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The Silver Lining of COVID-19

May 4, 2020

As of this first week of May, the building department staff are still working remotely for the most part. We currently have two people in the office to answer phones but be warned that we are experiencing high call volumes. I recommend going to the Allen County website to our homepage for a list of staff. Most of you are taking advantage of this and I have noticed the increased communication and coordination has sped things up for permits and inspections. In April, we had 300 more permits than at the same time in 2019. We are realizing that online permitting is much more efficient than over the counter permits. There have been suggestions of offering an online discount for permits to encourage the practice. This will be a topic of the next board meeting.

The new code in effect has proven challenging with current events. Hard copies of the code only became available to order in mid-March. Some scheduled code training classes had to be canceled due to the quarantine. With this in mind, we are extending our "soft enforcement" of the new code. Life and safety will still be a priority, but we will continue to leave cards on-site for most issues regarding the new code. I appreciate vendors who have reached out on new products to make sure they meet the standards required such as bollards for the garage and end-glued lumber for horizontal applications. I will have important guidelines to share in the next few weeks on the energy code as it relates to the 2020 IRC with amendments. Some software is not yet updated and this causes issues when attempting to get a proper rating on the new home. The last thing we want to do is give an incorrect interpretation which causes economic impacts to builders.

I will leave you with a silver lining in this dark cloud called COVID-19. While I hate the phrase "new normal," something great has come out of necessity in the last few months. I have seen increased communication between the builder and the inspector. I see trust being given and trust being proven as we rely on alternative methods of inspection. The ability to do some inspections (not all inspections) using photo documentation has really worked out for the industry as a whole. I believe I am witnessing what can be called a cultural shift in the inspection process. It would not work if we did not have strong professional ties with entities such as the HBA and BCA that work hand-in-hand with local officials to keep industry standards high. We will reap the benefits of what we have learned during this time to offer even more efficiency once we get through this and we get back to full capacity.

Thank you,
John Caywood
Allen County Building Commissioner

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