July 31, 2014
|The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) appoints the Building-Development Commission (BDC) as an advisory board to Code Enforcement. Membership includes representation from the design, construction and development communities, as well as the public. Check out www.meckpermit.com and go to "About Us" for more information. Contact your representative if you have any specific issues you would like the BDC to consider. |
The following is a brief summary of significant matters impacting the design and construction community on which the Building-Development Commission and the Code Enforcement Department have focused from April1, 2014 through June 30, 2014. Further details on each of these follow:
- Customer Service Center Project Status
- Phased Occupancy Best Practice Summary
- Select Committee Status and Following Task Force Work
- Overview of the Department's Work
1. Customer Service Center (CSC) Project Status
On May 20th, the BDC voted in favor of advancing the CSC concept design, as described in three documents; a) CSC design criteria grid; b) bubble diagram concept “how the CSC might work”, and c) supporting technology list. In the July BDC meeting, the Department reported on the CSC development progress, including;
Action steps recommended:
- Initial work flow analysis indicates a need to add four concierge positions to support the CSC operation.
- Immediately advertise two positions; a PM/Sr Customer Liaison and the LUESA training coordinator. Once filled, these positions will be charged with developing the informational and functional infrastructure for the CSC.
Draft Schedule proposed:
- Phase I will run thru March 2014 and include temporary space setup, phone tree modifications, other technology acquisition, fill training and PM position and creating “answer book” working draft.
- Phase II will include filling the entire CSC org chart and will start in after Phase I is complete.
2. Phased Occupancy Guideline/Best Practice Summary
In January, the BDC requested draft of a “Phased Occupancy Best Practice” process description, including steps to follow a) during permitting, or b) later during construction, and c) including contacts involved. During discussion with contributing BDC members, the project was expanded to cover both construction phasing and occupancy phasing. The final best practice summary covers 5 levels of strategy development; preliminary plan review, plan review process, exit meetings, construction phase inspections, and changes to the approved phasing plan. Key elements addressed in the best practice summary include:
- This is only used as a guide and is especially important for larger projects.
- Understanding the conditions of phasing, the conditions of the project, the permitting process, and the inspection process.
- Documentation needed for life safety and health concerns to achieve occupancy.
- And concerns for Certificate of Occupancy (CO) or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for those designated areas.
The Phased occupancy guideline/best practice summary is posted on meckpermit.com at this web address.
3. Select Committee Status and Following Task Force Work
On May 6; the BDC Select Committee met at HMC with 22 Committee members attending, plus 23 other interested industry-government-public attendees. On May 20 and June 17, the BDC and Department reviewed the May 6 meeting notes and other supporting documents, concurring on three action steps:
- Broadcast a request to the industry for project specifics.
- Create a new combined AE-GC-Builder Task Force to assist in evaluating comments & proposing changes.
- Identified 14 other action steps (in addition to ‘a’ & ‘b’ above), for referral to the Task Force once it begins its work.
The Department broadcast a request for project specific feedback from June 9-23, receiving 69 responses; 22 providing specific information (allowing further research), 38 not identify the project (precluding further research) and 9 involving other governmental agencies. The Department continues working on translating this customer feedback into actionable steps for further review with the BDC and the Task Force.
4. Overview of the Department's Work
We are about safe buildings
The ultimate goal of any building inspection department is to maintain the public’s health and safety by approving code compliant construction. The North Carolina General Statutes mandate local government enforcement of the NC State Building Code (NCSBC), as developed by the NC Building Code Council. History shows that, unfortunately, building code development is driven by loss of life, often through errors in construction. Pertinent examples of this include:
- Beverly Hills Supper Club, Southgate, KY, 1977 (165 deaths)
- MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, NV, 1980 (85 deaths)
- Station Fire, West Warwick, RI, 2003 (100 deaths)
While we often like to think only a gross error can lead to cases like these with a large loss of life, test modeling has shown that a small construction oversight such as a fire barrier opening no larger than a pencil head can place occupants at risk. Guarding against that error is our daily mission.
Service delivery in a large metropolitan area
Mecklenburg County is atypical in that it is a consolidated authority, enforcing the NCSBC in the City and six Towns; so we have a large workload (over 400,000 customer service events a year) and use technology extensively to manage service. We provide service on an extreme range of project types, everything from a residential deck to a 50 story high rise building, so over the years we’ve worked closely with customer representatives to design a process that works well for a variety of different project situations. Consequently, while many jurisdictions only differentiate projects between residential-commercial or large-small, the Department offers 14 different service streams, with which an owner may tailor permitting to their project. In addition, we offer a myriad of tools for a project team’s use (PM support, expedited plan review or inspection, auto-notification, etc.) as specifically requested by customer representatives.
- An engaged and knowledgeable customer knows how to advantage their projects with these tools.
- However, we recognize that some customers may need assistance, so we are currently working to design a new Customer Service Center for the novice or infrequent customer.
Balancing customer service with code compliance
The owner’s design and construction team is the first line of code compliance, and retains the ultimate responsibility to know the code, propose code compliant designs, and perform code compliant construction.
Because NC State law does not allow local amendments or granting of local variances on the building code, the Department can only accept design and construction that meets the North Carolina State Building Code. By State Statute, our code officials are required to enforce the code in its entirety. Because of the variations in both size and complexity of projects found in Mecklenburg County, our code officials are driven to become experts in all facets of Building Code requirements. Combining both the increased knowledge and the NC State enforcement mandate, can result in code enforcement within Mecklenburg County that is more complete than may occur in smaller or rural jurisdictions. Our staff strives to work with customers to aid them in gaining compliance. Owner’s AE-GC teams that also fully understand the code, and do not frequently rely on our code officials to suggest code compliant changes or to perform punch lists for their built work, have greater success in gaining final approvals, and at the same time help the Department avoid unnecessary staff increases. The Department shares in the responsibility of achieving code compliance and strives to provide timely service that is effective and efficient for all of our customers, both residential and commercial, moving into or expanding in Mecklenburg County.