ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Othon Benavente
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 Othon Benavente 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.
Studio Benavente Architects Inc.
Walnut Creek, California, United States
International Code Council member for 15 years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Benavente: I studied architecture at San Francisco City College and UC Berkeley, interning in a variety of firms: architecture, engineering, and developers, before eventually specializing in commercial tenant improvements in Class A office buildings.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Benavente: You need to be concept-driven, well versed in code parameters, and have enough people skills to be able to articulate both to your clients.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Benavente: Mentors are an essential part of professional development because change is constant, and a university degree is limited in scope. Building officials, fire inspectors, contractors, tradespeople, and product manufacturers are important resources over the course of a career.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Benavente: There are nuances in what building officials will allow based on the same codes. The ICC conducts and documents the tests that form the basis for these approvals. Referencing ICC documentation will often be the difference between approval and rejection of a set of plans.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Benavente: No, not currently.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Benavente: 45 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Benavente: Handcrafting on vellum, to pin drafting on mylar overlays, diazo bluelines, to $150K CAD workstations to PC-based CAD programs to smart wall programs to BIM modeling. It’s been a wild ride learning to adapt, making decisions as to how to proceed, and whether it is cost-effective to do so.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Benavente: We used to be limited to products we had access to in Sweets catalogs, and Archie magazines. Now the internet has given us access to a wide range of products, price points, and trends allowing us to build on concepts being explored all over the world.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Benavente: Be excited about your career. Research the work that excited you, find people that are doing that and attach yourself to that work. Don’t base career decisions on salary, invest in continuing education, immerse yourself among people you admire.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Benavente: I’m amazed at how it comes together with a variety of personalities sharing expertise and energy in completing any given project.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Benavente: Creativity, and the life energy that drives it is just as essential in writing, drawing, and music. All those endeavors bring me joy. I can see myself devoting my time in those areas going forward.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Benavente: Swimming, hiking, travel, writing, drawing, and music all brings me joy.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Benavente: Takes a Lifetime to Learn to Be a Child
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.