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How Pima Co. Inspectors keep pace with building boom

Doing many inspections without visiting work sites
Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 21:22:03-05

TUCSON, Ariz (KGUN) — When COVID hit, more people staying at home led to a building boom that’s still underway. A lot of those new homes are going up in unincorporated Pima County. That requires plenty of building inspections to keep that work safe. With COVID on top of rising demand, Pima County has leaned into technology to get many of those inspections done without inspectors even going to the job site.

Pima County is full of busy construction sites. Each house will need a series of inspections for the many systems that go into a modern home but Pima County Inspectors do about half of their inspections by video conference with a contractor pointing a smartphone where the inspector needs to see.

It’s a system the county’s been using for eight years to speed up inspections and reduce time spent driving from site to site. It became even more important when COVID discouraged face to face contacts.

Chief building official Daniel Ice says the system does give inspectors a good look at whether something’s built right.

“The inspectors are really good about directing the individual where to put their or to point their phone, and so forth. Depending on what the inspection is, they may ask the contractors to have somebody help them so they can put a tape measure, for example, in a trench just to verify depth.”

Ice says Pima County Inspectors do about 44 hundred inspections per month—between 60 and 90 a day. About half are by video and half are in person.

When COVID hit, the county thought construction might slow down. It paused about a month then went through the roof.

Ice says, “One of the interesting challenges is that a lot more homeowners are doing renovation projects. Snce they couldn't go on vacation and stuff, I'm assuming that they decided to do that. And solar–solar projects have picked up a lot.”

Ice says the video system, combined with programs that help inspectors plot efficient routes between their in-person inspections can help a contractor book an inspection in late afternoon and get it done the next day. He says the county is about to start using new software to tie these systems together more smoothly.