Public Protection Cabinet
Plan Reviewers Setting Records
It may seem that good customer service is a thing of the past, but don’t tell that to the building plan reviewers in the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction (HBC). They are reviewing plans at a record pace.
It’s the job of the reviewers to examine all building plans in Kentucky for compliance with state codes and standards relating to life and fire safety issues. They make sure that a building’s plans take into account accessibility, fire-resistant building materials, fire exits, sprinkler systems, and the like.
In a given week, the staff might receive 120 sets of plans for review and approval, with each set ranging from a half dozen drawings to as many as 2,000.
As recently as a year and a half ago, the average time to review and respond to a plan ranged up to 70 days. But these days, the average has plummeted to five days. That’s the fastest response time ever.
The turn-around time has declined steadily over the past year or so, said George Mann, deputy commissioner. He attributes much of the decline to a veteran staff.
“A few years ago, we had reviewers with just a few years of experience,” Mann said. “This is a job that takes a lot of on-the-job training to perform efficiently.”
In recent months, the staff has worked hard to overcome the loss of its long-time division director, who retired in May. The position hasn’t been filled yet because of budgetary constraints, said HBC Commissioner Richard Moloney.
“Like many other agencies in state government, we’re doing our best to maintain our productivity in the face of budget challenges,” Moloney said.
HBC currently stacks up well compared to its counterparts in some other states, Deputy Commissioner Mann said.
The review time in Ohio’s building codes agency is as much as six months. Ohio also provides only limited hours for the public to contact its plan review staff.
“Here, you can come and see us any day of the work week,” Mann said.
The supervisory staff strives to remind the 11 reviewers of their crucial work.
“We tell them that they are an important part of the economic engine that runs the state,” Mann said.
The efficiency gains aren’t lost on the architects, designers, and contractors who rely on HBC’s plan review staff.
The office recently received an e-mail message for a Kentucky architect. It read in part: “It is gratifying to see that, in spite of the unavoidable retirements and job changes that happen over time, the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings, and Construction continues as the best building department my firm has encountered since I began practice in 1974. As a department, your knowledge of the Code, your professionalism in applying that knowledge, your accessibility, and, above all, the helpful, cooperative attitude of every individual from top to bottom exemplifies all that is good in a building department.”