ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Christopher L. Garramone
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 Christopher Garramone 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.
Christopher L. Garramone
Combination Commercial Building Inspector
West Coast Code Consultants/
Contract Building Inspector
Dana Point, California, United States
International Code Council member for 14 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Garramone: After more than 25 years in the commercial industrial electrical industry, I began pursuing my first Building Inspector certification — Building Inspector UBC/ICBO. Having witnessed many incidents of, near misses, electrical accidents, and people being seriously injured, not only by their own actions but by the unsafe actions of others. These individuals who act without thought, understanding, or incomplete information as to the ramifications of their dangerous actions contribute to an unsafe workplace. I felt I could make a positive difference in the industrial working environment.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Garramone: Three things I feel that are needed to be successful in this industry are understanding the proper method of applying the relevant code to each individual case, as not all installations are ‘cookie cutter.’ Secondly, being able to present the interpretation in a concise, non-confrontational, level headed manner to the responsible party. And thirdly, realizing we are all in this industry to make the communities we work and live in safer.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Garramone: I have been very blessed to have many fabulous mentors from whom I have been given in-depth advice and opportunities to learn from. I would like to acknowledge four mentors/advisors who have had the most impact on my success as an inspector. First, Mr. D. Drake Lindforth, owner of DDL Project Controls, who gave me the opportunity to work with him on an environmental upgrade project at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories as an Electrical QA/QC Inspector; Mike Sa, now a retired ICC Electrical Inspector, was the QA/QC Manager who oversaw my work on that project; Raynard Hughes, former Senior Building Inspector and current member of the IBEW, who was my direct supervisor at the CPV Sentinel Energy Project, in Desert Hot Springs, CA.; David Ball, the current Director of Operations at PTI Power, and who was the QA/QC Manager for the CPV Sentinel Energy Project. These four professionals shared their knowledge, insights, and advice that guided me forward to becoming the Inspector I am today. I am grateful to continue to get their support and advice to this day.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Garramone: I began by getting my Building Inspector UBC/
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Garramone: My certifications are: B5 Building Inspector, E1 Residential Electrical Inspector, E2 Commercial Electrical InsI hold the following certifications: B5 Building Inspector, E1 Residential Electrical Inspector, E2 Commercial Electrical Inspector, E5 Electrical Inspector, M2 Commercial Mechanical Inspector, P2 Commercial Plumbing Inspector, and C5 Commercial Combination Inspector. I also am a volunteer building inspector with the California Governors Office of Emergency Services Special Assessors Program (SAP). I’m proud of the service I was able to perform for OES SAP during the wildfires that consumed much of Sonoma and Napa Counties in 2017. Along with a team of inspectors from across the state, we inspected and evaluated more than 600-plus properties in one week.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Garramone: Forty years — 25 years of construction experience, and 15 years of experience as a building inspector.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Garramone: With my electrical commercial industrial background, there have been notable gains in the usage of the PPE equipment for the individual electrical worker in the field. The other trades I have come in contact with on various diverse job sites are bringing their standards for proper PPE utilization by their workers up to speed also. The onsite safety mentality is constantly evolving and more employers are embracing the changes. One shortfall becoming evident in the construction industry at this time is the lack of proper training for young construction supervisors, who after a short amount of supervised field time are thrown into situations that put them in over their experience level. They then tend to ‘bend the rules’ under presser to complete the task at hand without consulting more experienced personnel for the proper path forward. This leads to accidents and job failures that I feel are preventable. At this point, the Inspector sometimes becomes the ‘inspector/superintendent’ who has the responsibility to make sure the installation is code-compliant but at the same time communicate and teach the why’s and wherefores of interpreting the applicable code to meet the application.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Garramone: Technology is gaining in leaps and bounds in the electrical world — both in the industrial workplace and the residential marketplace. Having been fortunate to work on some cutting-edge and highly diverse projects I am excited to see what transpires next. With the remote capabilities for interactive home controls to the capabilities to monitor precision process manufacturing lines from multiple locations opens up endless opportunities.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Garramone: My advice would be that ‘There are no dumb questions except the ones that are not asked.’ Seeing that the field has a shortfall of qualified inspectors ask your senior inspector or the building official for guidance and direction. Utilize the experience of those you work with to expand your personal knowledge base and insights so you can become a more efficient inspector. Additionally, I believe inspectors should be open to reaching out to a manufacturer for information about a specific piece of equipment that one is unfamiliar with to learn the proper utilization and installation requirements as pertaining to the codes.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Garramone: What I am most surprised about in the construction industry today is how many tradesmen haven’t been taught the proper basics of their trade. Being told by a job supervisor ‘We’ve been doing it this way for years!’ and then having to tell them that their installation was non-compliant in the code for years, is a shame.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Garramone: At this time I am continuing to expand my portfolio and broaden my capabilities in the building inspection world by obtaining more ICC certifications.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Garramone: When I am able to get away and take some time off I enjoy fishing, scuba diving and snowshoeing in the winter. I recently adopted two large dogs and spend lots of time training them.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Garramone: From Traveling Electrician to Professional Building Inspector in 40 Education-Filled Years
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.