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The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the implementation of remote virtual inspections for many building departments, and many officials have indicated that their agencies will probably continue to use remote inspections even after social distancing rules ease up. 

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Using common, inexpensive communication tools like Facetime, Skype and drones, inspectors report that most inspections that can be done visually in person can be done remotely. 

According to the International Code Council (ICC), however, approximately 60% of building departments surveyed said they did not yet have the capacity to perform remote inspections. A new publication from the council provides best practices that inspectors can use to accelerate the adoption of these types of offsite inspections during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Practices for Remote Virtual Inspections (RVI),” is the first standardized program that offers advice on how to conduct these types of off-premises inspections. While the guidance is aimed at inspection professionals, contractors should also take note as some of the same procedural steps the ICC outlines in the new document could be adopted for in-house use if project managers or other supervisors need to check progress on a job from the office or another remote location.

The ICC has a partial list of the kind of inspections that would fit well with an RVI program, and some of them are:

  • Plumbing repairs and rough-in.
  • Re-roofs or new roof installations.
  • Swimming pool excavations
  • Exterior repairs and upgrades.

Tips for a successful remote inspection include:

  • Ensuring all electronic devices to be used during the inspection are fully charged and that whoever is using the device at the location has a battery pack available.
  • Verifying that the jobsite has either high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity or a minimum of 4G cell service with a strong signal.
  • Making sure onsite personnel has the necessary physical tools — e.g. flashlight, tape measure and selfie pole to access elevated areas — to conduct inspections.
  • Ensuring good lighting and clear the areas to be inspected of clutter.
  • Making sure the lens portion of each device is clean to get clear shots of the work.

During an RVI inspection, contractors should follow all of the inspector’s instructions and make sure that whoever is on the jobsite to facilitate the inspection is trained to use the required mobile devices and is familiar with the work being inspected. 

The ICC’s guidance on RVIs is meant to support and work with the existing regulations and standards of each authority having jurisdiction, not replace them or create new ones. It notes that even after implementing a robust RVI program, authorities must be prepared to conduct in-person inspections, led by either staff or qualified customers, if the project’s location, complexity, lack of proper jobsite environment or lack of access to the necessary technology prevents an RVI.

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