National Conference of States on Building Codes &
505 Huntmar Park Drive, Suite 210, Herndon, VA 20170
SUMMARY REPORT ON RESULTS
ON ELECTRONIC PLANS SUBMITTALS, TRACKING,
REVIEW, RETRIEVAL AND STORAGE
The American Institute of Architects
National Conference of States on Building Codes &
June 8, 2004
SUMMARY REPORT ON RESULTS OF THE
ALLIANCE/NCSBCS/AIA SURVEY ON ELECTRONIC PLANS SUBMITTALS, TRACKING, REVIEW,
RETRIEVAL AND STORAGE - MAY 2004
Enabling communities to provide effective and efficient oversight of the
design and construction of buildings is of major importance to both the health
and life safety of the public and to the economic competitiveness of the nation
in the global economy.
The Alliance for Building Regulatory Affairs in the Digital Age, a 44 member
private/public partnership, was formed in the summer of 2001 to identify actions
that can be taken to streamline the nationís building regulatory process by
making greater use of information technology. The Alliance adopted as its
mission statement: "enhancing public safety and the nationís economic
competitiveness by enabling the nationís construction industry to build
faster, better, safer, and at less cost."
In support of that mission, over the past three years the Alliance has
developed model streamlining processes, procurement requirements, and
information systems that state and local governments can use to increase their
effective use of information technology in their regulation of the construction
process. This includes materials to support online permit processing, plans
submittal and tracking, field inspection and enforcement.
In the winter of 2003-2004, Alliance partner, the American Institute of
Architects, identified the need to assess the current status of state and local
government use of hardware and software for the submittal online of construction
plans and the electronic review, tracking and storage of those plans. To that
end, AIA commissioned the Alliance, through its secretariat, National Conference
of States on Building Codes and Standards (NCSBCS), to survey state and local
governments as to their acceptance and use of plans submitted over the Internet
or on CD-ROM.
Making use of the services of an outside e-survey firm, NCSBCS drafted and
posted on a website in early May 2004, a survey tool and compiled input from
state and local governments on this issue. One hundred and twenty state and
local building regulatory agencies in 33 states completed the survey. The
surveyed jurisdictions included the regulatory agencies of 17 different state
governments and 26 major cities.
The following report summarizes the survey results and identifies possible
next steps for the Alliance based upon the input received from the responding
states and localities. Attached to the end of the summary is a copy of the
survey with the response totals for each question that was asked.
SUMMARY OF ALLIANCE/NCSBCS/AIA SURVEY FINDINGS
- Electronic plans submittal, tracking and plan reviews are in their
infancy. (Only 16 jurisdictions out of 120 responding to the survey are
using such systems.)
- A significant number of jurisdictions are exploring e-plans submittal and
considering putting such programs in place over the next 1 to 2 years (49).
- A diverse array of software and hardware programs are being used,
including a large number of in-house programs developed and deployed by
state and local governments.
- There are a significant number of barriers to wider use of online plans
submittal, tracking and review hardware and software including a lack of:
5. Jurisdictions making use of such hardware and
software have identified the need for these
- laws allowing electronic seals of plans;
- uniformity in the nationís construction codes; and
- lack of interoperability among the hardware and software currently
available in the marketplace.
information technology tools to
be interoperable and for there to be adequately-sized
monitors on which to review the
6. There are significant benefits in savings of time
and reduction in errors and unnecessary
duplication of effort from
online plans submittal, tracking and review programs.
Summary of Responses to Questions
Part 1: Accepting Plans Electronically
1. Does your jurisdiction currently accept plans electronically over
Out of 120 jurisdictions responding to the survey, only 16 currently accept
plans electronically over the Internet. The 16 jurisdictions are: Tucson &
Phoenix, AZ; Sunnyvale, CA; Los Angeles, CA; State of California Division of the
State Architect; State of Florida; Indianapolis, IN; State of Indiana; Lenexa,
KS; Village of Boys Town, NE; New York City, NY; Charlotte, NC; State of Ohio;
Kettering, OH; Medford, OR; Knox County, TN; Suffolk, VA.
1a. Hardware used?
The majority of the 16 jurisdictions are using AutoCAD/Autodesk hardware.
1b. Software used?
A wide array of software from Accela to Voloview and homegrown packages.
1c. For which types of construction are electronic plans accepted?
Most of the 16 jurisdictions accept plans for all types of construction.
1d. When do you expect to start accepting electronic plans?
- 6 jurisdictions expect to start accepting plans electronically in the next
- 10 jurisdictions expect to start accepting plans electronically in the
next 6 months to 1 year;
- 33 jurisdictions expect to accept such plans in the next 1 to 2 years; and
- 6 jurisdictions expect to accept such plans in the next 2 or more years.
2. Jurisdictions currently accepting plans on CD-ROM?
Thirteen (13) jurisdictions (includes most of the above 16) accept plans
electronically via CD-ROM.
2a. Format requirements?
The most common CD-ROM format accepted is Pdf files.
3. Storage of plans on CD-ROM?
1. Do you use electronic processing and tracking?
Eight (8) jurisdictions store plans on CD-ROM.
Part 2: Jurisdiction Use of Electronic Plans
Seventy-three (73) jurisdictions out of 120 indicated they use software
packages to electronically process building permits, plans, and plans tracking.
1a. Software used was identified as follows:
- 22 were in-house developed packages;
- 24 were Accela-based packages;
- 4 were Hansen-based packages;
- 2 packages each were products of: Black Bear, Computronix, Trackit, PTWin,
PermitIT, HTE, Cityview, and Cornerstone; and
2. Standard operating procedures for plans that are electronically
- other packages were identified but only one each by remaining
building departments were:
17 jurisdictions print them out;
- 11 jurisdictions transfer them to archive only; and
- 15 jurisdictions transfer them electronically to other agencies as
- 7 fire
- 2 health department
- 3 environmental department
- 10 zoning/land use
- 2 historic preservation
- 3 public works department
- 2 utility department
- 3 engineering office
3. Are plans reviewed online and red marked and exchanged directly with
- 19 jurisdictions review the plans electronically.
Ten (10) of the above 73 jurisdictions said that they did online plan reviews
with red markup with reviewed plans being exchanged back to the
4. Code and software packages used?
Out of the 10 jurisdictions that do online mark-up plan reviews and exchanges
with the A/E firms, the codes and software packages used for those reviews are
- 8 do building code reviews (virtually all on CD-ROM) to the 2000 IBC
- 5 do model energy code reviews using CABO MEC and MECHECK and COMCHECK
- 8 do National Electrical Code reviews (1999, 2000 & 2002 NEC)
- 8 do plumbing code reviews (2001 International Plumbing Code)
- 6 do residential code reviews to the 2001 IRC
3b. What are major barriers?
The jurisdictions not doing online plan reviews cited the following as the
major barriers to doing such reviews:
- 42 lack of electronic seals laws
- 63 lack of funding to establish such a program
- 54 lack of adequate software packages to conduct electronic plan reviews
- 57 lack of demand for electronic reviews by architects/engineers/owners
- 51 lack of staff training in online plan reviews
- 67 lack of adequately sized computer screens to conduct such reviews
- 53 lack of interoperable hardware/software so multiple systems could be
- 23 cited other barriers that include:
- Lack of a single cohesive family of construction codes for jurisdictions
to adopt and enforce in the U. S.
- Insufficient coordination within their building department to establish
such a program.
- Fact that such a program at this time is not a high enough priority.
Part 3: Barriers to Establishing Electronic Plans Submittal Programs
1. Problems encountered in receiving plans electronically?
Among all of the jurisdictions answering the survey, the following items were
identified as the problems encountered in either receiving or trying to receive
- 14 identified problems of incompatibility of hardware being used by A/E
firms and the jurisdiction.
- 31 identified problems of incompatibility of the software being used by
the A/E firms and the jurisdiction.
- 15 identified problems with skill/level of training of personnel at A/E
- 28 identified problems with skill/level of training of jurisdictionís
- 17 identified problems with storage of plans.
- 42 identified other problems including:
- no demand from design community
- state not allowing electronic seals on plans
- technology too difficult for customers and jurisdiction employees
- 6 jurisdictions had no problems with receiving plans electronically
2. Resolution of these problems?
Most noted that they did not resolve the problems and, therefore, did not
accept plans electronically. Of those that did resolve the problems, they noted
the following actions were taken:
- 13 identified incompatibility and resolved by changing the software.
- 2 identified incompatibility and changed hardware.
- 8 resolved by training employees of A/E firm or jurisdiction (or both).
- 1 worked with IT firm to resolve a storage/retrieval problem.
- 35 identified "other" resolutions including:
- 16 still trying to resolve; and
- detailed research into nature of problem resolved issue as minor
3. Is there a need for interoperability?
Thirty-two (32) jurisdictions said that there was a need for electronic plan
submittals and review packages to be interoperable.
Of these 32 jurisdictions, the most common benefits of interoperability cited
- 5 Need to reduce the cost of hardware/software to jurisdictions.
- 6 Need to expedite plan review process.
- 2 Need to end confusion of multiple versions of plans circulating in a
jurisdiction for review.
- 2 Need to share information with other agencies with speed and accuracy.
- 2 Need to standardize construction regulations.
Fourteen (14) jurisdictions indicated there was no need for interoperability.
Fifty-three (53) jurisdictions indicated they did not know if there was such
4. Recommendations for needed improvements?
When asked for recommendations for needed improvements in the
hardware/software being used for electronic plans submittals that would expedite
greater use of this technology:
- 4 jurisdictions identified larger screen monitors;
- 4 identified the need for common interoperability standards (XML
- 6 identified need to resolve problems/conflict among code groups so
nation could have single cohesive family of construction codes from which
useable plan review software could be generated; and
- 4 identify security problems and resolve them.
Part 4: Commercially-Available Off-the-Shelf Solutions (GAP
Analysis for 9 Different Regulatory Functions)
1. Has a GAP analysis been conducted?
Twenty-two (22) jurisdictions out of 120 have done a GAP analysis of existing
off-the-shelf computer hardware/software technology to serve their departmentís
information technology needs.
Out of those 22 jurisdictions:
- 10 were willing to share their analysis with the Alliance.
- 18 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of online permit processing
- 20 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of permit tracking software.
- 11 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of plans submittal software.
- 12 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of plan review software.
- 18 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of field inspection
- 10 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of complaint handling software.
- 11 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of licensing software.
- 16 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of violations/enforcement
- 4 jurisdictions had done GAP analysis of other hardware/software for
Share Experiences with Online Plan Submittals with Others
Thirty-eight (38) of the 120 jurisdictions surveyed said that they were
prepared to share their experiences with other jurisdictions by being listed on
the Allianceís website.
Possible Next Steps for Alliance Partners Ė Needs Identified by Survey
Based upon the above results, the Alliance may consider taking the following
- Consider forming a work group comprised of Alliance partners and
representatives from the hardware and software community, construction
industry, and federal, state and local government to address the barriers
identified by the survey as limiting state and local governmentsí use of
online plans submittal, tracking and review.
- Follow-up with jurisdictions completing the survey on successful
strategies for adopting and using hardware and software for online plans
submittal, tracking and plans approval.
- Gain permission of jurisdictions using such hardware and software to be
included in the Allianceís listing of jurisdictions willing to share their
expertise with others who are considering the use of information technology
in their building regulatory processes.
- Share survey results with hardware/software industry and encourage them to
work with the Information Technology Industry Advisory Subcommittee as they
develop tools to enable hardware and software to be interoperable.
- Share survey results with AIA members to make them aware of benefits of
and how to promote the acceptance and use of online plans submittal,
tracking and plan review programs by state and local governments.
- Provide a report on the results of this survey at the Allianceís
proposed second Summit on Streamlining the Nationís Building Regulatory
Process Through Interoperability and at the Fourth National Forum on
Building Smarter in the Digital Age (September 30, 2004, in Salt Lake City,
UT, in conjunction with the annual meetings of NCSBCS/AMCBO and the
International Code Council).