Inspections are a necessary good — they keep communities safe and ensure healthy living conditions for the future. But because inspectors are such important key players in community development, they’re also often in short supply, especially as many qualified inspectors reach retirement age in the next few years.
So let’s talk about how you can set your community up for success in the face of dwindling availability of building officials, building inspectors, and plan reviewers.
Where did all of the building inspectors go?
It’s no secret that qualified inspectors are becoming more and more difficult to find, especially for tight turnarounds and complex projects that require a large number of inspections.
What we’re experiencing is what the International Code Council (ICC) calls the Silver Tsunami. As building inspectors and building officials across the nation reach retirement age, their collective departure from the field is leading to a large void. And, unfortunately, there isn’t a long line of young workers looking to take their place. Combine that with the Great Resignation, and we’re seeing a large number of government seats available with no one lined up to fill them.
A 2014 ICC survey by the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) found that inspector shortages may only worsen with time.
Steps to streamline building inspections
If your building department is struggling to process plan reviews on time and stay on top of inspection requests, there are steps you can take to simplify your process and keep projects moving.
1. Evaluate your inspection and permitting technology
While it’s always been a critical step to any project, it’s now more important than ever to process permits efficiently. By introducing new software, which can often integrate with your existing tech stack, you can reduce the number of people you need to approve permits and keep developers and residents moving.
With the right technology, you can even receive real-time inspection updates. This allows projects to start moving once an inspection is complete, and allows for quicker turnarounds on any needed adjustments if a re-inspection is required.
2. Expedite your plan review process
Because permits depend on plan review, having reviewers on hand who can review across multiple departments can streamline the review process. The fewer hands each plan review must touch, the faster you can approve it and take it off your desk.
3. Utilize combination plan reviewers and inspectors
We’ve seen some projects that have been delayed for days as one inspector after another was scheduled and brought to the site to complete their inspection. When your inspector can take care of multiple inspections (e.g., completing mechanical and plumbing simultaneously), you have fewer inspectors who need to schedule a time to come to your site.
4. Make sure customers are ready for their inspection
There’s nothing more frustrating for both parties than an inspection failing on a minor technical issue that could have been caught and fixed before the inspector’s arrival.
Communicate frequently when your inspector will arrive at a project site, and what they’ll be reviewing, to ensure they can be as ready as possible for their inspection. Overcommunication can often make the difference between an approval and needing to return for another inspection.
Weighing inspection costs vs. delayed projects
You might associate third-party inspections with higher costs. But in reality, bringing in a third-party team can actually reduce costs.
When you work with a third-party partner, your investment comes with immediate savings on in-house hiring and employee costs, including the following.
One of the biggest cost savings we see our partners benefit from is due to their ability to adjust staff count based on project volume. That means that staff won’t sit idle during slow seasons, and government agencies can be confident that they’ll have the qualified staff they need when a busy season hits.
Know you’re getting the best talent
During a time when it’s difficult to know if you’ll even have the staff to complete upcoming requests in a timely fashion, be confident in knowing that you’ll not only have staff lined up, but that the staff you hire are skilled, certified, and efficient.
Every member of our team is part of our SAFEbuilt Academy training program, which helps them stay on top of continued education. With a national network, we also have the ability to share knowledge and skills from coast to coast — and we’ll bring that expertise to your community.
Ready to learn more about supplemental staffing?