Thought Leadership Creating Economic Advantage through Third Party Solutions

Creating Economic Advantage through Third Party Solutions

By: Chris Doyle and Jeff Suderman


Every city and county manager is looking for ways to improve municipal service efficiency in a cost effective manner.  In fact, you likely have annual goals to measure how effectively you undertake initiatives which are market responsive, budget neutral and create economic advantage for your local community.  This article provides a solution for one of these challenges – third-party code compliance plan review.

Engineering, Building Department and Code Enforcement personnel understand the tension and balance between delivering comprehensive permit expediting and plan review while remaining responsive to the developer community.  Limited staff, budget and training resources often restrict a Building Department’s effectiveness in maintaining this balance. 

Similar to how “just-in-time” inventory control has become a competitive advantage for companies like Dell, Ford, Wal-Mart, “just-in-time” third-party plan review delivers similar advantages to local jurisdictions. 

So what does this model look like and how can it help you?

Third-party code compliance enables a local building department to rely on an outside organization to perform code compliance plan review services on behalf of the city. 

Once plans are submitted to the city for permit, the construction documents are forwarded to the third-party provider to begin the review.   Once completed, the comments of the review are sent back to the jurisdiction for final Building Official review and issuance of the construction permit. 

The third-party provider studies local code adoptions, ordinances, and enforcement history to provide plan review services customized to the local jurisdiction.  The third-party provider is reviewing on-behalf of the jurisdiction.     

Staff Support and Diversity of Specialization

Third-party compliance experts often help local governments solve challenges caused by fluctuations in staffing levels and diversity of specialization. By providing back-up support on an as-needed basis they help jurisdictions handle unexpected staff turnover, short or long-term illness, maternity leaves, or heavy vacation periods.  Hiring and training department staff for short-term needs can be an exponential burden because it drains resources of productive staff to solve a short-term problem. 

Additionally, the use of a third party provides a depth of expertise spanning many different review specialties. Quality third-party compliance providers often have a deep roster of highly specialized plans examiners to accommodate any type of development.  Jurisdictions can leverage this diversity of experience and knowledge to responding to specialized projects such as large developments, renewable energy projects, water treatment plants, high-hazard projects (chemical processing), industrial developments, and politically sensitive projects.

Just in Time Service – Right when you need it

The City of Odessa, Texas utilizes a third-party service provider to assist with a wide variety of code compliance needs.  Odessa is undergoing an economic boom due to increased activity in the oil and gas sector. As a result, the city has been challenged to grow staffing levels adequately and meet the dramatic increase in compliance review. Vanessa Shrauner, Odessa’s Development Coordinator explains that, “we were looking for a fast and cost-effective way to solve these challenges. Third-party plan review has become a very effective way to handle our code compliance needs”.

This situation is a common example of why governments hire a third-party to assist with plan review. The average response time by third-party providers is between 4-6 days. As a result of faster assessments, work proceeds on schedule and roadblocks to economic development are removed.

Enhancing Renewable Energy

In many communities across the country, rooftop Solar Photovoltaics has become a local industry boom due to high electricity prices.  As a result, the local building departments are bombarded with permit applications.   Solar in particular has specific code implications that some Building Officials are not familiar with.  The City of Phoenix, AZ as an example, relies on third-party plan reviewers for a majority of the 150 Solar PV permit applications they receive each month. 

For renewable energy businesses, building department delays have become the largest obstacle to growing their businesses.  Having access to a third-party provider means you have direct access, when you need it most, to professionals spanning the complex breadth of code compliance. This helps local governments ensure that they do not hinder the development of renewable energy technologies. It also ensures that established standards are used for safe and effective development.

Win-Win Solution for the Community

By increasing the quality, speed and breadth of reviews, the third-party compliance model increases building compliance accountability and ensures that it is not a barrier to economic development. Ms. Shrauner notes that “Before we adapted this model, we had reviews which were taking between 90 and 120 days and this was not acceptable.  As a result of using IBTS as a third-party compliance provider, we have decreased response times to 30 – 60 days (third-party and internal) amidst an overall increase review volume.  And this has been accomplished with a net-zero cost to our city!”  Furthermore, she believes that the high quality of these reviews is going to reap long-term benefits in city building performance and quality. She notes that, “any developer who has had a third-party review wants to do it again” She adds, “when we make the life of developers easier, our city will reap the economic benefits of their work”.

Greg Blount, Local Government Solutions Manager, oversees building code compliance at IBTS for over 40 jurisdictions and has observed the benefits for local governments. He notes that, “it is exciting to see the success stories which occur as we partner with local governments to solve their plan review challenges. Our ability to scale staffing to handle small or large projects and do so with some of the most knowledgeable code experts in the country creates a win-win situation.”  Ms. Shrauner concurs; “third-party code compliance was a solution that was not on our radar a year ago. Today, it provides our city with significant competitive advantage.”  Multi-million dollar projects are getting off the ground faster which fosters economic development and the ensuing tax benefits.

If your community is looking to achieve similar benefits please contact Chris Doyle at, to learn more about how to procure and contract with a Third-Party Code Compliance Organization.


The Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) is a 501(c)(3) organization that is guided by a Board of Directors made up of representatives from the National League of Cities, the International City/County Managers Association, the Council of State Governments, the National Association of Counties, and the National Governors Association.  IBTS’ mission is to accelerate progress in the built environment by providing the best value in delivery of services, while remaining flexible to adjust to the client’s needs. For more information on third-party plan review services email


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