On June 6, Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors’ Buildings and Grounds Committee received an annual report from University Building Official Chris Kiel on recent improvements in the university’s construction inspection process as well as plan review and inspection figures.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee – currently chaired by Shelley Butler Barlow – is responsible for the oversight and evaluation of the construction, renovation, and maintenance of Virginia Tech’s buildings, structures, and facilities. As the university building official, Kiel holds a reporting and policy relationship to the committee. He also serves in a staff role to the committee in addition to leading the Office of the University Building Official.

During a period of high-volume upgrades and additions across Virginia Tech’s campuses, the Office of the University Building Official – its administrative oversight sits with the Vice President for Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities Chris Kiwus – serves a crucial role in helping to ensure that all projects are completed to university, commonwealth, and national standards for design and construction. Charged with managing and enforcing Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code, the office helps to ensure that all construction, renovation, and maintenance projects conducted on university-owned property are completed in compliance with the code, related laws, and regulations. With over 225 years of combined experience across a team of eight dedicated, cross-trained individuals, the Office of the University Building Official serves as primary liaison with outside regulatory agencies on code issues that affect the design, construction, and approval to occupy new university facilities or maintain existing ones. 

As one of three universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia to have a university building official, Virginia Tech is afforded the opportunity to have a readily accessible inspection team for construction projects. Project managers can request plan reviews and site inspections to ensure all projects – ranging from new buildings to office renovations – are developed in a safe, accessible, and sustainable manner. To help facilitate on-time and within-budget project delivery, the Office of the University Building Official frequently collaborates with project stakeholders from across and outside the university throughout the entirety of the project to spot potential code and standard issues early.

By performing in-depth plan reviews and frequent project inspections, the university building official team has helped increase the total number of successful inspections occurring on Virginia Tech’s construction projects. In a four-year period, the university saw a 65 percent increase in the number of inspections occurring while reducing the percentage of inspection failures by 3.6 percent.

“When plans are reviewed at a close level of detail, we can identify potential issues in projects that often don’t reveal themselves until the end of the construction process,” said Kiel. “When we find these potential issues early, we can work with the project team to ensure that the project meets or exceeds all necessary codes.”

Building Code Plan Reviewer/Inspector Steve Smith visits Hitt Hall during construction. Photo by Meghan Marsh for Virginia Tech.

Dedicated to fostering a welcoming and inclusive campus, the Office of the University Building Official plays a critical role in ensuring the university’s construction projects meet accessibility standards and universal design principles. To assist project managers and contractors performing renovations in new and existing facilities, the Office of the University Building Official provides training on accessibility codes and standards.

“When working with clients and project stakeholders, we take the approach of ‘tell us what you want to do, and we’ll help you get there,’” said Kiel. “If there is a resolution to make the final outcome of the project to be welcoming for even more people, we will find it.”

Recent efforts to digitize the inspection request process – spearheaded by Office Manager and Permit Technician Heather Snidow in partnership with the Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities’ Analytics and Accountability team – have increased inspection efficacy and frequency. Digitized inspection data provides the university building official team with real-time insights on inspection successes and failures by project, inspector, time period, and more - assisting in ensuring that projects are inspected appropriately and within budget.

In addition to providing plan review and inspection services for Virginia Tech’s construction, renovation, and maintenance projects, the Office of the University Building Official also ensures that all inflatables and tents used for university events, ranging from alumni weekend to football tailgates, are set up in a safe manner. 

“Creating a welcoming, inclusive, and safe environment for the entire Virginia Tech community is a critical motivator for our team. We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with project teams as the university continues to evolve in accordance with the campus master plan,” said Kiel. 

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