Pandemic or no, San Diego sees digital codes as the wave of the near future
Earlier this year, the staff of San Diego’s Development Services Department had to move out of new office space for emergency repairs. And they had to do it quickly, grabbing what they could in one trip and heading back to the old building, said Mehdi Shadyab, P.E., J.D., CASp, CBO, senior structural engineer for the department and past president of the ICC San Diego Area Chapter. “We were able to bring a few codebooks, but definitely not all we needed,” Shadyab said.
Permitting and inspections would have been nearly impossible without their codebooks to refer to. Searching for a solution, Shadyab remembered a presentation by Susan Dowty, S.E., regional manager for Government Relations at the International Code Council. In November 2019, Dowty presented on the Code Council’s premiumACCESS to members of the San Diego Area Chapters. Powered by the Code Council, the premiumACCESS digital codes library provides access to the latest code text while on the go, at home or in the office. It quickly finds code with a keyword search and the platform’s robust features allow users to highlight, bookmark, annotate and archive everything needed to effectively use the results of code research.
Shadyab told his boss about the presentation and then began to investigate digital codes more. When the office decampment occurred in January, he suggested purchasing 15 licenses so that the digital code library would be available to all building department staff and could be used by as many as 15 concurrently. The software only needed a digital passcode to download, he said, so there was no waiting for a disc in the mail. The site was easy to navigate for the staff and caused no service disruptions until they were able to move back into their offices.
Staff continues to use the digital code library as well as the traditional paper codebooks. With 40 years in the business, Shadyab was used to making notes in code books and dog-earing pages from often-used sections. But even in the short amount of time using only digital codes, Shadyab enjoys the ability to quickly find code with a keyword search and features that allow users to highlight, bookmark, annotate and archive everything needed to effectively use the results of code research. And he is especially fond of the cut-and-paste feature, which allows him to easily include specific citations in reports. Even a longtime code official could appreciate that.
The San Diego building department may have just continued to explore using digital codes while continuing their scheduled move to all-electronic permitting. Beginning July 1, all work for the department was to be done digitally and the entire system would have been converted by the end of the year. That transition, like many other plans, changed when communities were subject to stay-at-home orders to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Now, 40 percent of the department’s staff are working from home. With the ability to work electronically — including remote inspections, combined with digital codes — Shadyab said they’re able to handle the workload just fine. “We can have one screen open on our computers with the permits up, and another with the codes,” he said. “It makes it so much easier and efficient.”
In fact, Shadyab sees digital technology as the wave of the near future, with San Diego leading the way in southern California, as they often do. “We are very environmentally conscious,” he said. “We reduce the amount of paper used whenever we can. The staff is very excited about going digital, especially the younger ones. They do everything on computers. Digital access could even help bring in more young code professionals.”