Saving the CBO Species from Extinction

Are certified building officials (CBOs) on the verge of extinction? Let’s remind ourselves of their purpose and importance; explore some contributing factors to this slowly diminishing profession; and lastly, identify ways we can reverse the trend and protect this endangered species.

So that we are all on the same page, let’s first define:

  • Extinction: Is the state or process of a species, family, or larger group being or becoming extinct.
  • Endangered: Means a species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
  • Threatened: Means a species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
  • Species: For the purpose of this article, CBOs.

CBOs contribute to the safety of the overall built environment through certification, code application, knowledge, experience, and enforcement. While it would be impossible to project the number of accidents that didn’t happen, the number of injuries that didn’t occur, the number of foundations that didn’t fail, the number of structures that didn’t fall down, and so on, it is easy to understand why what they do is so extremely important. Some short history:

  • 2200-1800 B.C.: Code of Hammurabi provided for death of builder if construction of dwelling collapsed causing death of owner.
  • 1625: The first codes in what would be the United States addressed fire safety and specified materials for roof coverings.
  • 1630: Boston outlawed chimneys made with wood and thatch roof coverings.
  • 1770: George Washington recommended that height and area limitations be imposed on wood frame buildings
  • 1788: The first formal building code was written in the United States (in the German language) in Old Salem (now Winston-Salem), North Carolina.
  • 1800s: Larger United States cities began establishing building codes.
  • 1865: New Orleans enacted a law requiring inspections of public places.
  • 1905: The National Board of Fire Underwriters published its Recommended National Building Code.
  • 1915: The first model code organization established a forum for exchange of ideas regarding building safety and construction regulations.
  • 1927: The Universal Building Code (UBC) was first published by International Conference of Building Officials.
  • 1973: The American Institute of Architects called for one code to be used throughout the United States.
  • 2000: The International Code Council merged three predecessor organizations/publications:
  • International Council of Building Officials (ICBO) Uniform Building Code
  • Building Officials and Code Administrators International (BOCA) National Building Code
  • Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) Standard Building Code

It’s easy to surmise that codes are intended to promote public safety and provide standardized requirements for safe construction. And who leads the charge to ensure consistent interpretation, application, and enforcement of these codes? None other than the CBO.

Now that we know how important the role of the CBO is, let’s explore some contributing factors to the feared extinction of CBOs:

  • Aging Workforce: People are living longer and working longer because they can ,or because they need to financially.
  • Succession Planning: This is the process where we prepare staff and our organizations to be successful without us. Some embrace this concept better than others. Without a solid succession plan in place, we fail to set those with a desire to follow in our footsteps up for success. At the point we eventually and reluctantly ungrasp the hold we have on our position and bite the retirement bullet, internal applicants may be ill prepared because we didn’t transfer that institutional knowledge, cross train, and invest in the next generation of CBOs and leaders.

Let’s reverse the trending through effective marketing. How can we do that? As many of you know, choosing the CBO career path is an important decision especially when you consider the responsibility that is thrust upon the shoulders of a CBO on a daily basis. Here are some positive talking points to share with recruits:

  • Protecting the life; health and safety of others through consistent application of building codes is more than rewarding when you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
  • Job opportunities are plentiful thru local municipalities, counties, and third party inspection services.
  • Annual salaries are competitive and depending on the size of jurisdiction, can range from $50,000-$150,000.
  • Access to training, certifications, internships, and continuing education is plentiful, making ongoing development and growth attainable.
  • Networking through membership at the local and state chapter levels can open doors and be a pathway to new opportunities.

The Building Officials Association of Texas is committed to being a conduit for those wanting to expand their horizons and venture into this world. Are CBOs endangered? Maybe. But Extinct? Absolutely not. Sometimes we just need to be reminded that it’s a good thing to leave the world better than we got it. How can CBOs do that? You can do that by taking a young gun under your wing, training them, inspiring them to do what you do, and share why you chose this career path. Let your passion and commitment for safety be passed on to the next generation and save the CBO species from extinction.

Teresa Adrian
Director of Code Enforcement, City of Irving

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