As building officials, we should always be looking for creative ways to increase the quality of services we provide to our customers. With that goal in mind, I would like to share an initiative currently included in the Rockwall Building Inspections Department 2016-2107 Strategic Plan.
Our stated goal for the initiative is to reduce the time and project costs for our residential customers (which includes both property owners and contractors). So let me set this up for you and explain how we arrived at that goal. Our inspection data revealed approximately 20% of all roof, water heater, and HVAC inspections failed on the first attempt, and required a re-inspection in order to finalize the permit. The challenge these failed inspections create is the resident is required to take additional time away from their work to give us and their contractor access back into their home for the re-inspection. This also costs the contractor both time and money to comply with our codes. Obviously, this has caused frustration for many of our customers.
In an attempt to reduce the time, energy, expense, and frustration for our customers, we developed an initiative to increase the approval rate for specified first time inspections by 50% and set a goal to achieve that result within a one year period. In order to accomplish this we began taking a closer look at the associated failed inspection reports to determine what the common red tag items consisted of. We learned a large majority were fairly simple items for the contractor to rectify.
In an attempt to raise the “pass rate” for first time inspections related to roof, water heater, and HVAC permits we initiated what we are calling our “one hour inspection program.” We kicked the program off recently by creating a flyer/pamphlet our permit tech’s utilize at the counter to promote the service. Our department also mailed the flyer to all of the roof, plumbing, and mechanical contractors currently registered in the City.
The way the program works includes the following:
- We encourage roof, plumbing, and HVAC contractors to call our building inspection department approximately one hour prior to completion of their job.
- A building inspector will respond by arriving at the job site within one hour to perform the associated inspection.
- Because many of the inspections associated with these permits fail for reasons that may be relatively easy and quick to correct, our hope is the contractor can make the necessary changes while the inspector is on site.
- For those inspections that cannot be passed during the initial inspection, and when it’s not practical for the inspector to wait, those inspections will simply be rescheduled for the next business day.
The program is off to a good start with contractors taking advantage of the expedited service. Over the last few months we have experienced the following in first inspection pass rates: water heaters increased 26% and HVAC inspections increased 7%. We have not had very many roofing contractors take advantage of the program and therefore have not experienced improvement for those inspections. While we have not achieved our stated goal of increasing the approval rate for these inspections by 50% we are continuing to promote the program. Whether we ultimately achieve our stated goal or not, I believe our department is showing a commitment to providing excellent customer service to the contractors working within our city, and to our residents. The public relations has been very positive and well received. Only time will tell how much we may be able to achieve with our one hour inspection program.
I challenge you to put your thinking caps on and come up with unique and creative programs that will benefit your customers (contractors and residents) by saving them time, expenses, and maybe some frustration with getting their projects completed. If we in public service are not careful, we will continue to offer services in a status quo manner and not find ways to enhance those services to better serve our customers. I encourage you to think outside the box to continually improve the services you offer, and ultimately make a difference in the communities you serve.
By Jeffrey Widmer, Chief Building Official, City of Rockwall, BOAT Board of Dire