ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Jeff Tol
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 Jeff Tol 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.
Building Technician II
Costa Mesa, California, United States
International Code Council member for seven years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Tol: When we were going through the recession I came to a crossroads in my life and had to make a decision of just getting another job, or focusing on building a career for myself. In March 2010, I started a 16-week study class to get my California ICC certifications as a Residential and Commercial building inspector. After I completed the course and received my certifications, I went back to college and, in 2013, received an Associates of Science degree from San Bernardino Valley College in Construction Inspection Technology.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Tol: I would say the three things you would need to be successful are to be organized, adaptable, and open to continuous learning.
Being organized helps with the day to day operations inside a building department when there are multiple permits, plans, and tasks that need to be accomplished. Being adaptable helps if you are working as a consultant and there is a need for your services in multiple jurisdictions. Lastly, being open to continuous learning is essential to being able to keep up with the changes that happen to the codes which affect the construction industry in general.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Tol: All throughout my education and career in this industry advisors have played an essential role in helping me be the best I can be. My instructors at San Bernardino Valley College were Building Officials, Inspectors, and Code Enforcement Officers who offered great advice on what to expect from this industry. My first job in the field was for a private company as a consultant and I was able to get experience and advice from my co-workers in inspections, plans examining, permit technician duties, and code enforcement.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Tol: I first became a member when I was in college as a student member. I felt it was important to become a member because the codebooks from ICC are essential to every aspect of what we do in the construction industry.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Tol: I have three separate ICC certifications as a building inspector and a certification as a residential plans examiner. At the moment I am not involved in any ICC committees or councils.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Tol: 6 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Tol: I would have to say the use of technology in every aspect of the building division. The ability to issue permits online and conduct plan checks have helped streamline the process in most cases.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Tol: I am curious to see where advancement in technology is going to take us. I would really like to see how we can use technology to help educate homeowners and business owners about permit issuance so they can better understand when it is required. I also feel like it would be a useful way to help protect property owners from contractors who do not have their best interests at heart.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Tol: The one piece of advice I give to people starting off is to learn how to navigate the codebooks. It is virtually impossible to memorize everything in the codebooks, but every question you come across typically has a clue in the question to help guide you in the right direction to find the answer.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Tol: I don’t know if I would say surprising, it’s a little more disappointing. It is the number of times I hear from property owners how they were either taken advantage of by the contractor they had hired, or they were talked into pulling the permit as an owner/builder by the contractor. I feel one of the things we can do at the front counter of a building department is to try to help educate the public so they can hopefully avoid these situations.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Tol: One of the reasons I selected this career is because of all of the possibilities that are available as my career advances. I would probably say my next step would be to continue learning about inspections and plans examining.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Tol: Since my wife and I both work and have a four-year-old daughter, our leisure time is scarce. We typically spend time as a family going on outings or long drives together.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Tol: Perseverance Pays Off
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.