For the past six years, Jon Vogel, owner of New Outlooks Construction, Robbinsville, N.J., has held his inspectors license, and for two years he was a part-time building inspector. “Getting your license and being a code official helps you understand the other side of the business,” says Vogel, who started the licensure process by taking code courses at a local community college. He now has a Residential and Small Commercial (RCS) license and an Industrial and Commercial (ICS) license, and he is a member of the Central Jersey Code Officials Association and the Building Officials Association of New Jersey.

To get his licenses — completing the educational programs for the licenses each took about a year — Vogel took multiple courses in topics such as engineering lumber in residential construction, framing checklists and inspections, means of egress, and overviews of international codes and the Council of American Building Officials (CABO) Model Energy Code. To maintain his licenses he must take a certain number of continuing education units offered by the state; renewal is every three years.

Rubbing elbows with building officials has created a new web of social and professional contacts and has given Vogel input on local building issues. For example, he recently met with other inspectors in his township to discuss ways to improve the permitting process, which had become bogged down. “On every set of plans you issue, code officials do a plan review,” Vogel says. This gets faxed or mailed to the remodeler along with a comment card describing what's missing or what additional items might be needed.

Vogel gave officials a list of his company's finished projects, and they gave him his old comment cards so he could tally up the information on them. Although these were items that had been taken care of during the building process, knowing about them before going through the review process may have saved Vogel time and money. With the information, Vogel has been able to create a more thorough checklist to use before a project begins, and the officials are creating a similar checklist for other builders to use. “There's benefit in the code knowledge alone,” Vogel says. “But if you join the association, it's even better.”