ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Michelle Downard
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 Michelle Downard 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.
Park City Municipal Corporation
Park City, Utah, United States
International Code Council member for 10 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Downard: After graduating college, I was hired into the Park City Building Department as a Code Enforcement Officer. I then started studying and taking ICC exams. While working to obtain my Master Code Professional Certification, I progressed from Code Enforcement, Plans Examiner, and Deputy Building Official. In 2019, I was ultimately promoted to my current role as Resident Advocate with the Executive Team. My ICC certifications continue to be an important tool in my current position as I continue helping applicants and developers navigate the permitting process.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Downard: In order to be successful within the building industry, it is important to balance enforcing code compliance while also serving the community. Sometimes explaining the reasoning behind the code regulations is key to gaining voluntary compliance.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Downard: I have been lucky to have several inspiring mentors in my career who helped my development as I learned legal aspects, code regulations and developed my skills.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Downard: When I was working as a Code Enforcement Officer, the Building Official called me into his office. He congratulated me on my successful job performance. He then dropped a codebook on the desk and asked me if I had an interest in “reading a book and taking a test.” It was a moment that changes my career path and an opportunity that I will never forget.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Downard: I have 27 ICC Certifications including Master Code Professional.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Downard: 10 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Downard: It is exciting to see the increasing focuses on building efficiency and energy-efficient construction materials.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Downard: The importance of building inspectors and building departments has been highlighted by COVID. Perhaps that will inspire new interest for individuals seeking future career paths. Building Departments are essential and offer great potential for rewarding careers.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Downard: For those starting out in this industry, I’d encourage you to let your passion guide you. ICC Certifications create opportunities for multiple career paths including field inspections, plans examining and building administration. These are rewarding career paths to serve the communities that we live in and enjoy.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Downard: I would have never anticipated my ICC certifications to lead me to my current role. However, I love my job and the opportunity that it gives me to recognize code compliance and work with community members.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Downard: I look forward to continuing my career in public service where I can support the community grow and evolve.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Downard: I love to spend time with my husband and 3 kids in the rural area of Northern Utah.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Downard: Driven to Serve
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.
To learn more about ICC membership, click here, or contact ICC Member Services by email or 888-ICC-SAFE (888-422-7233) ext. 33804.