Under Construction Special Edition: Building Safety Month

Under Construction Special Edition masthead BUILDING SAFETY MONTHOrange rectangle with words SPECIAL EDITION

May 2020

A Message from DPIE Director Melinda M. Bolling

DPIE Director Melinda Bolling

Happy Building Safety Month!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Building Safety Month, which focuses attention on safety in construction and building maintenance. Our mission here at DPIE is to ensure that structures built in Prince George’s County are safe and sustainable. This year’s celebration, during the COVID-19 pandemic, takes place as DPIE has implemented a number of initiatives to keep the public and staff safe while continuing to serve the residential and commercial customers who require our assistance.

We are now conducting virtual inspections, which allow inspectors to work with customers remotely, instead of onsite. We continue to do limited on-site inspections, ensuring that we take precautions such as wearing masks and following social distancing mandates. We take very seriously our responsibility to ensure that everything from decks to room additions to family dwellings to multi-level commercial buildings are constructed to codes established to protect those inside from natural disasters, fires and structural failures. We also continue to review building plans, issue permits and enforce construction and property standards.

During Building Safety Month, my staff and I invite you to celebrate our building and construction professionals and those who work in the industries that support them. We also pay tribute to the organizations, such as the International Code Council (ICC), founder of Building Safety Month, that establish construction and safety requirements that protect us all.

We are proud to be among the entities engaged in this very important work on your behalf.

Be Safe!

DPIE on the Job!

Associate Director Dawit Abraham and Enforcement Inspector Supervisor Jerry Green follow safety protocol at DPIE headquarters during COVID-19

DPIE Now Conducting Virtual Inspections

Virtual inspection on tablet

DPIE is now offering limited virtual inspections as an alternative to on-site inspections. Virtual inspections allow County inspectors to perform on-demand inspections from remote locations utilizing technology instead of direct interaction with the public.

Virtual inspections are conducted between customers and County inspectors via video call on 4G or higher smart phones or tablets using FaceTime or Skype. Director Melinda Bolling instituted virtual inspections to continue to provide service to citizens while following social distancing mandates established in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The remote inspections allow the inspectors and the customers to work together from their respective locations to examine projects, discuss any changes that need to be made and ensure those changes are made as part of the approval process,” Director Bolling said.

DPIE Inspections Division Assistant Associate Director George Holmes said inspectors discuss the scope and requirements of each project with customers prior to the inspection appointment. Customers are responsible for having permits and plans for the projects at the project site at the time of the inspection. They must also gather any tools that may be needed, such as tape measures, ladders, etc.

“They also need to make sure the technology that will be used for the inspection is fully operational and appropriate for the inspection,” Holmes said.

Customers are told immediately if their project failed or passed. A written report of the inspection is provided the next day. For failed inspections, correction orders are issued for any deficiencies identified. The customers then are required to make the needed fixes and call for another virtual inspection.

Director Bolling said the program has received positive reviews from inspectors and customers alike. “Currently, our virtual inspections are limited to residential projects. We continue to evaluate the process and will determine when it will be expanded to include additional projects,” she said.

For additional information, visit Virtual Inspections on DPIE's website.

For more information about DPIE's change in operations to continue to serve citizens during the current COVID-19 outbreak, see the main page on DPIE's website.

On the Building Safety Front Line

Associate Director Behdad Kashanian and Inspector Steven Boss attend inspections meeting in the field.

Inspections Division Associate Director Behdad Kashanian has been part of the DPIE team since the agency’s inception in 2013. As the chief of Inspections, Kashanian supervises 73 employees who review structures in Prince George’s County for compliance with building safety codes and regulations.

“Safety is at the heart of everything we do,” said Kashanian, who has been a Prince George’s County employee since 1987.  His first position was working as a project manager in the Highways and Bridges Division of the former Department of Public Works. In 1990, he switched to the Department of Environmental Resources (DER), the precursor to DPIE. He served as an associate director at DER until he was tapped to head Inspections at DPIE. Kashanian holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s in structural and geotechnical engineering from the University of Maryland.

outline of house with checklist for inspections

Kashanian said his division checks structures for compliance related to building life safety, electrical, mechanical, energy, accessibility and all site/road development activities. On any given day, his inspectors view and evaluate hundreds of projects; 52 inspectors have worked through the current COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information on construction codes, visit the Inspections Division section on the DPIE website.

Complying with Codes Ensures Safer Structures

Associate Director Belluar Ravishankar and Permit Specialist Liliana Escobar assist customers with plans to be code compliant.

Building codes are minimum standards established to confirm structures are safe by addressing all aspects of building construction.

Magnifying glass on building plan

Associate Director Bellur Ravishankar said the plan review and permitting processes at DPIE guarantee that projects comply with code requirements.

“They need to obtain the applicable building and trade permits from DPIE,” said Ravishankar, who oversees DPIE’s Building Plan Review and Permitting and Licensing divisions. “This will ensure proposed construction work is done in compliance with all construction codes.”

For more information, reach out to Building Plan Review at 301-636-2070, Permits at 301-636-2050 or visit DPIE's website.

ICC Building Safety Month 2020 Celebrates “SAFER Buildings, SAFER Communities, SAFER WORLD"

ICC Building Safety Month 2020 Celebrates “SAFER Buildings, SAFER Communities, SAFER WORLD" graphic

(From the International Code Council website)

The theme for the 2020 International Code Council’s Building Safety Month is SAFER Buildings, SAFER Communities, SAFER WORLD. The month-long celebration focuses on four topics:

• Week One: Disaster Preparedness — May 1–10, 2020

Natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency. Advanced planning for devastating events like hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes helps individuals and communities increase the health and safety of their population during a disaster, protects the local tax base, ensures continuity of essential services and supports a faster recovery in the aftermath of a disaster. For more information, visit Disaster Preparedness.

Week Two: Water Safety — May 11–17, 2020

Clean water is the world’s most precious commodity. According to World Health Organization estimates as of June 2019, 785 million people lacked even a basic drinking-water service, including 144 million people who are dependent on surface water. Building, plumbing and green codes help guard it for future generations through proper construction, conservation and safe disposal. For more information, visit Water Safety.

Week Three: Resilience, Sustainability, Innovation — May 18–24, 2020

The building safety industry is on the cutting edge of technology, building science and innovation. From green construction and resiliency to product evaluation, certification and codification, the International Code Council family of solutions is part of this technological transformation to make our buildings safer and our industry more advanced. For more information, visit Resilience, Sustainability, Innovation.

Week Four: Training the Next Generation — May 25–31, 2020

Well-trained, motivated building safety professionals are key to creating and maintaining a successful built environment. Training is important because it helps code officials avoid mistakes and accidents and properly enforce the code. The building safety field encompasses a wide gamut of specialties and offers many excellent career opportunities that contribute to the safety of the built environment. For more information, visit Training the Next Generation.

Building Development Section Offers May Training Series

Business Development Section Training Flyer 1

The Business Development Section (BDS) will post a series of PowerPoint presentations to DPIE's YouTube channel during May. The presentations will help explain the permitting, licensing and inspections processes. The first presentation includes an introduction to the section and its mission. Other topics include: Special Events, Building Permits and Use & Occupancy Permits, and Inspections. For more information and to access the presentations, please see the flyer.

Flyer: Business Development Section Training Series

Video: Introduction to the Business Development Section

DPIE at a Glance

DPIE manages County government operations in the areas of permitting, business licensing, plan review, inspections and construction and property standards enforcement.

DPIE list of divisions in colorful boxes

Make Sure You Are Counted:
Remember to Complete Your Census Form

Take a few minutes to complete the 2020 census ASAP online at My2020census.gov or by phone at 1-844-330-2020.

2020 Census

By law, every 10 years the U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. Your participation determines representation and how billions in federal funds are distributed. If our community is undercounted, friends and neighbors miss out on an estimated $18,250 per person over a 10-year period. Statewide, that’s a total of $26.6 billion over a 10-year period.