Economic development success begins with tough building plan reviews

CES-inspector-smallLawsuits. Half-finished buildings sitting vacant. Trips to the Building Code of Appeals. Re-inspections. Angry owners and builders. Have we convinced you how important building plan reviews are to your community’s reputation and economic development?

The staff at Code Enforcement Services, a division of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, have a combined 100 plus years of experience in plan reviews, inspections and as building officials. They’ve worked in big cities, small towns, suburbs and rural areas on projects ranging from factories, shopping centers and office buildings to kitchen additions and decks. We recently asked some of them to share examples of how bad things happen to good communities.

In city A, the Building Official approved plans for a three-story renovation of an existing commercial building then realized afterwards during a rough inspection that he had overlooked improper window openings in an exterior wall on a zero lot line. The project was halted and the contractor walked off the job.  Today the building owner and contractor are suing each other. The city hired CES to consult with them and remedy the situation, but the damage had already been done.

In city B, an auto maker built an addition for emission testing only to discover toward the end that their emergency alarm and gas detection systems weren’t compliant. They have been shut down for more than a year and have spent thousands of dollars on new plans and appeals to the Building Code of Appeals.

An architect disagreed with Township C’s standards for barrier free access. But the architect was quoting criteria for new construction while CES was correctly using standards from the rehabilitation code.

“One mistake in barrier free accommodations opens a city not just to lawsuits but to an appearance in federal court on an Americans with Disabilities Act case,” said CES Director Craig Strong. “And it’s so common for inexperienced plan reviewers to miss critical issues like requirements for fire suppression, fire alarms, emergency alarms and gas detection systems.”

Putting aside the worst case scenarios – building collapse, fire, death, injury – plan review mistakes can torpedo a community’s economic development program.

“Developers and builders talk,” said Carlisle/Wortman Associates’ economic development specialist Dave Scurto. “If they think they won’t get prompt, competent service they’ll take their projects to more qualified, welcoming communities.”

Thorough, accurate building plan reviews are the crucial first step in making sure a community develops successfully.

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