Code Officials – Friend or Foe?

Have you ever experienced the design professional’s worst nightmare? The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) reviews the plan and approves the project; construction moves forward only to have the construction inspector/AHJ disagree and shut down construction for consultation, along with possible expensive changes.

If the project codes are not discussed and identified early in the process, the AHJ’s final interpretation of the code could cause your project untold changes, added expense, consternation and languish in the review process. This in turn may cause the architect sleepless nights and the Owner to lose faith in the process.

In the best case scenario, the AHJ responsible for reviewing projects and making decisions regarding building codes is a supportive consul. They can assist in moving your project forward through the process painlessly as part of the collaborative effort of your project team consisting of Owner, Design Professionals, AHJ and Construction Contractor.

So, are Code Officials friend or foe?  That’s an easy choice… friend. Be sure to include the AHJ as part of the collaborative design effort in the beginning. Involve them early, rather than at the end of the design process after all the decisions have been made. In fact, include the AHJ review and input as part of the process.

AHJ’s will tell you from their perspective, the worst projects show up unannounced on their desk. They are unorganized, without supporting paperwork; include minimal drawings; are not properly researched; and of course require demands for a quick review and turnaround. Take the proactive approach and make it an involved collaborative process. Before any final construction drawings are submitted for final building permit review, inform AHJ’s of the project intent in the early planning and decision-making phases. Consult with them during your preliminary code review to clarify any grey areas.

Better yet, include ALL of the participating partners early in the process. Involve your Owner, the AHJ, the Contractor (if appropriate), and the AHJ’s construction inspector at the same time. This will ensure all parties are aware, informed and involved.

If you’ve taken this collaborative approach, your Owner will be informed and understand the process, decision-making and surprises will be kept to a minimum. Not to mention, you will be able to sleep at night.