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Inside Innovation: Building officials in Ontario and B.C. lead drive to e-permitting

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: Building officials in Ontario and B.C. lead drive to e-permitting

The professional associations representing building officials in Ontario and British Columbia have each recently announced agreements to partner with Cloudpermit, a global e-permitting technology company based in Finland.

The Ontario Building Officials Association (OBOA) and the Building Officials Association of British Columbia (BOABC) will be encouraging members of their non-profit organizations to consider digitizing their permitting processes using the Cloudpermit platform.

It should be no surprise that Ontario and B.C. are ahead of the curve on the matter of e-permitting, given the similar directions each province is taking with their respective building codes.

The ongoing national dialogue between provincial organizations through the Alliance of Canadian Building Officials Association may, in fact, result in others following suit.

“We are all heading in the same direction on many issues and collaborating on a lot of things,” OBOA chief administrative officer Aubrey Leblanc said.

Cloudpermit opened operations in Canada three years ago but had caught the attention of the OBOA several years before, Leblanc said.

“They are known to be a world innovator, especially in the area of cloud-based solutions, and for being very good at what they do. Cloudpermit approached the Canadian market in a smart way. They understand the full system and the required changes to processes.”

The company claims its technology can reduce permitting process time by up to 50 per cent by replacing emails, multiple phone inquiries and the scan-copy-transfer-archiving of paper forms with standardized cloud-based data sets.

BOABC chief administrative officer Manjit Sohi said the organization recognized that Cloudpermit’s products and services would save valuable building community resources by enabling an efficient virtual workspace for building permits, thereby speeding up permit submissions and the flow of information.

This in turn would “establish more business opportunities,” he said. “The building officials’ work impacts consumers and citizens.”

Cloudpermit’s software replaces paper-based processes throughout the entire permitting and inspection process, and includes the possibility to manage, request and document inspections. This information can be centralized and made available to all, 24/7 from any location.

Small and medium sized municipalities are likely to be the first to recognize the benefits of using the Cloudpermit system, North American VP Jarkko Turtiainen said in an interview. “They can get on board and change their processes quickly.”

That’s something the BOABC sees as an opportunity — reorganizing how officials work, particularly in municipalities where work is still done manually.

The OBOA agrees. The 400 small-to-medium sized municipalities represented by the OBOA need e-permitting the most.

“They are a bit up against the wall because they are either smaller or unable to pull off some of these innovations on their own,” Leblanc explained.

Providing end-to-end data sharing among various authorities including conservation and transportation, and across different municipalities is important, he said, and will result in more bilateral collaboration between all parties.

“It’s a main driver for the e-permitting initiative. Every municipality has its own accountability, but we all have to meet provincial guidelines under the building code regarding how quickly we issue building permits. At a collective level, a number of enterprises and entities care about the big picture too. For example, MPAC, Terranet and CMHC care a lot about the consistency of data.”

Shared data also helps builders.

“Builders care about the portability of their information,” continued Leblanc. “If they are filing an application with Municipality A and they are building to the same design next door in Municipality B, the ability to have the information bounced over from one to the other has a lot of appeal.”

E-permitting is a key part of One Ontario, a new, collaborative research and development initiative, engaging all levels of government, architecture, engineering and construction companies, software providers and academics. It is hoped that creating innovative data exchange guidelines will harmonize the municipal development approval process, decrease permit application times, improve enforcement and reduce burden costs to every municipality.

 

John Bleasby is a Coldwater,-Ont. based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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