ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Cole Graveen
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 Cole Graveen 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.
Raths, Raths & Johnson, Inc.
Willowbrook, Illinois, United States
International Code Council member for 15 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Graveen: I started on my engineering path in high school when a physics teacher recommended the field to me. He thought engineering would be a good fit for me due to my interest in his class, and in science in general. I choose Civil/Structural engineering as an undergraduate in college as buildings and bridges piqued my interest initially, and then continued to hold my attention. Even today there are so many aspects of building design, construction, and forensic evaluation that continue to appeal to me.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Graveen: Attention to detail. Good communication skills. Willingness to learn.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Graveen: Mentors and colleagues have played a key role in shaping who I am as an engineer. In addition to the obvious role of helping me to further my engineering knowledge, I have learned so much about how to be a professional, how to assess the big picture as well as the little details, and about the business side of engineering firms.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Graveen: I began my professional career as a technical staff member at BOCA International. In addition to learning the provisions of the BOCA National Building Code, I gained an appreciation for the importance of codes and the process by which they are developed and maintained. When I had the opportunity at RRJ to become active in professional organizations, it was a natural fit for me to join ICC and get involved in code development.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Graveen: I have served on the IBC Structural Code Committee 5 times and once on the IRC Building Code Committee.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Graveen: 19 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Graveen: Structural design requirements change incrementally with every new edition of each material design standard and the load standard, ASCE 7 Minimum Design Load and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures. However, significant changes occur as well. One change that stands out to me is the change in wind design that occurred in the 2010 edition of ASCE 7. The change from a single wind speed map to multiple maps based on Risk Category, the removal of the importance factor, and the changes to the load combination factors really had a ripple effect throughout many industries. A lot of work went into updating the IBC, IRC, and referenced standards to the wind design changes.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Graveen: I enjoy the codes and standards development process, so being a part of improving building design by updating, advancing, and making the requirements of codes and standards more clear is exciting to me.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Graveen: Take advantage of the knowledge around you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to understand why. You’ll be better at your craft if you understand why in addition to learning how.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Graveen: That at least a minimal understanding of the building code is not a part of the formal education of most engineers. Structural engineers are instructed in analysis and design, and trained in the requirements of material design standards, but are rarely introduced to the building code that ties everything together.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Graveen: I have been a part of forensic investigations at many interesting structures, but I have not yet had the opportunity to work on a baseball stadium. As a big baseball fan that is something that I hope I get the opportunity to do one day. My dream semi-retirement career would be as an usher at a Major League baseball stadium.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Graveen: Watching my kids do their extracurricular activities, family vacations, and following the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago Blackhawks.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Graveen: This is a tough question. Hopefully, the author would come up with a snappy title and some cool cover artwork. I might suggest, Any and All is Redundant.
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.