ICC Members: The individuals behind codes and safety — Tom Jaleski
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 Tom Jaleski 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.
Principal Analyst/Managing Principal
Portland, Oregon, United States
International Code Council member for nine years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Jaleski: I was an architect for 25 years and always worked with the building code and jurisdictions. This work I really enjoyed and tended towards understanding the intent and nuances of the code. Once I met someone and saw that there is a professional service that focuses solely on building code compliance, I was hooked. My focus through my architectural career was always on life safety aspects as my professional focus, but now I get to focus on helping design teams ensure their buildings provide the life safety the code is intended to provide.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Jaleski: This industry is focused on clear communication, to clients and jurisdictions, thorough research and understanding of intent, and creative problem-solving, since the code is a performance code. Clear communication is key since the code is complicated and has many gray areas, clearly understanding and communicating the aspects of the code helps to ensure confusion and misunderstanding don’t get in the way of compliance for the life safety of the building occupants.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Jaleski: The code is complicated, so talking to others to learn the intricacies of the code in areas I have less knowledge about, has really helped me to see the big picture of life safety. Understanding the role of sprinkler design densities and different types of fire detection devices have on occupant egress travel distances is one example of expanded knowledge helping to see the bigger picture. Also, see the different ways people communicate code compliance paths and focus on singular issues has helped me to maintain focus and a better understanding of all involved.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Jaleski: Access to materials, especially the code hearings, was a key to my decision to join. Understanding why and how the code is written the way it enhances my understanding of the code.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Jaleski: I am not involved in any committees, but I am a certified building plans examiner.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Jaleski: 30 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Jaleski: The shift to the IBC and the performance code model has been a huge shift, in that designers have much more flexibility in meeting the intent of the code. The performance aspects also have been able to take advantage of the latest technology, though there is a conflict in its administration between passive and active life safety systems.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Jaleski: New technologies and research that enhance the analysis of life safety systems. A better understanding of building materials and human behaviors, and how to use both for reducing risks excites me.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Jaleski: The code is a performance code, therefore focus on the intent of the sections of the code and understand what life safety aspect it is trying to achieve. Learn about all the different systems that are involved and how they individually and collectively provide protection. And give yourself time by focusing on code areas, learning them thoroughly, then moving to some other parts of the code. You will never learn all the parts of the code well, so find complementary partners to see the big picture.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Jaleski: All the varying understandings and interpretations of the code. The more people I talk to, the more variety I see. I probably shouldn’t be surprised as a performance code, but some interpretations still surprise me.
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Jaleski: The world has so much information right now. I want to help young professionals find clarity of purpose and being able to clearly communicate that is what I want to focus on next.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Jaleski: Reading, writing, and DIY projects.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Jaleski: The Calm in a Storm
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.