ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Michael Buenger
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 Michael Buenger, Senior Building Plans Examiner (Retired), City of Scottsdale, Arizona, 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.
Senior Building Plans Examiner (retired)
Planning and Development
Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
International Code Council member for 37 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Buenger: I started in the fire service, 22 years on the fire department outside Chicago. A required part of the fire officers training curriculum is fire prevention. This was the start of my building safety career.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Buenger: 1. Attention to detail; it’s all details and definitions. It is combustible or flammable? It this an H Occupancy or (and?) an F Occupancy? Is this a mixed separated or unseparated use? 2. Be technical enough to be able to ask the appropriate questions but not so technical that you are closed-minded that you cannot see the big picture. 3. Be approachable, be open to different perspectives; think outside the box.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Buenger: A huge part, everyone needs a mentor to look up to, someone you want to copy and be like. To this day, 37 years later, I still call a select group of colleagues to bounce ideas off of.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Buenger: To be honest, I joined to get a free copy of the building code so I could study for certification tests.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Buenger: I have 17 ICC certifications, including building official and fire code official.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Buenger: 37 years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Buenger: The books keep getting thicker. The energy code and accessibility seem to make up the bulk of the comments these days.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Buenger: I’m not sure this excites me but digital plan review is the future. Paper plans for plan review are a huge waste of resources; forests have been lost providing copies of plans.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Buenger: You are always learning, keep reading.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Buenger: This is not as surprising but humbling that I have been entrusted with the safety of the occupants of a building for not only now but for decades to come.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Buenger: More on a personal note, I would like to be able to stay at a hotel without reading the exit map on the back of the room door or go to a concert and not be scanning the blocked exits and planning alternate exit strategies.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Buenger: Aviation is my next passion.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Buenger: The Little Boy that Could. The story of a boy from the western suburbs of Chicago who found himself on a 17-member fire department that became the senior building guy for one of the country’s premier vacation destinations.
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.