How digital building codes can transform municipal operations

December 20, 2023

How digital building codes can transform municipal operations

December 20, 2023

construction worker in a new build

If you’re looking to boost your municipality’s innovation, sustainability, and efficiency, digitizing your building codes provides a unique opportunity.

A member of MNP Digital, Wendy helps organizations of all sizes accelerate with confidence and transform their business through the use of data and technology. Her services include digital technology strategy and planning, digital innovation leadership, data governance and information management and enterprise strategic management.

At a time of high interest rates, inflation, and rapid urbanization – not to mention ongoing housing crises across Canada – local governments from coast to coast are feeling the urgency to act. Many have felt limited, if not outright impaired from action. Fortunately, they have an opportunity to transform the way their towns and cities operate, to address citizens and developers ability to get housing built faster, and ultimately to leverage tools in their own toolkit to address the affordability pressures facing the country.

Digital building codes have the potential to reshape municipal governance and urban living by streamlining processes from permitting to construction and inspections. Offering more efficient and sustainable solutions address red tape within these processes, digitizing your municipalities building code system can greatly impact efficiency and accessibility. Most importantly, it will get the things we need built, built faster; something all citizens and stakeholders agree is urgent.

What are digital building codes?

Often, building codes in small to medium-sized municipalities across Canada still exist as PDFs or printed materials.

Digitizing building codes turns these antiquated approaches into an online resource that enables all the building code information to exist in one place. This allows individuals at all steps of the building process to have access to relevant data in an interactive, online page and ensures any updates to the code happen in real time. With the rapid advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence, having digital building codes will unlock innovation that speeds up approvals and gets things built faster.

Where there are many benefits that can be derived from digital building codes, including enabling building information modeling, digital engineering, and other innovative practices, simply digitizing the codes is a tremendous first step to allowing for more efficient permitting, processing, and inspections.

Key considerations for government

The impacts of adopting digital building codes will be felt in different ways in each municipality – depending on the size and scope of your projects, the benefits may be seen more acutely in the permitting or inspection stages.

Ultimately, there are significant improvements that can be made to the efficiency and effectiveness of your building process and when determining how best to maximize your resources, consider the effects digitizing your building codes could have, including, but not limited to:

Efficiency

For many local governments without the capacity or expertise to provide large-scale access to and support with building codes, digitizing them frees up time within the municipality and ensures countless steps in the building process aren’t stalled because of lack of people power.

Expediting the permitting process, reducing delays, and speeding up construction times are a few ways digital building codes can create faster approval times and have an impact on project efficiency from start to finish.

Interactivity

It’s not enough to have building codes in one place – digitizing your building codes also ensures that the document and the people who access it are able to interact with information coming in from others in the permitting, inspection, and planning process. These processes no longer work in silo but rather, can effectively access new information from one another to ensure everyone has what they need to do their job accurately and on time. Collaboration among stakeholders keeps lines of communication open and accountability high.

Accuracy

With everything existing in one place, accuracy becomes paramount, significantly reducing, if not eliminating the need for time spent following up on or tracking down information from a certain part of the process that may be delayed or missing. Reducing errors and inconsistencies will lead to higher quality processes and less time spent reworking or fixing issues.

Digitization in action

Though few municipalities across Canada have had the opportunity to fully embrace digital building codes, the B.C. government has announced they’re piloting a digital building permit tool in Spring 2024.

The tool will allow for faster and simpler building permit submission processes for builders and developers and cut down on the time it takes local governments to receive and process the applications. It will also automatically review submissions to ensure general compliance with the BC Building Code to prevent delays in the process.

This province-wide move will help transform the building process for 16 local governments and one First Nations government who have partnered with the province to implement the new tool with testing set to begin in March 2024.

In MNP’s 2023 report, Understanding the Current State of Digital Transformation Journeys for Canadian Municipalitiesthe top areas of focus for a vast majority of municipalities that responded include innovation and improvement as well as strategy and business planning.

Nearly half of respondents, 43 percent, said they are looking to embrace cloud connectivity over the next three years however, 62 percent said insufficient resources are a significant organizational barrier to carrying out their longer-term goals.

Digitizing building codes can go a long way in several areas to increase things like innovation and organizational improvement and acts as a one-stop-shop resource to help boost efficiency and building times.

Making the most of the opportunity

Municipalities are facing increasingly complex and interrelated challenges. Addressing sustainability can be challenged in the face of ensuring affordability, all while business and citizen expectations on timelines and services levels are increasing. Simply, “the way we have always done it,” is not enough in today’s municipal environment. Unlocking efficiency through technology and embracing the opportunities that it can provide can mean that houses and businesses in your community could be built faster and for cheaper.

While it may seem disconnected at first glance, investigating digital building codes means pouring the foundation for innovation, affordability, and a more welcoming place for families to call your community home.

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