|Many perceive a Building Department as just another frustration provoking, regulatory arm of government. However, the traditional role of a Building Department is that of administering and enforcing the laws pertaining to the construction, use and occupancy of buildings and structures. Undoubtedly, in the future this role will expand to encompass a much wider range of controls over conditions that affect the life, health, safety and welfare of the public; for example, sound control, energy conservation, building security and environmental pollution'of water, air etc.
Although building laws are one of the oldest and most enduring of governmental functions, ranging from Hammurabi, founder of the Babylonian Empire, to the present time, there are many persons who do not assign much value to such laws. Indeed, there are thousands of buildings still in use that were built without the control of a building department; such structures may appear as any other to the untrained eye. However, a close examination by a trained observer might reveal the presence of frightening conditions. It is indeed a sad commentary that in this area of public life and safety, disaster is sometimes necessary before the appropriate laws are either adopted or fully enforced.
The function of a Building Department is often seen simply as that of plan examination and inspection. The operation though, is much more complex that those two (2) main functions suggest.
In all probability, personnel of a Building Department meet and do business with a more diversified clientele than any other branch of municipal government. They encounter in addition to the general public, architects, engineers, contractors, builders, the press, representatives of building products, manufacturers, political figures, other government officers or employees and as a result inadvertently encounter a wider variety of personalities and temperaments.
Therefore, the Science of getting along people, public relations, plays an extremely important role in the function of the Building Department that wishes to maintain a good public image.
Akin to good public relations is effective office procedures and practices. Answers to queries, not only have to be courteous, but also prompt and accurate. This can only be attained by good record keeping and filing and familiarity with the relevant laws, procedures, existing and new, reports, parallel agencies etc. The importance of good record keeping cannot be over-emphasized, as it is impractical to attempt to rely on memory to recall specific information at a moments notice. Due to the nature of the information to be stored and retrieved, this will require the use of special equipment (computers and relevant software like GIS, physical updated maps, cameras etc.