ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Krystal Ouren
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 Krystal Ouren 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.
Code Compliance & Implementation
Tustin, California, United States
International Code Council member for two years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Ouren: I began my career as a CAD drafter and planner for medical imaging equipment installations in medical facilities across the country; such work will force you into learning code requirements very quickly. Demonstrating a tenacious drive to understand how to improve outcomes as well as identify and solve problems, I became a go-to contact whenever issues arose. My management recognized that our company required a full-time headcount, not only to assist customers in understanding the many code requirements encountered in the process of medical imaging equipment installations but also to engage with the many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) and the code development process itself. One of the many areas codes impact the installation of medical imaging equipment is the requirement to shake table test critical systems. As a project manager, I have led numerous shake test projects to ensure our equipment not only remains safely fixed in place after a design level earthquake but also to ensure continued function.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Ouren: Three things you need to be successful in the industry are great communication skills, a growth mindset and a commitment to positive outcomes.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Ouren: I have been fortunate to benefit from the regular feedback of several mentors along my career path. They have provided me with strong support allowing me to stand up for the right choices, even when they may not be the most popular.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Ouren: When I started researching codes, it was in a largely reactionary capacity, primarily to overcome issues customers were experiencing upon inspections in the process of installing medical imaging equipment. It eventually became clear that the enforcement of model codes (like the IBC, NEC, and FGI Guidelines) by local AHJs was not the root issue; rather the issue was a general unfamiliarity or varying interpretations of the code by all parties involved in the design and construction process. I became a member of the ICC to learn more about the intent, as well as the process of code development, and to engage with the network of professionals who contribute to the relatable goal of improved health, safety and welfare of us all. Through involvement and collaboration, we have improved our path forward and seen better results than simply objecting to perceived obstructions.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Ouren: I look forward to increasing my engagement with ICC in the future. To date, I have participated through EduCode conference training and look forward to attending the ICC Annual Conference and Expo.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Ouren: Nineteen years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Ouren: The continued evolution of the model codes and our growing understanding of what is needed to achieve safer environments is a fascinating process. At the start of my career, non-structural equipment in the design process was an afterthought at best. Equipment manufacturers had no concept of what was going into code development. Today, roles like mine exist to assist in navigating these foreign waters, being a voice for non-structural equipment manufacturers not otherwise represented despite being impacted by the resulting codes, in addition to being an intermediary explaining the need for such enforcement.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Ouren: The medical imaging industry is a fast-paced, ever-changing, technological field, and I enjoy the challenges it presents as much as I feel I contribute to the health and safety of us all.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Ouren: One piece of advice I would give to those starting in the industry is early on look for those who will support and mentor you with honest feedback; you cannot accomplish great things alone. Take in the advice shared, and remember to offer others that same support. Above all, never stop learning.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Ouren: I see the work that I do as surprising because it is not something easily definable that you can find on a list of potential careers. Rather, it has come about out of need and led me to find great purpose through the improvement of the safety, and reliability of the cutting-edge medical imaging equipment society requires now more than ever. Predicting the course of my career through the many zigs and zags along the way would have been difficult, but it all led to the creation of a role well suited to my unique skill sets.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Ouren: I am approaching a point in my career where it is time to share what I have learned and get others more involved, in hopes of keeping the momentum going well into the future.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Ouren: In my leisure time you will find me with my incredibly supportive husband and nine-year-old son. Together, we love to hike and enjoy the outdoors as well as learn new skills and information.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Ouren: If someone wrote a biography about me, I think the title would be, ‘The Unpredictable Path to the Perfect Destination.’
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.