Building Codes

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PDS is now encouraging CAD file submissions for plan review

Posted on January 25, 2018
Applicants for zoning and building permits, building plan reviews, subdivision plat reviews, and subdivision improvement plan reviews may now submit them to PDS in digital form. They’ll be able to complete the entire application process—application and plan submission and payment of fees—online within the next couple months.

“Our goal for some time now has been to move the entire application process online so that design professionals, builders, developers, and engineers can submit their entire application packages and pay their fees from their offices,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “This will help them be more efficient, save money, and allow our staff to focus on getting projects through the review process more expeditiously.”

For applicants who prefer face-to-face interactions, staff is working toward installing a kiosk in the agency’s permit office that will facilitate digital submissions with someone near to help if necessary.

Looking forward, Brian Sims and Scott Hiles, directors of building codes administration and infrastructure engineering respectively, look forward to the day when their staffs will no longer need multiple sets of plans for each project.

For more information, email Brian Sims or Scott Hiles or call them at 859.331.8980.


2017 platting activity was strong; 2018 promises even more

Posted on December 22, 2017

Subdivision activity was on the rise in Kenton County during 2017. Staff saw activity that was on par with levels not seen since prior to the recession. That bodes well for 2018 when many of those lots will be available for sale.

“We’ve been busy the last several years,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering with PDS. “But we haven’t seen these levels of activity for almost ten years.”

PDS staff approved 11 improvement plans in 2017. Improvement plans contain the detailed infrastructure design that is proposed within a subdivision. These plans are required to be approved prior to the construction of any infrastructure.

“Often, the work proposed within a set of improvement plans takes more than a single year to construct,” said Hiles. “So, we know that there is approved infrastructure that didn’t get installed in 2017 that will carry over to 2018.”

Hiles said that there was approximately 9,000 feet of new subdivision street that was installed in 2017. However, about half of that street total came from improvement plans that carried over from previous years. “There was over 4,200 feet of street approved in 2017 that won’t get built until next year,” said Hiles.

Infrastructure that was constructed during 2017 resulted in the creation of more than 500 new building lots on 480 acres. Staff also processed 69 minor subdivision plats totaling 440 acres. There is no public infrastructure construction associated with minor subdivision plats according to Hiles, but it is another indication that land platting activities were high.

In addition to the infrastructure contained on approved improvement plans that won’t be installed until 2018, Hiles noted several new developments that were approved in 2017 won’t be the subject of improvement plans until 2018.

“There was a combination of seven new subdivisions or new additions to existing subdivisions that was submitted this year. Four of those developers aren’t planning to begin infrastructure construction until spring of 2018. So that infrastructure will be over and above the 4,200 feet of street that will carry over from 2017 approvals,” said Hiles.

While most subdivision activity remains in the City of Independence, it’s interesting to note that several of the new developments and new additions to existing developments that will take place next year are in the Cities of Covington, Erlanger, and Villa Hills.


Applicants may submit digital plans for review beginning in 2018

Posted on December 22, 2017

Applicants for zoning and building permits, building plan reviews, subdivision plat reviews, and subdivision improvement plan reviews will be able to submit them to PDS in digital form beginning next month. They’ll be able to complete the entire application process—application and plan submission and payment of fees—online by the second quarter of the new year.

PDS acquired licenses recently for BlueBeam software to drive this digital plan review process. The program will help PDS communicate with applicants using customizable, easy-to-mark-up tools which will help project coordination by tracking mark ups and generating reports automatically. It will also store all of its records in TRAKiT, PDS’ electronic development-tracking program.

More information about Bluebeam software is available here.

“There will be a learning curve initially, but we’ll work through it and establish a process that will be better in the future,” says Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “We’re living in a digital world and are committed to help the design professionals and building industry be as efficient as possible.”

Sims believes most of the learning curve process will be completed by April for those who begin submitting digital plans in January.

PDS will move to online applications later in the fiscal year when it activates eTRAKiT, a module of its TRAKiT electronic development-tracking program. Staff is in the process now of developing the application process, online payment tools, and avenues to attach documents such as plans and worker’s compensation and geo-technical reports, etc.

“Our goal for some time now has been to move the entire application process online so that design professionals, builders, developers, and engineers can submit their entire application packages and pay their fees from their offices,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “This will help them be more efficient, save money, and allow our staff to focus on getting projects through the review process more expeditiously.”

“We believe the ability for applicants to submit applications and plans digitally is a real step forward,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “Kenton County’s Subdivision Regulations require all subdivision plans to be submitted digitally already. Being able to submit the entire application electronically goes hand in hand with what’s been required for some time.”

For applicants who prefer face-to-face interactions, staff is working toward installing a kiosk in the agency’s permit office that will facilitate digital submissions with someone near to help if necessary.

Looking forward, Sims and Hiles look forward to the day when their staffs will no longer need multiple sets of plans for each project.

“We’ll be able to deliver digital plans to those individuals and agencies who require a copy of our submissions for their reviews… and we’ll be able to accomplish that without the help of the US Postal Service or a vehicle. It will be so much more efficient for all concerned,” concluded Sims.

For more information, contact Brian Sims or Scott Hiles or call them at 859.331.8980. 


State working toward effective date for new Kentucky Building Code

Posted on October 19, 2017

Kentucky’s Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction’s (DHBC) newly organized Advisory Committee heard and approved testimony last month for the Commonwealth to advance to the 2015 International Code Council’s (ICC) family of codes. Members did not, however, take action on an effective date for the change.

The International Codes are model codes published by ICC and developed by ICC members to provide minimum safeguards for homes, buildings, and other structures.

DHBC organized two task force committees to examine both the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. Both committees were represented by code officials, architects, engineers, contractors, home builders, and other stakeholders who have interests in the built environment.

Each committee reviewed the documents within their respective groups and came together then to review the proposed changes. The goal was to try to stay as close to the International Codes as possible to help alleviate any disparities in the code.

“The task force didn’t want to change one code section that could affect another one,” said Brian Sims CBO, PDS’ chief building official.

These proposed codes will be submitted now to the Legislative Research Commission for hearing and adoption. Upon approval, DHBC typically establishes a grace period for those projects currently in design to be submitted for permitting. This helps design professionals from having to redesign parts of their structures half way through a project. This grace period is between 90 to 180 days and then adhering to the new code will be mandatory.

 


Two staffers elected to posts at the state and national levels

Posted on September 28, 2017
Two PDS staff members were honored earlier this month with votes of professional affirmation from their peers. Jeff Bechtold, Senior Building Official, and James Fausz, AICP, Long-Range Planning Manager, were elected to positions of leadership within their professional spheres.

Bechtold was re-elected to a three-year term as director at large of the International Codes Council (ICC). The ICC Board of Directors is comprised of 18 public safety professionals, building and fire, who volunteer to serve. The ICC and its family of organizations promote building safety and are the referenced building and fire codes in all 50 states; ICC codes form the basis of the Kentucky Building Code. The ICC is a member-driven organization consisting of 66,000 members and over 360 International, regional, state and local chapters.

Fausz was elected president-elect of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-Kentucky). He will serve as president-elect for one year, president for two years, and past president for one year. The American Planning Association includes 35,000 members from over 100 countries. Its governing structure includes 47 chapters throughout the US and 21 divisions that embrace the wide range of planning. The Kentucky Chapter brings together practitioners, planning officials, students, and interested citizens into a single and stronger community forum.

“NKAPC/PDS has a long and very distinguished history of service to its various disciplines,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director—himself a past president of APA-Kentucky and -Indiana and a former member of the APA Board of Directors. “I know from personal experience that these positions take a lot of personal time. But, I can say truthfully that my employing agencies and I got more out of those commitments than anyone can ever comprehend fully.”

Bechtold and Fausz join another PDS staffer, Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst, who was elected President of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP). Read about Hill’s election here.

For APA-Kentucky and KAMP, these recent elections bring their presidencies full circle to where the organizations began. Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration, helped found and served as KAMP’s first president. Former executive director Bill Bowdy, FAICP, helped to found and served as APA-Kentucky’s first president.

Other PDS staff members giving back to their professions currently are: Steve Lilly, PLS, GISP, Land Surveying Analyst at PDS, is a member of the Kentucky Association of Professional Land Surveyors Board of Directors and is the organization’s liaison with KAMP; Brian Sims, CBO, Chief Building Official at PDS, sits on the Board of Directors of the Code Administrators’ Association of Kentucky; John Lauber, Senior Building Official, and Gary Forsyth, Associate Building Official, sit on the board of directors of the Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors’ Association. 

Building inspectors end fiscal year 2017 on a very busy note

Posted on July 27, 2017

Fiscal Year 2017 was very busy for those involved with construction in the county. Permits from PDS’ building department were up 12 percent over those issued during FY16. PDS issued roughly 3,900 building permits and logged over 5,500 inspections between July 2016 and June 2017.

“This was a very busy year for us… one of the busiest we’ve ever had,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “We have six inspectors trying to keep up with the workload while also paying special attention to the level of service we provide to our customers.”

PDS building codes staff worked hard during FY17 to keep permit turn-around time to a minimum and to get to each requested inspection within a 24-hour window of request. For the most part, they succeeded.

With an increased workload and the new vacant foreclosed properties registration, PDS filled an administrative staff position recently that had been vacant since the early days of the Great Recession. Staff is also reviewing all workflow procedures to expedite processes as best possible without losing any aspect of service they provide to their customers.

“Besides following all statutory requirements, providing a great level of service is one of our top priorities here at PDS,” according to Sims.

If construction activity continues, PDS may need to fill an inspector position that was also a casualty of the recession. Staff will monitor the activity levels over the next month or so and make an assessment later in the year.


Building permit totals for 2016 harken back to pre-recession time

Posted on February 02, 2017
Construction activity across most of Kenton County was on the rise in 2016. In fact, it was the busiest year in the last decade for PDS inspectors. A review of permit and inspection numbers tells the story.

A total of 2,959 permits were issued last year and 5,263 inspections were performed by PDS’ certified building inspectors. This number includes building permits issued for new structures, additions, renovations, HVAC upgrades, sprinklers, fire alarms, etc.

Prior to the recession, the largest number of permits issued by PDS in a single year was 2,105 with 6,017 inspections performed during 2007. Permit numbers hit their lowest point in 2010 when only 1,463 permits were issued and 3,978 inspections were performed.

“Staff has been very busy this year keeping up with the additional work while trying to maintain a relatively short turnaround time on permits,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official.

Permit numbers are projected to increase during 2017 according to several analysts. The National Association of Home Builders cited that builder confidence is on the rise. Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes jumped seven points to a level of 70 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. This is the highest reading since July 2005.

“We hope activity does pick up for 2017 and that the market continues to grow for the construction industry. We want to see new homes built and businesses grow here in Kenton County,” said Sims. “It will be challenge to find ways to keep up with the workload, but a worthy challenge to have.”

Management Board deliberates on results from building’s energy audit

Posted on October 07, 2016
Members of PDS’ Management Board will consider the recommendations of an energy audit of its building in the near future. The board’s Capital Management Committee is considering the contents of that audit, the cost of the recommended actions, and the payback that will be achieved through lowered utility bills.

“One of the nicest surprises to come out of the audit was the confirmation that our recent upgrades to the building have made a positive impact on its efficiency,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS. “The feasibility of additional improvements is what the committee and board are reviewing now.”

PDS pursued installation of an insulated roof and insulated windows during the down years of the recent recession when construction activities were considerably less expensive. Costs were paid from reserve funds that had been set aside for building maintenance.

The noted audit recommends upgrades to the building’s lighting, from common fluorescent tubes to LED fixtures. It also recommends moving from the 56 individual electric HVAC units that heat and cool the building to a central heat pump system. The individual HVAC units are the same as are used in many hotel rooms.

Gordon suggests the PDS Management Board may make its decision on upgrades by the end of the calendar year.

State wrestles with provisions of, timing for new state building code

Posted on September 01, 2016
Building Codes in Kentucky have been mandated and updated since the early 1980’s. Whether they will be updated in 2017 is in the hands of two taskforces established by the Kentucky Board of Housing. Both groups are reviewing the 2015 code published by the International Code Council (ICC), the organization from which all 50 states obtain their model codes.

The International Code Council is a member-focused association dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, and resilient structures.

The two task forces—one for the Kentucky Building Code and another for the Kentucky Residential Code—have been reviewing the 2015 International Code to see what, if any, changes need to be made to the ICC model for the codes that will be enforced throughout Kentucky.

The taskforces are made up of those with specific interests in the industry such as code/fire officials, design professionals, and builders. Each group was tasked to review the document with their respective peers and then to meet to and discuss the significant changes. Whatever proposed changes survive that process are then forwarded on for consideration.

PDS’ Chief Building Official, Brian Sims, CBO, sits on one of these taskforces as a representative for the Code Administrators Association of Kentucky. “The 2015 International Code is a positive move forward as it helps the building industry keep up with changes in technology. It also helps to clarify items in the current code that were once vague and subject to interpretation,” says Sims.

National model codes are updated every three years based on comments and suggestions from the states, counties, and cities that use them. Once updated, the national models are then distributed to and considered by these jurisdictions who make changes to fit their needs.

The model’s purpose is to establish minimum/maximum requirements to safeguard the public health, safety, and general welfare through structural strength, means of egress facilities, stability, sanitation, adequate light and ventilation, energy conservation and safety to life and property from fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment.

The Kentucky working groups have been given a working timeframe and will need to have their findings formulated and presented to the Board of Housing prior to its November 2016 meeting. If approved, the updated Kentucky Building Code and Kentucky Residential Code would be made effective by mid-2017 to allow a grace period for those projects currently being designed.

One Stop Shop revenues grow with economy; fees won’t increase

Posted on June 07, 2016

When NKAPC/PDS established its One Stop Shop program in 2005, it expected to increase fees each July to keep pace with inflation. The amount of increase was to be dictated by the cost of living for the previous year. That is how the program’s financing has worked for most years since then.

“One Stop Shop was built on the premise of total cost recovery,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “By building the cost of living escalator into all our local government agreements, we let everyone know that there would be incremental annual increases in our fees.”

Gordon says the small annual increases were requested by area builders and developers because they can be absorbed better than huge increases every five or ten years.

Last year’s cost of living increase in the Cincinnati metro area was negligible. The expanding economy is bringing in additional workload and dollars so according to the agreements, fees in all participating One Stop Shop jurisdictions will stay the same as this year.

“Staff did a lot of homework back then to create fee schedules that would cover costs,” said Gordon, “but there were certainly no guarantees that revenue would match expenditures. The economy was obviously a huge unknown in this—and who would’ve ever predicted the Great Recession?”

Gordon says small increases have been implemented during a majority of the past ten years. He says that the agency’s goal of full cost recovery has been re-evaluated by officials and lowered to an 80 percent cost recovery rate.


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