Guest Post By:
Robert High, President of H.J. High Construction. (www.hjhigh.com)
May 7, 2012
When discussing the government, most people focus their frustrations on our president, Congress, or the Supreme Court. However, closer to home we’re finding an increased government burden in our industry that is quietly costing all of us an exorbitant amount of time and money.
Each municipality, county, school board and college in the state of Florida is responsible for overseeing development and construction within its jurisdiction. Oversight generally consists of plan review to ensure code compliance, issuing permits, inspections during construction, and issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. There is a statewide building code as well as regulations that are followed by each group. However, the code serves as a minimum statutory requirement and can be customized and added to at their discretion. Some of these groups outsource the oversight of this building to private companies.
Over the decades we have become accustomed to dealing with varied requirements and idiosyncrasies of each municipality. However, since the recession started in 2008 we’ve found the burden of some of these groups to be excessive and overwhelming. Some examples include:
– Since the recession and the subsequent slowdown of some county building departments we regularly have inspectors tell our superintendents to, “call in for four 30 minute concurrent inspections even though I can do everything in one inspection. I’m afraid if I don’t fill my day I’ll be laid off. I’ll just spend the next two hours on your site.”
– Regardless of how minimal or insignificant, any deviations from the permitted plans must be redrawn, signed, stamped and resubmitted through permitting. Submittals to some municipalities take as long as four weeks to process.
– Many municipalities don’t care what was reviewed and approved during permitting. If the inspector wants it, the inspector will get it!
– Requiring us to prove why an Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) listed piece of equipment has a UL listing. “It shouldn’t have a UL listing. We have a problem with that.”
– Requiring work they always wanted to have done at that property. On one project in a designated industrial park the local municipality asked us to install windows on a warehouse because they stated they would like the look of it.
– Requiring permits on our temporary construction trailers. This includes requirements to have a handicap ramp for each trailer – even if the trailer is in the middle of the site and a wheelchair would have to traverse acres of sand.
– On a recently completed project the county required over $100,000 in added scope above what they added during their permit review. All of this was required before a Certificate of Occupancy would be issued.
H. J. High has always prided ourselves on our ability to work with building departments and despite the increased burden we’ll continue to lead our industry in this regard. I am the chairman of the Construction Industry Council in Central Florida and we work to have a forum where private companies can have discussions with these groups to try and streamline the process and resolve issues when necessary. It’s not productive to complain about something if you’re not willing to be part of the solution. We’ll continue our work on this issue. It is our hope there are continued efforts among the building departments to standardize requirements and practices to help minimize this problem.