ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Kate Stewart
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 Kate Stewart to share her experience in the industry, highlights of her professional career, and any insights or advice she has concerning the industry and the future of building safety.
Fire Protection Engineer
General Services Administration — New England
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
International Code Council member for 20 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Stewart: I started in the fire service but soon realized fire prevention and code enforcement could save more people than I could one on one. California had a technology program that fire departments required for fire service members. That’s where I met Bill Mehaffey, who told me about fire protection engineers. I moved into code enforcement and went to work for the Sacramento Fire Department (SFD) as a fire prevention officer and SFD had a fire protection engineer who showed me that she could save many lives by making buildings safer. I called Professor Bryan at UMCP, and I entered the fire protection engineering program in Maryland.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Stewart: One, experience, even if you have to volunteer (like an internship), make certain you have an experienced mentor. Two, you don’t have to memorize the codes but you need to take code-update classes and know where to find the information. And three, ethics. You have to have a strong sense of ethics to ensure that designs and installations will perform to protect life and property.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Stewart: Everything. I think it’s important to team with experienced people and listen.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Stewart: Although my old jurisdiction wasn’t using ICC, the head building official got me into some classes and I quickly advocated for the ICC.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Stewart: I am not on a committee or council and any certifications have long expired.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Stewart: 35 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Stewart: Instead of being reactionary to tragedies, codes have evolved to be more science-based and technology has advanced greatly!
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Stewart: The next new product around the corner, new methodologies and changing code approaches.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Stewart: Understand that we are all striving to reduce the loss of life and property, do your best to make whatever you come across safer; be reasonable.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Stewart: how the focus is on money and people don’t respect the code requirements which are only the minimum level of protection accepted by society. Fire is a rare event but it still occurs.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Stewart: Publish an article on calculating fuel load and making certain I am ready for whatever pops up next in this industry.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Stewart: Hiking and helping local parrot rescue.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Stewart: Either “I am dedicated to making the world a better place” or “I focus on getting the job done in a safe, smart and cost-effective manner.”
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.