Government Spotlight: Chief Building Official

From Honolulu to Halifax, Chief Building Officials (CBOs) play a critical role in the efforts of local governments to empower the building of safe structures. As with almost all present-day government personnel, the mission of CBOs is greatly affected by their ability to leverage enterprise software systems to realize both short and long-term objectives—chief among these the dual mandates for more affordable AND greener building solutions.


In this first installment of an ongoing series spotlighting key government personnel, we step into the shoes of the Chief Building Official—summarizing both the current challenges and future opportunities for the profession, as well as the role’s growing utilization of software automation in maintaining best practices for permitting and licensing services.


Chief Responsibilities


Responsible for the application and oversight of building, permitting and inspection processes, the Chief Building Official is a jurisdiction’s key steward for maintaining compliant and efficient building and safety codes. Through the consistent application of building codes, the CBO plays a key role in facilitating and negotiating reasonable outcomes in the areas of building safety and business development. A dynamic and collaborative leadership role, the Chief Building Official works alongside leaders in planning, engineering, and public works, as well as other key stakeholders, to ensure full organizational alignment and compliance with health and safety guidelines, and zoning ordinances.


Key Challenges


Given the critical role that Chief Building Officials play in overseeing and maintaining the safety and sustainability of both new and existing infrastructure, the ability to readily access actionable building code, permitting, and inspection information is the CBO’s crucial challenge. Additionally, with operational budgets increasingly constrained at both the local and state levels, Chief Building Officials are increasingly leveraging intelligent automation software to streamline existing operational workflows, and address escalating demands in the areas of recruitment, transparency, and rehabilitation.


  • Recruiting the next generation of Building Inspectors is a critical concern, with a dominant swath of current practitioners in the 50+ age demographic, understandable given the extensive domain knowledge and code application skills required of the role. For Chief Building Officials, the challenge to attract the next generation of talent to join the team, places a greater emphasis than ever on leveraging digital technology solutions to empower today’s modern ‘knowledge worker.’
  • Data access and transparency remains a challenge for many jurisdictions. From improved data-sharing throughout the organization, to performance benchmark reporting to better quantify the efficacy of departmental initiatives, to improved interactive services for citizens: accessing and acting upon ‘need to know’ information in real-time remains an ongoing challenge.
  • Aging infrastructure across North America keeps many CBOs on their toes, striving for actionable intelligence to cost effectively maintain and rehabilitate structures before today’s dilapidation becomes tomorrow’s safety disaster.


Recent Developments


To meet the challenge of building safe, sustainable and prosperous communities, today’s Chief Building Officials are embracing their roles as key technology stakeholders in the implementation of land management software solutions that meet their agency’s robust and diverse needs across the full spectrum of building, planning, engineering, permitting, inspections, and code enforcement operations.


Through the implementation of permitting & licensing software systems such as POSSE PLS in their respective jurisdictions, forward-thinking Chief Building Officials across North America are achieving immediate wins in several mission critical areas:


Going Digital
Inefficient, bureaucratic, time consuming paper processes. For decades, this was the daily reality of the Chief Building Official. Now, thanks to the advent of enterprise scale software systems leveraging data-driven operational workflows, digital transformation is occurring within every facet of the land management discipline and with every participant to the process, both internal and external. Front-counter development services are being augmented, and in some instances, replaced entirely by self-service digital portals that efficiently and expediently guide citizens through every phase of the process from initial application through to online payment provision.


Gaining Transparency
In addition to the intrinsic efficiencies of paperless workflows, going digital is enabling the data-rich operational environment that experienced CBOs have long coveted. Tasked with quickly troubleshooting why development projects are being held up and how such delays can be resolved, today’s Chief Building Official is able to immediately access information from every phase and touchpoint of a project to accurately assess if the work being done matches approved plans, permits, zoning restrictions, and other key requirements. Whether acting on this data to enforce a ‘stop work’ order to remedy onsite deficiencies, or rolling a dashboard report up to senior stakeholders to showcase revenue growth from permitting throughput gains, today’s Chief Building Officials are properly  equipped via this newfound data transparency to adjudicate ‘full compliance with full confidence.’


Improving Safety
In leading their agencies to embrace modern data-driven automation solutions, today’s CBO is not only getting more efficient and more effective in their ability to shepherd new developments to fruition, they are also able to improve the safety measures for aging infrastructure as well. Leveraging permitting & licensing software with integrated GIS data, Chief Building Officials can quickly and correctly rate structures for required rehabilitation as efficiently as they are rated for expansion approvals. In cities, such as Philadelphia, where such measures have been implemented utilizing a POSSE PLS enabled solution, the prompt and focused restoration of dilapidated structures facilitated by data-driven automation has helped to assuage public safety concerns associated with aging infrastructure. 


On the Horizon

Building officials point to horizon


With powerful permitting & licensing software systems in place as a firm foundation for innovation, Chief Building Officials are becoming increasingly engaged in broader stroke government initiatives. Such efforts seeks to capitalize on both the immense portfolio of the role as well as the powerful new data automation at the fingertips of today’s CBO, the value of which can be easily extended into other areas of the organization leveraging the pillar application capabilities of solutions such as the POSSE Platform.


Getting Green
Whether leading the charge to go paperless or reducing their agency’s carbon footprint, Chief Building Officials are at the forefront of government initiatives to go green. Such initiatives are made even more impactful by the ability of modern land management software solutions to measure every step of the digital journey, thus facilitating the core data required to qualify for state & local grants/funding for those jurisdictions able to effectively validate the efficacy of their environmental initiatives.


Improving Citizen Engagement
Given the critical and high-profile position that civic planning, building and permitting/licensing holds in the public’s perception of government services, today’s CBOs are playing a critical role in the reinvention of citizen engagement on digital service platforms. Through the implementation of dedicated permitting & licensing software solutions such as POSSE PLS, Chief Building Officials are simultaneous improving the quality of service outcomes while decreasing response times which is increasing permitting volumes. Moreover, the implementation of electronic plan review solutions is increasing collaboration with the development community, within a guided collaborative framework that efficiently progresses all involved via expedient automated workflows engendering full transparency and consumer confidence.


Enabling Growth & Prosperity
By embracing innovative technology solutions to transform operational workflows for their agency, the modern Chief Building Official is proving to be equal parts pragmatist and visionary. Pragmatic in implementing modern technology that better equips their agency to meet their ongoing mandate to empower the building of safe, sustainable and affordable housing. Visionary in embracing automated solutions that will enable the building/planning departments of tomorrow to automate contractor compliancy to address current recruitment challenges, while simultaneously empowering the development community to fuel economic growth through increasingly efficient self-service portals and applications.


From Honolulu to Halifax, North America’s vibrant thriving communities are a testament to the efforts of Chief Building Officials to guide and ensure the provision of safe and sustainable infrastructure for all citizens.


“By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”


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