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With the volume of community development projects in progress across the nation, building departments need to be well-oiled machines. And if you look at some of the most successful jurisdictions, they each have something in common — an experienced building official.

So when does it make sense to hire a third-party building official for your jurisdiction? Let’s explore the role, the work they oversee, and what jurisdictions benefit most from a third-party option.

What is a building official?SAFEbuilt building offfical

Simply defined, a building official oversees a jurisdiction’s entire building department, including permit technicians, inspectors, and code enforcement/compliance officers. (In larger municipalities, each of these departments often have a manager who reports to the building official.)

The building official works alongside the community development director and planning director to navigate challenges and ensure additions to the community meet local safety regulations and codes.

As part of their title, building officials are responsible for:

  • Overseeing the entire building department
  • People management and utilizing resources to the best extent possible
  • Understanding their jurisdiction’s needs (and what they hope to achieve through each project)
  • Offering recommendations to decision-makers to help them achieve their goals and vision
  • Providing their overall expertise as it pertains to safe, effective community development

Depending on the size of the municipality, a planning director, engineer, or other role might double as the building official. 

As-needed building officials are different than full-time staffSAFEbuilt community

A common misconception of as-needed building officials is that they are a replacement for a full-time building official.

We have found that on-call building officials are most successful for jurisdictions that:

  • Are struggling to hire someone to fill their open building official role and need an interim solution
  • Have a full-time building official who is currently unavailable (e.g., PTO, sick)
  • Do not have a full-time building official on staff but only need the role for a period of time 
  • Need a neutral subject matter expert for code or to resolve discrepancies between contractors and municipal staff 

Benefits of a third-party building official

Third-party building officials offer unique benefits, including:

  • Offering the best value for smaller jurisdictions — If you don’t have the workload or budget for a full-time building official, an on-call role can give you the expertise and leadership you need without the cost of a full-time employee.
  • Peace of mind — Current staffing shortages mean building officials can be difficult to find. A third-party partner carefully vets building officials, so you can trust that they are well-versed in your local codes and regulations and qualified to work on your projects.
  • Insights from a wider range of projects — Building officials that work across multiple jurisdictions gain more insights and experiences, which allows them to bring that expertise to your jurisdiction to help troubleshoot challenges.
  • Easily adding building department services, as needed — In addition to a building official, third-party community development partners like SAFEbuilt can also offer inspectors, plan reviewers, and permitting services that fill gaps in your workforce and help keep projects moving forward.

Need a building official?  

Whether you need a full-time or on-call building official, our building officials are cross-trained across all areas of building department codes and regulations and are ready to plug and play. Together, we can help you stay on budget and minimize risks in your development process.

Talk to an expert