ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Sandra Cantrell-Edwards
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 studier, 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 Sandra Cantrell-Edwards, building code official/building code inspector/building code plan reviewer, 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.
Building Code Official/Code Inspector/Code Plan Reviewer
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, United States
International Code Council member for 20-plus years
Pennsylvania Association of Code Officials
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Cantrell-Edwards: I started out in construction, flipping houses before HGTV and DIY networks existed. I came across an ad for a building inspector position (to be shared by two different townships) and thought why not; hopefully, I could apply the knowledge I already had and build upon that.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Cantrell-Edwards: A mentor, an open mind and adaptability to realize that your code interpretation may not be the only one.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Cantrell-Edwards: My first mentor, Mark John, and Limerick Township provided me with a broad exposure to many types of construction as well as rebuilds following natural and man-made disasters, including tornadoes, flooding, hurricane damage, snow loads with roof and building collapses, and multiple fire-damaged structures. Attending our local chapter meetings and roundtable discussions have deepened my knowledge, as I’ve been able to tap into the vast experience of others in this diverse field.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Cantrell-Edwards: I joined the International Code Council to obtain access to its diverse library of materials. I have also made use of online practice tests when studying for new certifications as well as purchasing my codebooks.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Cantrell-Edwards: At this time I am not a member of any committee. I have my Residential Building, Plumbing, Mechanical and Energy certifications. My Property Maintenance Inspector. Commercial Building Inspector & Commercial Plan Reviewer, Accessibility Inspector, Commercial Plumbing inspector & Plan Reviewer, Commercial Mechanical Inspector & Plan Reviewer, Commercial Energy Inspector & Plan Reviewer.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Cantrell-Edwards: 25 years.
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Cantrell-Edwards: I’ve seen growth in the inclusion, advancement and acceptance of more women in the building trades. Additionally, I’ve noticed that as new materials hit the market, the code regulations and contractors have had to adapt quickly.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Cantrell-Edwards: The event of more sustainable and low environmental impact housing. The larger mansions have made way for the smaller, more efficient footprint home.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Cantrell-Edwards: Find a good mentor. If you have the opportunity, shadow as many tradespeople as you can.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Cantrell-Edwards: People never fail to surprise me, both positively and negatively.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Cantrell-Edwards: I hope I will be able to utilize my knowledge by giving back and working with groups like Habitat for Humanity, Rubicon and the Red Cross. I maintain a number of FEMA certifications as well as my ICC certifications in case it would be asked to help after an area disaster. I would also like to continue inventing code-compliant devices. The item I am most proud of is the Plumbing Protection Plate. Simpson Strong-Tie did not provide me with financial compensation for the development of the plate but I do receive acknowledgment of it if I am at one of their seminars.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Cantrell-Edwards: I have a daughter with both mental and physical disabilities and a son who was severely injured while serving with the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan. Through both of their experiences, I have seen the positive impact that service animals provide in rehabilitation. My daughter and I are presently raising two German Shepherds to be certified therapy dogs. Once certified, they will visit local nursing homes, VA centers, schools and special events.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Cantrell-Edwards: Women Can Quote Building Codes Too.
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.