Thursday, December 2, 2021

Technology Assists Building Department

Photos by Steve Stefanides

As we were growing up, many of us remember Dick Tracy’s watch phone and how he could talk to anyone from his wristwatch. Most thought that was pretty ingenious, but low and behold, we have that same technology available to us today. Several of the different cellphone manufacturers have developed technologies to tether a cellphone to a watch device that may also monitor your vital signs and display text messages. All of this in addition to allowing you to answer or make calls right from your wrist. 

Today, we can carry around our cellphones and tablet devices which allows us to do virtual chats with our friends and family around the world, or even just down the streetThe city’s building department was working on leveraging this 21stcentury technology before the COVID-19 outbreak hit our shores two months ago.  

“It was ironic when all this hit that we had been working on how to incorporate some of this technology into the system to speed up our process to better serve our contractors and the residents of the island,” said Raul Perez, the city’s Chief Building Official. 

They rolled out the initial segment of the program on April 6 after doing some beta-testing amongst some air conditioning and plumbing companies. “The feedback was positive from them, especially when customers didn’t have to wait over a weekend to have a job inspected,” Perez stated. 

When a contractor finished his job, all he had to do was take a photo and send it in when a replacement for a water heater or an air conditioner was completed, so long as the install met all of the items on the checklist provided to them by the city and the photographic evidence confirmed that.  

The utilization of this process would free up inspectors to move on to more demanding and complex tasks. 

Photos by Steve Stefanides

Beginning on April 20th, they rolled out the second segment of their program which allowed contractors to schedule a video inspection for a property which is an occupied dwelling or structure. This would allow inspectors to do inprogress inspections of work being done concerning building, plumbing, mechanical, electrical and fire inspections. The city inspector would not have to enter the building, therefore limiting the number of strangers coming in and out due to the COVID-19 issues. 

The contractor would either have to have a smartphone or tablet with an internet connection or be able to utilize his cellphone provider’s network. The tools necessary to conduct the virtual inspection may include a tape measure, flashlight, level, GFCI Tester and stepladder if necessary. 

On the scheduled day and time, the contractor and city inspector would meet online and do the inspection, with the contractor moving through the area being inspected and pointing out the areas being worked on. 

The inspector could then notify the contractor of any deficiencies and a re-inspection or proof of resolution could be provided in the form of pictures that the contractor would provide the inspector. 

The inspector would then complete the required paperwork and the job is complete after the updated files are uploaded. 

In-person inspections won’t go away anytime soon, however, technology is helping to move the process forward, sometimes a more efficient fashion when it can be utilized. 

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