Johnny Goetz Building Official

Technology to Save the Day: Will Virtual Inspections Become the New Norm?

Written by Johnny Goetz, director of government relations and chief building official at Inspected

The evolution of building inspections has grown to include new technologies over many decades of work and progress. The first building regulations were enacted by the risk of fire and were formally proposed by the National Board of Fire Underwriters in 1905. This in turn led to the first Universal Building Code in 1927 by the International Conference of Building Officials in Long Beach, CA which was widely adopted throughout the US. The codes have contributed to the well-being and safety of occupants in a building or structure, reduced the risks of fire, and improving the ethics and reliability in the real estate market. Similarly, these technologies have improved the inspection process and efficiency for the inspectors in all types of inspections regardless of the industry.

The inspection process has changed dramatically since the early 2000s. Back then, all inspections were called in by phone either into an IVR system or a voicemail recording. Inspectors would transcribe the requests into a paper schedule.

Online requests were the next iteration for inspections through a variety of software options. Next, came the mobile application process which allowed real-time results and notifications for the first time.

Now, as a result of the pandemic, Remote Virtual Inspections (“RVI”) have come to the forefront of the construction industry and will be an absolute gamechanger. Virtual inspections enable all stakeholders including contractors, homeowners, and jurisdictions to benefit from the efficiency and social distancing the virtual platform allows. As with other industries and organizations, we predict that working remotely to accomplish objectives virtually is going to be a more efficient and better way of doing business.

Onsite inspections have become risky during the pandemic for both homeowners and inspectors. Jurisdictions have been scrambling to find solutions and have landed on virtual inspections using a variety of platforms. Some are better than others, while we found that RVIs are more equipped to increase productivity without sacrificing quality.

Virtual inspections support immediate results and reports, real-time submittals, auto-notifications, and payment receipt documentation. This technology is far more innovative than the disconnected back and forth communication, saves travel time and expenses we have been accustomed to. We are now in a position to provide a better solution for all stakeholders, and the change is welcome.

More complicated inspections require specific expertise such as large foundations, structural framing, and more complex specialty systems and attachments that will still have to happen on site. But, the vast majority of inspections such as over the counter permits (M, E, P’s), bathroom and kitchen remodel, pools, re-roofs, decks, small additions, etc., can all happen remotely.

Since the launch in March 2020, Inspected’s patent-pending SaaS-based virtual software has been widely accepted by jurisdictions as one of the best resources for their inspection process. The functionality of cameras, videos, and dictation have come a long way. Unlike other applications, Inspected provides a standardized framework for capturing relevant information in a one-stop-shop, that include automatic algorithmic geo-tags and permit number validations, ability to take video and photos, add notes, automatic notifications to the permittee, auto-generated reports, cloud storage space, scheduling options, email capability, and much more.

Building Officials and jurisdictions are appreciating the increase in productivity and decrease in vehicle and fuel expenses as there is no longer a need for their inspectors to travel to and from sites. Inspectors are enjoying the easy access to scheduling, workflow, and the ability to eliminate vehicle commutes.

The pandemic will have a lasting impact on the way many industries do business. Our world has become more virtual and will continue to do so. Over time, the efficiencies gained through virtual processes will demand a universal shift in industries including construction wherever possible.

As technology continues to transform our industry, successful remote virtual inspections are needed more than ever to navigate the COVID-19 environment and beyond. So, get on board with RVI, and the sooner the better!

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Johnny Goetz, a veteran in the building and construction industry, has over 15 years of experience as a building official and over 25 years in construction management. Goetz is an International Code Council (ICC) certified building official with multiple ICC certifications in both residential and commercial sectors. He also held leadership positions within ICC, multiple city departments in California, and other construction associations. He frequently teaches the code requirements to members of the building safety and construction trades industries.