ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Melanie Braun
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 Melanie Braun to share her experience in the industry, highlights of her professional career, and any insights or advice she has concerning the industry and the future of building safety.
Permit / Plan Review Coordinator
Building and Safety Services
San Leandro, California, United States
International Code Council member for 12 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Braun: I have always been around architecture and building since I can remember, my dad is an architect and when he was at UC Berkeley he used to take me to his Wurster Hall studio space while he worked on his projects at night. While I was in high school, I worked at his architecture firm after school answering phones and submitting plans to different cities around the Bay Area, I always knew I would end up in this field of work. I graduated from the California College of the Arts with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture in 2002. After graduation, I worked for my dad’s architecture firm and in 2008 when the economy went south I started looking for a job with a city, which I found with the City of El Cerrito, and now with the City of San Leandro.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Braun: I think one of the most important things to be successful in this profession is to be people-oriented, provide great customer service, be able to listen to people to see what their needs are. I think working for an architecture firm and being on the other side of the City Building counter to submit projects has also helped me provide better customer service to applicants, as there were many times I had to deal with Building staff that were rude and not very helpful, I was determined to never be that way with an applicant at the counter. I train my Permit Counter staff with the same principles of great customer service.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Braun: My biggest mentor was my dad. I remember when I graduated from architecture school my dad had me intern with a construction company for almost a year, the reason he gave was architecture school taught me design and now I need to learn construction. I hated it at first but now I am so grateful because the knowledge I learned working in construction helped me with design. The building official at the City of San Leandro, who now has left, was a wonderful mentor. He taught me everything there is to know about running a Building Department and I can’t thank him enough for that. I was sad to see him go. Another great mentor has been working with the deputy fire marshal with the Alameda County Fire Department. He has taught me about fire conditions and how they affect a building structure and the Fire Code.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Braun: I became involved with ICC when I started working for the City of El Cerrito, all building department staff are associated with ICC for code knowledge, code interpretation, evaluation services and certifications.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Braun: I am not involved with any ICC committees or councils, have never been asked to participate.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Braun: 20 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Braun: Construction technology, building materials and depending on what state you are in energy conservation requirements
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Braun: I am so excited to see where architecture design will go with construction material technology, can’t wait to see where we will go.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Braun: Just remember the building department profession is a learning process, you will never know it all as code and materials change. Building departments should work as a team, all heads are better than one.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Braun: Having applicants involve City Council members with the permitting process, or applicants name dropping Council members thinking that will change the answer. I tell them the building code is there for life and safety and is applied to every project the same.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Braun: I thought at one time I would like to be the building official but now, I think I will go back to architectural design.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Braun: I grew up in Truckee, California which taught me to love the outdoors. I love wakeboarding, sailing, travel to countries with cool architecture, going to seminars, or just being with friends and family.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Braun: Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
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.