ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Robert F. Nelson Jr.
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 Robert F. Nelson, Jr., 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.
Robert F. Nelson, Jr.
Engineering Design Associates
Richmond and Wicomico Church, Virginia, United States
International Code Council member for 35 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Nelson: I started as a design-build contractor; the insurance and bonding companies forced me to separate the design and the construction business. I then established a separate architectural and engineering firm. The A/E firm later became the primary business.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Nelson: Common sense, the willingness to work long hours, and the ability to listen to the customer and to give the customer what they want.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Nelson: Not so much from my “network” but I was fortunate to have several successful clients and business friends in my early years that helped me and taught me a lot.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Nelson: A primary concern in the design of all buildings is compliance with the applicable code. In my early business years, different localities had their individual code, and in some cases no code. BOCA and IBC were a great improvement, and my interest in the building codes increased.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Nelson: 54 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Nelson: The transition from multiple limited codes and no codes to a more unified and complete code system.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Nelson: I am concerned about the lack of overall knowledge that professionals have in reference to design and code compliance. People are more specialized and often lack the ability to see the “big picture”
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Nelson: Get a job in the field, get your hands dirty, and figure out how things are built.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Nelson: How uninformed some people are while others are quite competent.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Nelson: Boating and sports fishing.
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.