Few people get passionate about permitting—angry perhaps, but not passionate. Fortunately for building officials, developers and building teams, Robert C. Wible does. When it comes to building regulatory reform, the consultant from Reston, Va., is a cross between an evangelist and a traveling salesman.
He has preached his streamlining-permitting sermon for some 30 years, gathering converts to his cause. And like a salesman, he jets around, lugging a suitcase full of sample permitting “tools” in an attempt to get code administrators and politicians to buy into both regulatory reform and the digital age of permitting and plan approval.
It’s been a bumpy flight, full of pockets of resistance from entrenched conservative bureaucracies suspicious of change. Wible says he often finds himself combatting the misguided conception that streamlining permitting in some way compromises public safety.
But there has been much progress. A recent small victory for Wible and his cohorts was the Sept. 15 publication of the International Code Council’s ICC G1-2010 Guideline for Replicable Buildings. The 12- page document is a road map for bundling code-compliance review for projects that include multiple lookalike buildings, such as chain stores. A few trial runs with Target Corp. show that the cross-jurisdictional review approach can shrink permitting time.
Wible, also the project manager for the Alliance for Building Regulatory Reform in the Digital Age at FIATECH (www.natlpartnerstreamline.org), a nonprofit industry consortium, currently is assembling and disseminating materials that building departments can use to adopt and implement the ICC guideline.
The man some call Mr. Streamlining is also on a campaign with groups—such as the American Institute of Architects—to get more states to recognize digital seals on electronic building plans. Further, he is on an even more arduous trek, working with ICC and others to speed the adoption and use of electronic plan-review technology and bring building information modeling into the regulatory process.
“Bob’s greatest achievements center on his vision and persistence in providing the clarion call for the public sector to adopt information technology as a means to help solve myriad problems,” says Ronald Loback, president and CEO of Avolve Software Corp., Scottsdale, which develops electronic plan-check tools. “His efforts are tireless, and he has worked hard to find, shape and elevate best practices and the tools that support them,” adds Loback, who has served with Wible on several industry committees.
Despite the progress he has made, Wible is somewhat frustrated by the slow pace of regulatory reform. “This isn’t about regulatory abandonment or arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” he says. “At the heart of regulatory streamlining and applying information technology to plan review are public safety and the economic viability and sustainability of this nation.”
Wible’s message keeps getting through to more U.S. code officials. It has also been heard in Lebanon and Kenya. Now that the seeds he has sown are taking root, perhaps the evangelist cum salesman should be called the Johnny Appleseed of regulatory reform.