Why code enforcement?
Code officials play a major role in ensuring that all commercial, residential, public assembly and other buildings within a governmental jurisdiction are constructed in accordance with the provisions of the governing building code. Building code provisions address structural stability, fire safety, adequate means of egress (exits), sanitation, safe wiring and more. It is the code official's responsibility to protect the public health, safety and welfare in relationship to the built environment through effective code enforcement.
What is the code enforcement process?
The code enforcement process is normally initiated with an application for a permit to construct or remodel a building. The code official is responsible for processing the application and issuing permits for construction or modification of buildings in accordance with the code. This begins with a review of the construction plans for compliance with the building code. Once construction has begun, the code official makes inspections as necessary to determine compliance with the code. If a deficiency exists or if the building or a component does not comply with the code, it is the responsibility of the code official to issue orders to correct the illegal or unsafe condition.
The code official ensures that official records are kept pertaining to permit applications, permits, fees collected, inspections, notices and orders issued. The documentation provides a valuable resource of information if questions arise during and after the construction process. Because construction may occur in steps or phases, the code official may need to conduct multiple inspections, therefore, an exact number of inspections will vary with the particular building design and construction sequence.
In addition to these requirements, the code official also assists designers and builders by interpreting the code's application to a particular construction situation; by explaining minimum requirements and answering questions; and by investigating and resolving complaints involving existing buildings and sites.
What are the duties of code officials?
The executive official in charge of the Building Department is known as the code official. The term "code official" is a catch-all name for a variety of duties. In small communities and rural areas, a single code official may be responsible for building inspections, plumbing inspections, fire prevention inspections, mechanical and electrical inspections, building and zoning administration, and the like. In larger metropolitan areas, each of these tasks may be performed by different specialized staff members.
What types of inspectors are there?
Today's technology dictates that, to be effective, building inspectors must be familiar with the principles of construction, not merely the specifics. Inspectors usually specialize in one type of construction work. They may be building inspectors, public works inspectors, electrical inspectors, mechanical inspectors, plumbing inspectors, housing inspectors or fire prevention inspectors. Federal, state and local governments employ various types of inspectors to make sure projects conform to government codes as well as to building specifications and model building codes. Architectural and engineering firms also hire inspectors to make sure workers complete the projects in accordance with codes and specifications. Inspectors may also work for small companies or large corporations.
No matter where they work, inspectors have similar tasks. They apply the principles and methods of construction to judge the work and decide whether it meets the applicable standards or codes. They make preliminary inspections during the first stages of the project. They also examine the supplies to be sure these materials meet the specifications, standards or codes called for. Follow-up inspections are performed throughout construction to ensure compliance with regulations. In regions prone to floods, earthquakes or tornadoes, they may make frequent inspections to ensure that equipment, materials and installation meet special safety requirements. For some projects, various inspectors work together throughout the construction process to ensure that the project meets code requirements.
Building inspectors review drawings and specifications for planned repairs of existing buildings, construction of new building projects, and building sites being considered for development. Before work begins, building inspectors investigate the construction site -- checking drainage, elevation and the placement of buildings on the plot. Inspectors examine and approve floor framing, wall framing, roofs and ceilings, chimneys, and all other items that are part of the building structure. As each building phase is complete, inspections are required before the work can progress. When projects are completed, a comprehensive inspection is performed and a certificate of occupancy is issued by the building inspector.
Government projects such as airports, highways, water and sewer systems, streets, bridges and dams are the, responsibility of public works inspectors. They inspect digging and fill operations and the placement of forms for concrete. They observe the concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving and grading operations and keep records of all work performed and the materials used. Public works inspectors may be specialists in one kind of operation such as reinforced concrete, dredging or ditches.
Electrical inspectors check the quality of materials, the installation work, and the safeguards in electrical systems. They make sure electrical systems meet city, state or national codes, and electrical codes and standards. Electrical inspectors look closely at new wiring and fixtures in businesses, public buildings, and in homes.
Mechanical inspectors focus on heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) concerns. This includes inspection of mechanical appliances and equipment; air distribution systems; kitchen exhaust equipment; boilers and water heaters; hydropic piping, gas piping systems; flammable and combustible liquid storage and piping systems; fireplaces chimneys and vents; refrigeration systems; incinerators and crematories. The mechanical inspector also checks for air quality and energy conservation measures. Plumbing inspectors check for proper design and installation of plumbing systems, including sanitary and storm drainage systems, sanitary facilities, water supplies, and storm water and sewage disposal in buildings.
The duties of a fire prevention inspector are usually performed by the local fire department or fire prevention bureau. Typically, fire inspectors check nonresidential buildings on an annual basis to ensure that appropriate fire safety practices are being followed. Property maintenance or housing inspectors inspect existing buildings to check for health or safety violations and the condition of the exterior property.
What is a plan reviewer?
The plan reviewer or examiner is usually the first person who begins the evaluation process which ensures that a building or structure conforms to the requirements of the local or specified code. The plan reviewer examines the construction documents used to describe a project, including architectural, structural, site plan, mechanical, plumbing, electrical and fire protection drawings as well as the corresponding specifications, structural design calculations and soil report. As these items are examined for code compliance against a checklist of the code's requirements, any deficiencies are cited along with the corresponding section number of the code. These deficiencies can then be resolved by revising the construction documents and a permit for the building construction to begin can be issued.
A plan reviewer must have a working knowledge of the code requirements used to evaluate the building or structure. The reviewer must be familiar with all construction documents produced by an architect/engineer to fully describe the project. Expertise is required in reading drawings and plans for basic construction techniques along with an understanding of engineering and architectural definitions and symbols. A background in architecture or engineering is beneficial but not necessary to conduct plan reviews.
What is a building permit?
A building permit is a license which grants legal permission to start construction of a building project.
What is the purpose of permits?
Permits allow the enforcement of the codes which have been adopted as law by a state, county, township or city. No matter what. the specific project may be, the enforcement of codes is carried out :to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The unit of government which enforces the code is acting to assure safe construction.
What are permits used for?
Code officials and inspectors use building permits as a vital step in their enforcement of codes. You have an investment in the home or business you are about to build or remodel. When that home or business building does not comply with the codes, your investment could be reduced. Applying for a building permit notifies the Code Official that you are constructing or remodeling a building so he or she can ensure code compliance.
Why a building permit?
Building permits provide the means for Code Officials to protect us by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and therefore ensuring the public health, safety and welfare.
The building permit process helps us understand what our local laws and ordinances are. Before any construction or remodeling work begins, application for a permit should be made. Building permits provide the means for Code Officials to inspect construction to ensure that minimum standards are met and appropriate materials are used.
What is the permit process?
1. Visit or Call Your Local Code Official.
The Code Official will ask "What are you planning to do?" and "Where are you planning to do it?" Then, the Code Official will explain the requirements (codes/ordinances) regarding your project. An application for a building permit will be given to you at this time. This initial contact will provide the resources and information you will need to make your project a success and avoid potential problems which could cost you time and money.
2. Submit Application.
The permit application requires information about the construction project. You'll be asked to document "who" will perform the work, "what" work will be done, "where" the work will be done, "when" the work will be done and "how" the work will be done. Sketches, drawings, plans or other documentation of the proposed work will have to be submitted for review;
3. Wait During Review Process.
The majority of permit applications are processed with little delay. The Code Official will determine if your project is in compliance with the construction codes, with the zoning ordinance and with other municipal or state ordinances and statutes.
4. Receive Results of Review Process.
A. If compliance with the code, zoning ordinances and other applicable regulations is determined, the application is approved and a permit issued.
B. If compliance is not determined, your application as submitted will be denied. If you are refused a building permit you can correct the Code violations or appeal the decision.
5. Receive Permit.
The building permit is the document granting legal permission to start construction. You must proceed as approved in the review process. A fee will be collected at this time. The permit fee helps defray the cost of the Code Official's time spent in the application process, the review process and on-site inspection process. The fee also gives you access to the Code Official's knowledge and experience when and if you have any questions about your construction project. An additional fee for services, such as water connection and surveys, may be required. Inspections required for your project will be indicated on the permit. Most building departments require you to post the building permit in a window or other prominent place at the construction site, keep a copy of the building plans at the site, and bring any proposed changes to the attention of the Code Official immediately. Changes will require a review and approval in the same manner as the original application.
6. Arrange Inspection Visits.
Each major phase of construction must be inspected by the Code Official to make certain the work conforms to the Code, the building permit and the approved plans. The person responsible for the construction project must request each inspection. Normally, 24 to 48 hours advance notice is required. If an inspector finds that some work does not conform to approved plans, the inspector will advise (and possibly provide written notice) that the situation is to be remedied. If the violation is serious, a stop work order may be posted until the problem is resolved. Another inspection may be necessary before work is resumed.
7. Receive Certificate of Occupancy. When code compliance is determined, the inspector issues a certificate of occupancy. This certificate is the formal document which marks the completion of your construction project and gives you permission to occupy your new or renovated building with the knowledge that it has met the safety standards in your community.