Building safety is a crucial part of our communities. Whether it be at home, at work or the places we go for fun, we rely on structures to provide us with shelter, safety and comfort. But ensuring that buildings are safe requires more than just sturdy construction and building codes. It requires a collaborative effort between stakeholders, including government agencies, technology providers, building owners, contractors, architects and residents.
May is Building Safety Month, a time to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of building safety. The International Code Council (ICC) launched this observance in 1980, and it has since become an international event that emphasizes the role of building codes in creating safe and sustainable communities. This year’s theme, “Building Safety Starts with You!” is a call to action for individuals, organizations and communities to prioritize building safety and implement the latest building codes and standards to ensure the protection of life and property.
Let’s explore what building safety means, how technology solutions can help, and what residents can do to support building safety efforts.
What is Building Safety?
Building safety encompasses a range of practices and measures designed to protect people’s lives and property. It includes everything from ensuring that structures are built according to code and standards to implementing fire safety and emergency response plans. Building safety also involves the ongoing maintenance, inspection and repair of structures to prevent hazards and ensure compliance with regulations.
Building safety is critical because it directly impacts public health and safety. Poor building safety practices can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. A quick Google search for news articles about building code accidents returns dozens of examples. For example, this recent article details the partial collapse of a parking garage in Lower Manhattan which lead to one fatality and several injuries. According to the article, the parking garage had numerous building violations dating back many years, including slab cracks and defective concrete. Buildings that are not constructed to code may be vulnerable to structural collapse, while buildings without proper fire safety procedures can quickly become life-threatening in the event of a fire.
How Technology Can Help
The good news is that technology solutions like Accela’s can help by playing a crucial role in advancing building safety efforts. Cloud-based building safety solutions enable code officials to streamline their processes, enhance collaboration with stakeholders, and improve compliance and safety outcomes.
Accela’s digital building solutions enable code officials to automate their plan review and inspection workflows, moving them away from traditional paper-based processes. Plan reviews are foundational to building safety, as they ensure that construction documents comply with state and county-level codes. Digital plan reviews enable collaboration between code officials, contractors, and other stakeholders, improving communication and reducing errors. Enabling contractors to submit construction plans and permit applications online provides real-time feedback, as code officials can review plans and provide comments and approvals through a web-based portal. It saves time and costs, increasing the likelihood that stakeholders will complete the required processes to implement building safety measures.
Once construction has happened, an initial inspection—as well as ongoing inspections—must be completed in order to ensure compliance with codes is maintained. Accela Mobile enables inspectors to perform onsite inspections from their mobile devices, allowing them to stay 100% in the field, reducing effort and errors, and allowing them to perform more inspections in their workday. GIS integration optimizes route assignments based on location, and the system ensures all documents and data related to each site are available at the inspectors’ fingertips. Once inspections are completed, all data, including any code violations, is shared with building owners so that maintenance and repairs, if needed, can be done in a timely manner.
Overall, the use of cloud-based technology can help promote transparency and accountability in building safety. Government agencies can access real-time data and analytics to monitor compliance and track trends, making sure that they stay on top of potential safety risks and proactively respond to issues. And citizens can access online portals to track the progress of building permits, inspections, and violations, empowering them to participate in the building safety processes in their communities and hold government agencies and contractors accountable.
What Residents Can Do to Help
Collaboration is key. Building safety is not just the responsibility of government agencies and contractors. Residents can also play an important role in promoting building safety.
Expanding on the above, here are some things that you (and I) can do to support building safety efforts:
- Be informed – Educate yourself about building safety codes and regulations. A good place to start is ICC’s website. Next, go to your local government website or contact local building code officials.
- Report violations – If you notice any violations, report them. This can include unsafe construction practices, building code violations, or other hazards.
- Participate in the process – Participate in public hearings and comment periods related to building safety. This helps ensure that the voices of citizens are heard and that policies reflect community needs.
- Prepare for emergencies – Make sure you and your family are prepared for emergencies. Have a fire safety plan, an emergency kit, and stay informed about potential hazards in your community.
- Support building safety technology – Advocate for the use of technology to enhance building safety efforts in your community. Modernizing outdated processes can help improve compliance, increase transparency, and create safer and more sustainable communities.
As we celebrate Building Safety Month, it’s important to realize that building safety is not just about complying with building codes and standards. It is about protecting people’s lives and properties and ensuring that our communities are resilient. And it’s not just a one-month event – it is an ongoing effort to prioritize building safety, understand how technology can play a significant role in advancing building safety efforts, and recognize how we, as citizens, can do our part to prevent, prepare, and protect our buildings and our communities.