Remote virtual inspection opportunities for energy organizations
Energy efficiency organizations examine use, challenges and opportunities of remote virtual inspection
The Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP) and Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) released a report on the current use of remote virtual inspection (RVI) and its challenges and opportunities. The report — supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy — was informed by independent research, interviews with industry professionals and a collaborative survey effort. The survey targeted two main audiences — code officials and inspectors referred to as “jurisdictional responses and interviews” and contractors, builders and manufacturers referred to as “contractor responses and interviews.”
Building inspections ensure that homes and buildings meet safety, sustainability and efficiency requirements outlined in building codes to meet a community’s needs. Remote virtual inspection is a form of visual inspection that uses visual or electronic aids to allow an inspector or team of inspectors to observe products and/or materials from a distance because the objects are inaccessible or are in dangerous environments, or whereby circumstances or conditions prevent an in-person inspection. This practice has become increasingly popular in response to challenges in the building construction sector and those posed by COVID-19.
Throughout the country, many state and local jurisdictions are facing challenges in their building construction divisions with inadequate resources to support code enforcement and shortages of building code inspectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges but also presented opportunity for the potential that RVI presents as a possible solution to such challenges. Remote virtual inspection has proven benefits — providing an alternative solution to in-person inspections, saving inspectors time and money, improving technology and record-keeping, expanding the reach of code compliance, and allowing for safe and resilient construction projects to continue to increase and thrive around the globe.
The report and supporting survey were developed by a project team consisting of NEEP and MEEA staff in collaboration with the International Code Council. The study follows up on the Code Council’s previously issued surveys on RVI during April 2020 and February 2021 and guidance developed to support effective use of the electronic process. Information on the prior Code Council surveys and guidance can be accessed from the Coronavirus Response Center.
The Code Council’s Recommended Practices for RVI, for example, provides guidance to authorities having jurisdiction, as well as to the construction industry user, on the implementation and administration of an RVI program.
Through their research, NEEP and MEEA identified various barriers, including maintaining RVI accuracy, constraints in resources and consistency in practices, personal preference and staffing challenges, and technological/internet issues. While this technology has gained acceptance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the identified advantages will likely lead to it becoming a popular and routine tool for the foreseeable future. The Code Council, in collaboration with leading stakeholders like NEEP and MEEA, will continue to help provide information and establish programs and processes that advance the effective administration of RVI as a hybrid alternative to in-person inspections.