The building code profession is dying out, and that's a big problem says CityLab contributor Jake Blumgart. According to a 2014 survey conducted by the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Institute of Building Sciences, more than half of building code professionals in the industry are close to retirement.
Eighty-five percent of the respondents to ICC’s survey were over the age of 45. Only three percent were under 35. Most of them were looking to get out of the game in the near future: Eighty percent planned to retire within 15 years, and a full 30 percent within five.
Not only does building inspection serve a clear societal purpose, it’s the type of middle-class job that is in increasingly short supply. Only a high school diploma is needed for an entry-level position as a code official, and the median income is about $57,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But with booming construction, there is plenty of need for inspectors and code experts. So why are their ranks dwindling?
For one thing, it simply isn’t a job that very many people know exists. The profession is relatively small, with the BLS counting 101,200 “construction and building inspectors” in 2014.
The ICC is trying to stave off an inspector shortage. It sponsors a program in technical high schools that teaches students in major construction trades—like electrical, plumbing, and mechanical—how to navigate the code. The program “incorporates a hands-on component to allow students ... to directly apply what they learn in the code book to an actual construction project,” the ICC’s vice president of membership, Ron Piester, writes in an email. The idea is to both improve code compliance and make the pipeline from the trades to codes roles more explicit. The organization has also launched an initiative to improve recruitment and formed an emerging leaders council.