to understand and appreciate our work, but we can’t stop trying. People’s lives depend on us doing a better job of persuasion. As a doctorate student of psychology, I’m also excited about the continued interest in human behavior as it applies to building safety systems.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Holter: Never stop learning. There is so much information out there, and you will never know it all, so the best you can do is to commit to learning every day.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Holter: The resistance and constraints by lawmakers and their influence on the code adoption and enforcement process. Everyone wants results, but it is hard to explain to the public due process and the limits of the law. Judges who dismiss cases after months of hard work are letting the enforcement process and local governments down. It is also hard to appreciate why lawmakers amend codes during the adoption process to best meet their particular desires. These codes and standards are worked over and over again to be complete and comprehensive documents, then lawmakers take the parts out they don’t want, jeopardizing safety.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Holter: I will be completing my doctorate in psychology and running for elected office in the state government. We need code officials in the government to help them understand.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Holter: I’m a volunteer firefighter and I enjoy serving the community through that outlet. I’m also a volunteer assistant volleyball coach for a small college.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Holter: Owning Every Second
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.