THE ALLIANCE FOR BUILDING REGULATORY REFORM IN THE DIGITIAL AGE AND THE PROPOSED NEW NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP TO STREAMLINE GOVERNMENT

 

A Public-Private Partnership to Enhance Government Effectiveness,

Efficiency and Resilience in the Oversight of Construction

 

 

The transmittal letter to this fourth in a series of annual CD-ROM reports to the nation’s Governors, Mayors, County Administrators and Information Technology Officers notes that, during the winter of 2005-2006, the members of the Alliance for Building Regulatory Reform in the Digital Age began a process of reassessing the structure and scope of their five-year old streamlining initiative.

 

This paper provides both an update report on the Alliance’s activities in 2005 and 2006 and further details on the above effort and introduces the proposed new National Partnership to Streamline Government and its draft Vision and Mission to enhance the nation’s public safety, economic competitiveness and disaster resilience through regulatory streamlining and effective uses of information technology in the building regulatory and zoning processes.

 

Background to the Alliance and Proposed New National Partnership

 

In 1996 a series of meetings among concerned national organizations representing the building codes and public safety community, the nation’s construction industry and federal, state and local governments established a national project to STREAMLINE THE NATION’S BUILDING REGULATORY PROCESS. With funding from federal agencies, including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, over a five year period participants in the project reviewed over 400 building codes administration and enforcement practices from across the nation and established a national database of best practices and models for state and local governments to review and consider implementing.

 

In May 2001, led by the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards in coordination with previous streamlining partners that included the National Governors Association, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Association of Counties, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U. S. Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology, American Institute of Architects, and the National Association of Home Builders, a national forum was held in Arlington, Virginia, to consider ways of enhancing regulatory effectiveness and efficiency through greater use of information technology (I.T) in the building regulatory process. The two-day program identified barriers to more effective use of I.T. and put forth a proposed Action Agenda to address those barriers.

 

Outcome from that conference led to the establishment in July 2001 of the ALLIANCE FOR BUILDING REGULATORY REFORM IN THE DIGITAL AGE as an informal public/private partnership comprised of the above organizations and 35 other associations, government agencies and colleges and universities committed to work together to implement the Action Agenda.

 

With funds from Alliance partners, including federal agencies and the secretariat services support of the National Conference of States on Building Codes and Standards, over a five year period the Alliance developed a series of products and materials (a number of which are included on this CD-ROM) to aid state and local governments in identifying regulatory barriers and applying, where appropriate, information technology to their codes administration and enforcement processes. Among those products and materials are:

 

 

                                 

 

 

 

 

Alliance Activities in 2005 and 2006

 

In early 2005, the Alliance produced several national surveys documenting the costs/benefits of applying information technology to the building regulatory process and expanding earlier work on interoperability of software used by building departments. In addition, work was begun under funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a streamlining guide for state and local governments.

 

The catastrophic 2005 hurricane season in the Gulf Region brought a number of Alliance partners and its Secretary together to discuss the effectiveness of the existing Alliance structure and scope to address unmet streamlining needs in the nation. In those discussions the following needs were identified.

 

The Need for a Restructured Streamlining Initiative:

 

The events of 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma and experiences with major fire and seismic disasters have demonstrated that the three largest impediments to the rapid reconstruction of a community, state or region after a major man-made or natural disaster are:

 

  1. Resources, both manpower and funding,

 

  1. Access to the disaster site(s) and knowledge of the impacted infrastructure (including the codes and standards under which buildings were originally constructed), and

 

  1. Identification and reduction of regulatory and administrative impediments (red tape) to rapid reconstruction without adversely impacting the quality of construction and protection of the community from the next disaster event.

 

 

The Congress, the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and their counterparts in state and local government have spent considerable time in the aftermath of 9/11 and Katrina working to address the first two impediments--Resources and Access.

 

Thus far, however, there has been almost no coordinated activity to address the third-- identifying and streamlining of regulatory and administrative barriers to rapid rebuilding of safe, affordable, disaster resistant structures (housing, schools, hospitals, businesses, hotels, government buildings, industrial facilities).

 

Over the past ten years, the Streamlining the Nation’s Building Regulatory Process project and the Alliance for Building Regulatory Reform in the Digital Age identified and shared government best practices and information about innovative processes and technologies used in the oversight of building design, construction and regulation. Among such practices are those that have reduced the regulatory cost of construction by 60%, enabled communities to handle an 88% increase in construction volume with less than a 2% increase in codes administration and enforcement staff, enabled builders in disaster areas to file for building permits and call for inspections online, and enabled building departments to have adequate staff and technology for disaster response and recovery.

 

In the wake of the 2005 hurricanes, discussions among streamlining partners noted that their previous efforts unfortunately had been slow and sporadic. They lacked a centralized and well coordinated structure for the public and private sectors to work with federal, state and local governments to not only more widely disseminate best practices, but to take steps prior to a disaster to systematically identify and act to eliminate or reduce overlapping, duplicative or inefficient regulatory and administrative statutes, processes, rules and regulations. This is not about regulatory abandonment. It is instead about assisting our communities to act ahead of disasters to enable both government and the construction industry to function more effectively and efficiently thereby speeding the process and assuring the quality of reconstruction.

 

Katrina demonstrated the urgency in having such a program in place not only to speed reconstruction in the Gulf ahead of the upcoming hurricane season, but in advance of large scale disasters that may strike anywhere in this nation.

 

The outcome of these discussions was the commitment by 38 of the Alliance’s 45 partners to explore an expanded scope and new structure for their work. On March 20, 2006, the American Institute of Architects hosted a meeting of Alliance partners to consider that possible broader scope and new structure for their streamlining efforts, under a tentative new name, the National Partnership to Streamline Government, a Public-Private Partnership to Improve Government Effectiveness, Efficiency and Resilience.

 

The outcome of the March 2006 meeting was a decision to move this restructuring effort forward. A Streamlining Work Group was formed at the end of that session to draft a Five Year Vision and Mission Statement for such an initiative and outline the contents of a proposed high level national streamlining conference to be held in Washington, D.C., in the fall/winter of 2006 to take further steps to provide a formal framework for fulfilling the groups proposed new scope, vision, and mission.

 

Participating in the above meeting and either joining or taking steps to join the expanded Alliance/National Partnership were the Urban Land Institute, Habitat for Humanity and the American Planning Association. Secretariat services to the Alliance and to the new proposed structure is being provided by former NCSBCS Executive Director, Robert Wible, who left the Conference to support this new expanded streamlining initiative.

 

In addition to planning out the above national conference and new vision, mission and scope for the Alliance, during 2006 Alliance members with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U. S. Department of Energy/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Hansen Information Technology Industries undertook several projects including:

 


 

 

 

 

The remainder of this paper outlines that Vision and Mission for the Governors, Mayors and County Administrators consideration and support. Additional background materials on both the Alliance and the proposed new National Partnership, including a copy of this CD-ROM report, are being posted to a new streamlining website for the partnership -- www.natlpartnerstreamline.org.

 

That site will include detailed information on the proposed National Streamlining Conference that is also described on this CD-ROM.

 

A list of Alliance partners in 2005 and in 2006 is provided on this CD-ROM.

 

 

Proposed Partnership’s Five-Year Vision Statement:

The Proposed Accomplishments of the National Streamlining Initiative by July 2011

 

Problem Statement:

 

In the United States today, regulations governing the design and construction of buildings contribute up to 20% of the cost of construction. Where they are effectively and efficiently enforced, building codes and standards can assure adequate public safety and stimulate economic development in our nation.

 

Where they are not:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further complicating matters is the fact that the regulation of the design and construction of buildings is carried out by approximately 40,000 different jurisdictions, most of which operate using processes and administrative procedures little changed in over 50 years and enforce literally thousands of variations in the content of their construction codes.


The National Partnership’s Proposed Vision Statement in Five Years Time:

 

Losses of property and life from manmade natural disasters will be reduced through an increase in the number of jurisdictions adopting and enforcing building codes with disaster mitigation provisions. The nation will annually save over $30 billion in unnecessary construction costs. Public safety, infrastructure, technological innovation, and disaster resilience will be increased. All of this can be done through regulatory streamlining that identifies and eliminates areas of overlap, duplication, conflict and inefficiency in the building and land use regulatory processes.

 

Streamlining is the MORE effective and efficient enforcement of statutes, rules, regulations, processes, and procedures adopted by all levels of government. Streamlining is NOT regulatory abandonment.

 

Draft Mission Statement:

 

By 2011, working together the public and private sector partners of this national streamlining initiative will:

 

Strengthen national disaster resilience and economic competitiveness of the United States by identifying best practices and facilitating their implementation to streamline the building and land use regulatory processes to deliver services that make construction safer, more predictable, timely, and less costly through the identification and elimination of areas of regulatory overlap, duplication and the use of integrated technologies, processes and procedures. Streamlining will:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposed Specific Accomplishments of the Streamlining Initiative by July 2006 (to bring about the following changes in the nation’s building regulatory, zoning and land use systems):

 

In Day-to-Day Operations:


1. Make the System Predictable and Timely

 

 

 

 

- Reduce the amount of time in regulatory process by 40-60%.

- Reduce banking costs of carrying the project through regulatory delays.

 

- Reduce/eliminate building regulatory system caused delays in “time to market” for

products and services produced within that community.

 

- Identify and reduce or eliminate conflicting federal/state/local statutes, rules,

regulations processes and procedures that add confusion, delay and cost to

construction.


2. Provide Effective Interface with Construction Industry, Design, Products and Technology

 

 

 

3. Improve Public Safety Through More Effective and Efficient Enforcement of Codes and

Standards

 


4. Achieve Better Integration of Data with Zoning and Land Use

 

 

 

In Disaster Mitigation, Response, Recovery Support Regional Disaster Resilience By:

 

1. Facilitating the Production of More Disaster Resistant Buildings

 

 

 

2. Supporting Adequate Building Department Staffing, Training and Access During and After Disaster to (both Public and Private Sector) Trained Prequalified/Precertified Staff from Outside the Region by:


 

3. Increasing Effective Use of Manpower and I.T. Together to Speed:

 

 

- issuance of permits

- plan reviews and tracking

- conducting of inspections

- issuance of certificates of occupancy

 

4. Eliminating/Reducing Prior To Disasters Those   Regulatory Conflicts that Impede Response

and Recovery

 

 

(A reduction of overlap and conflict can save minimum of 3 to 6 months off of the recovery process, getting housing and businesses open faster.)

 

Composition of a National Partnership

 

The proposed National Partnership is considering several structures, including establishing in 2007 a national non-profit public-private sector association that enables all parties to come together and identify and work on actions that reduce areas of regulatory overlap, duplication and inefficiency. Other possible structures include a continued loose confederation of groups with a national secretariatship or a foundation.

 

The objective, however, is to have membership open to both the public and private sector, including governmental agencies, national associations, academic institutions, private sector firms and citizens sharing common concern with the need to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of government and the nation’s construction community.

 

Next Steps for the Alliance Transformation into The National Partnership

 

The next steps for this initiative are continued work sessions for the Streamlining Work Group, discussions with previous Alliance members about joining their colleagues from 38 of the original Alliance members in this expanded vision, and meeting with interested public and private sector associations and firms to gain their input to and support for the above Vision and Mission.

 

The Alliance/National Partnership’s Streamlining Work Group which developed the above 5 year Vision and Mission statement will continue to take in comments from members on those statements and will finalize plans and announce details in late summer for the high level national streamlining conference that will be held in Washington, D.C., in the November 2006 to January 2007 timeframe.

 

Governors, Mayors or County Administrators interested in having a representative participate in that meeting should contact the Alliance/National Partner Secretary, Robert Wible, at 703-568-2323 or through the website listed below.

 

In addition to the above conference, through the work of the Secretary and several Alliance/National Partners, during the remainder of 2006 more streamlining materials for state and local governments, including the guides already mentioned in this report, will be produced and distributed. These and other materials will be posted to the new website for Alliance/National Partnership.

 

 

FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION ON THIS INITIATIVE AND ADDITIONAL STREAMLINING MATERIALS, VISIT THE NEW ALLIANCE/NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP WEBSITE: www.natlpartnerstreamline.org or contact the Alliance/Partnership Secretary, Robert Wible, at 703-568-2323 or rcwible@comcast.net.