Enforcement Gaps and Opportunities

Processes and Roles in the Existing Commercial Building Renovation Process


Design Development
Final Inspection and Occupancy
  • Looks at potential projects and budgets
  • Interactions with architects or the owner’s design team to configure scope of work and approved the project
  • Tracks the budget and interacts with architects and contractors
  • Usually not involved
  • Usually not involved directly unless they have an in-house construction management company, but does interact with architects, contractors, vendors, and consultants to stay abreast of the project’s progress
  • Conducts surveys and keeps track of building performance
  • Defines project program, analyzes code and in some cases sets target energy goals
  • Interacts with owner, design team, and consultants
  • Develops schematic designs, making decisions on cost, scale, etc.
  • Interacts closely with consultants and engineers
  • Puts together documents for permitting as needed
  • In some cases, explains code-related issues to the client
  • Interacts with contractor and sometimes code official for permitting purposes
  • Construction administration, reviews submittals, work progress and sire walkthroughs, RFIs, change orders, review and request for payment, etc.
  • Sometimes does mock-up model and keeps track of energy model
  • Interacts with client, contractors, and consultants
  • Interacts with the owner to a lesser degree
  • Conducts final punch listing and inspections
  • Acts as a sub-contractor to the architect
  • Provides code reports in rare cases, outlines project requirements, does preliminary energy modeling and space planning
  • Assists architect with the basis of the design document, construction/contract documents, modeling, space requirements, cost estimates, and code requirements
  • Usually not involved
  • Interacts with the architects and contractors, performing site walkthroughs, seminar reviews, and some commissioning
  • Usually not involved
  • Creates feasibility studies and ball park estimates for work to be performed
  • Organizes building walkthroughs and interaction with the owner and architects
  • Involves estimations, value engineering, and life cycle costing through some interaction with the owners, architects, engineers, and consultants
  • Responsible for construction permits
  • Interacts with code officials
  • Performs construction as specified by drawings
  • Has frequent interactions with architects, consultants, and engineers
  • Interacts with the owner and sometimes trains the owner’s staff to operate the building
  • Does some final punch listings
Code Official
  • Usually not involved
  • Usually not involved
  • Reviews building plans, fire suppression, mechanical systems, and other code provisions specific to building plans
  • Some interaction with architects and/or engineers and consultants
  • Energy codes are reviewed by the engineer or building official who reviews building permits; must be ICC and state-certified
  • Reviews COMcheck, construction checklist, and energy conservation provisions
  • Interacts with contractors and construction managers
  • Does energy and visual inspection; ensures compliance and issues certificate of occupancy accordingly (or temporary occupancy if building is not completely finished)
  • Interacts with contractors and site managers; does inspections until project meets all necessary code provisions


Many local building departments lack the staff and resources to effectively perform all of the code enforcement duties. COMcheck exists as a “deemed-to-comply” tool that needs to be reviewed and approved by a code official, but the results are often accepted without considerable review. Many of the current local building officials find the energy code certification to be expensive, time-consuming, and difficult to pass, especially for long-tenured staff. The permit information available for existing buildings is inconsistent because different building departments may use different systems to store documentation. This leads to inefficiencies and redundancies, particularly in existing buildings projects. Improper integration of third party enforcement agencies can lead to inconsistencies. With the end of recovery act funding – and due to a shortage of funding in general – there is reduced staff size, less energy code training being offered, and difficulty in hiring third party energy code inspectors. Information on energy code enforcement resources and procedures is not made as available by municipalities as information on other building codes.


Code officials could benefit from enhanced training for tools like COMcheck to help them better understand the limitations of the software and from resources that help them identify common errors. By actively seeking out federal funding opportunities, municipalities and advocacy groups could potentially support these training programs. Municipalities could partner with local colleges and/or technical schools to establish building technology and energy code compliance and certification courses. Organizations like the Building Performance Institute (BPI) have already established their certification courses in community colleges and other institutions. By following a similar path, municipalities could attract younger members of the workforce. A state mandate calling for a building permit documentation system to be used across jurisdictions would help local building departments and building industry professionals to better utilize the vast amount of information that is available. An improved documentation system would help local building departments to work more efficiently. It would also provide the design and construction communities with the information needed to apply the energy code more effectively in existing buildings. Guidelines established by municipalities could guide greater coordination between third party agencies and local jurisdictions during the review and inspection phases. Third party agencies can be very useful for jurisdictions with limited resources. State and local governments need to be creative in their fundraising and the pursuit of funding opportunities. Though the statewide funds of ARRA are no longer available, municipalities can still seek smaller-scale funding opportunities to assist in their compliance efforts. Municipalities typically possess information on compliance (for both new construction and renovations) and tools like COMcheck, which can be made more visible and accessible to relevant parties. The promotion of these resources on municipal websites could serve to raise awareness, better inform the building community, and reduce inquiries for the staff.