ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Donald Brown
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 Donald Brown 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.
Annual Facilities Program Team Leader
Planning and Development
Phoenix, Arizona, United States
International Code Council member for 15 years
Arizona Building Officials
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Brown: After attending a technical school, I went into construction as a carpenter’s apprentice. After completing the apprenticeship, I went to work at the city of Phoenix performing building remodeling of city-owned properties. From there I transferred into the City of Phoenix’s Development Services Department as a residential inspector; eventually promoted to supervisor. During the 2008 economic recession, an opportunity to move into the commercial and industrial side of inspections became available and I have been there since.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Brown: One, a willingness to help others. Secondly, a desire to continually learn and accept the fact that you do not know everything. And third, a network of experts that are willing to share their knowledge and mentor others.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Brown: Mentors have played a huge role in my career. Going back to my apprenticeship and continuing to this day, I have been blessed with great people who have taken the time to invest in my development. It is amazing how your mentors can evolve from leadership/
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Brown: I had a strong desire to obtain certifications and gain competency in the codes. I also felt a calling to lead others in code development and training. I have gained so much by being an ICC member and becoming involved with my local chapters.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Brown: I currently serve as the President for my local chapter and have been involved on the state level for 7 years. I have served previously as the state chairman for two years and continue to be involved on the state board. I have worked with ICC on several working groups and plan to continue serving. I currently hold 13 total certifications of which 10 are thru ICC. I am currently working on obtaining my Certified Fire Marshal certification.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Brown: 35 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Brown: Over this time, I have seen more than I can actually remember. The most significant being modular construction, 3D printing of building materials, the implementation of robotics, and the use of digital format for written resources/training. The use of virtual technology appears to be the next wave of innovation in the industry.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Brown: At this point in my career, the most exciting thing for the future is finding and training the next generation(s) of code professionals. They will not be grown through the trades, as we have in the past. We need to instill the pride of workmanship and the discipline to detail by other means. The ability to effectively communicate by the modern methods of writing or texting as compared to verbal communication will also be a challenge, but we have no choice. We must develop those individuals who will continue the mission of building safely.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Brown: Try to continually learn from others. A great example of learning by watching is YouTube. I learned so much by just watching others, asking questions, and remembering. I did not have the convenience to digitally save this information. As I have gotten older and my memory storage is getting full, I have learned to surround myself by others who have additional knowledge. I look at it as having external hard drives or a pocketful of flash drives. It has cost me many lunches, but they are always there for me.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Brown: What I have found most surprising, is that code officials never seem to lose the passion. I have several retired code officials that have come back to work as contract staff for me. I also see retired code enforcers that have continued to be involved with the local ICC chapters well into retirement. I guess once it is in your blood, it never goes away.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Brown: My future goal is to find a nice small jurisdiction with a few nearby lakes and a need for a building official with big-city experience. If this does not come about, I am perfectly content to keep on doing what I do for another 15-20 years. I truly enjoy the people I work with, the members of my chapter, and the customers I serve.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Brown: In my leisure time, I am pursuing the ability to consistently smoke a beef brisket to perfection. I do not believe in electric or digital smokers, so I also am getting proficient at splitting wood. I also enjoy spending time with my two dogs. They still listen intently to my jokes.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Brown: Don Brown: He is rambunctious and his desk is messy! I had a fifth-grade teacher that wrote that comment on my report card; along with straight B’s. I think it is still applicable.
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.