No matter where you’re located, every new building project needs to be inspected. There’s really no way around it — and for good reason, as this essential step is what keeps occupants and residents safe.
Because inspections are so important, it’s easy to fall into the trap that there isn’t anything municipal leaders and building officials can do to innovate the inspection process. Yet, staffing challenges, budgetary restrictions, and rising personnel costs leave many local governments empty-handed when it comes to finding qualified staff to deliver timely, detailed service. And the industry continues to see a steady decline in building inspectors (and we can anticipate a downward trend moving forward).
So, where do you go from here? Good question. We’ve found that successful building departments are aware of a few key facts that help them navigate today’s turbulent staffing landscape. Here are three worth noting.
1. Full-time staff isn’t always the most cost-effective solution
Municipalities all want the same thing: to develop and maintain high levels of community satisfaction. This often goes hand-in-hand with delivering fast, responsive services. And the key to that kind of service is qualified, dependable staff.
Hiring a full-time employee can be convenient in the long term. After all, it's a reliable way to know that you’ll have someone at your disposal when workloads get heavy. At the same time, full-time staff come with a lot of extra hidden costs, including pensions, benefits, paid time off, and other expenses — all of which add up to a good chunk of the budget.
A third-party is a good fit for most building departments
What many municipalities forget is that it’s possible to manage heavy workloads without hiring more staff. By bringing in a third-party partner, you only pay for the time when you need an extra set of hands (and you can avoid all of the one-off costs that come with a full-time employee). This kind of immediate and scalable access to a team of certified expert inspectors and automated routing technology cuts back on time to ribbon cutting.
They say time is money — and many communities that take on third-party inspectors save time on their projects in the long run. Because third-party partners work independently of the municipality, they can also often guarantee next-day inspections, after-hour and weekend work, same-day re-inspections, and disaster inspections. This often isn’t possible with internal inspectors, who are stretched across a lot of projects.
2. A good municipal inspection is more than running through a checklist
If your provider is worth their salt (so to speak), you’ll have as-needed access to certified inspectors who know not only the industry, but also your local codes and ordinances. Some inspectors even go a step further and can complete routine, health, structural, and fire inspections on a full-time or supplemental basis.
If your provider is worth their salt (so to speak), you’ll have as-needed access to certified inspectors who know the industry and your local codes and ordinances.
Working with a third-party provider has its advantages — for example, gaining process efficiencies and improvements that come with experience from performing inspections in a wide range of municipalities (as well as an extensive network to lean into when needed). They’ll also bring intelligent scheduling, electronic inspection software, and customer inspection education to the table, which reduces the overall number of inspections needed to close out a project (making you a more development-friendly community).
3. Municipality workloads will always be unpredictable
Put simply, successful building departments know nothing lasts forever. With that in mind, it's safe to say that workloads will never be predictable. A new developer coming to town, a new push for community spaces, or even a disaster can create an excess of work that is difficult for any department to absorb.
When municipalities plan for the unexpected, they have better means for handling everything — from fluctuating seasonal demands to hard-hitting events that come out of left field. The willingness to prepare will help stabilize your community and strengthen relationships with residents.
We’re here if (and when) you need us
If the right candidate comes along, a full-time building inspector might make the most logistical and financial sense for your department. On the other hand, tight budgets and a lack of candidates might have left you in a bind that has projects falling behind (or puts you at risk of falling behind in the near future).
At SAFEbuilt, we want what’s best for your community — and we’re here to help you evaluate your options to make the best choice for your team, the developers you work with, and your residents.
Looking to learn more about what a third-party partner can do for your municipality?