Making sure that your building is up to code is more than just abiding by regulation. It ensures the safety of everyone inside and outside of the building site. William Ondulich knows this better than anyone. He has a bachelor’s in civil engineering with a focus on structural design and is a chief building official with NOVA engineering. Throughout the years, William Ondulich has seen it all whenever it comes to keeping a building up to code. Though each region may have different requirements, all buildings follow the same guidelines in terms of structural stability, egress, fire resistivity, and more.
William Ondlich recommends that all contractors seek the proper permits that are required by their state before they begin construction problems. People like William Ondulich know that you can easily break code standards by not having the permit that you need.
The first point that William Ondulich shares with us is to ensure that your building’s handrails are strong enough to support people of all sizes. Oftentimes, contractors will be in a hurry and not install this correctly. William Ondulich has seen dozens of accidents over the year that happen due to poor structural disability. William Ondulich wants to remind you that you are serving the public and not serving yourself by hurrying through a project to collect your income. This is about ensuring the safety of others.
Fire hazards are one of the most common problems that buildings face. William Ondulich knows that all it takes is one faulty outlet to malfunction and cause a fire. Testing all of the outlets in a building and ensuring that smoke detectors are working properly is key to preventing a mass fire. What’s more important is ensuring that a building’s egress door is located in a convenient location that everyone has access to. This will ensure a safe exit from a building in the event of a fire. William Ondulich recommends that all obstructions be cleared from this egress door at all times to avoid roadblocks in the event of a building fire.
Proactivity is the key if you wish to keep your building up to code. William Ondulich recommends that all property owners and tenants remain vigilant and work together to create a fire-escape plan in the event of a disaster. We have to work together if we wish to achieve success whenever it comes to keeping your building up to code and having a plan in the event of a fire.
For three decades, William Ondulich of Largo has been working in the building industry while gaining knowledge and experience to help others through his leadership skills. He has worked with both the private and public sectors, managing building department employees throughout the Largo area.
William Ondulich was not always the one in charge though. He started his career as a construction worker and framer prior to attending Central Arizona College in the civil and heavy equipment technology program. He also worked with an array of engineering firms, including civil and geotechnical, and even has the experience of working for periods of time as a roadway inspector and geotechnical engineering technician. He even had the opportunity of working as a construction materials technician (CMT) on the Central Arizona Project while attending Central Arizona College.
He gained even more experience while in Arizona over the next decade, working as a structural designer with several structural engineering firms in the Tucson and Phoenix areas and reviewed building plans for several local governmental agencies. He eventually began offering building consulting services as part of his own business.
William Ondulich eventually moved to Florida to further expand his knowledge and experience as a building code manager, focusing on department administration for the City of Largo, landing the role of the chief building official with a consulting firm that provides building code services.
Always working to broaden his own knowledge in the field, he not only looks for new and exciting challenges but educates others on the importance of building code regulations and why they are needed.
Not that long ago, it was possible to make a good living without going to college. Careers in the manufacturing and construction industries, in particular, were not only lucrative ones but accessible by high school graduates who didn’t have much of an affinity — or enthusiasm — for more education.
In many ways, that’s changed. Nowadays, more and more employers are requiring their workers to have an Associate’s degree at the bare minimum, with preference going to those who have their Bachelor’s. And that goes for the construction industry as well as for business, teaching, accounting, and other fields. William Ondulich, whose career has spanned all aspects of the building industry, talks about some of the reasons to pursue a degree in construction management.
1. There’s More Competition Than Ever Before
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, cosntruction-related programs at four-year colleges saw a 5.7% increase in 2019. That means it’s going to be harder and harder to secure employment in this field without an undergraduate degree. It used to be the case that construction workers could achieve supervisory and advisory positions through experience on building sites, but no more — or at least not as easily. To land a job or gain clients, you pretty much have to hit the books for a couple of years.
2. It Provides You With More Possibilities
What does a graduate of a four-year construction management program do for a living? There are a surprising number of options. They can enter the workforce, or they can go on to study architecture, engineering, project management, or even law with a specialization in construction. Like William Ondulich, they can land building official, plans examiner, or code inspector positions. Or, especially if they do have hands-on experience, they can use the business skills they’ve acquired in college to start their own construction company. Another option is to become a freelance construction consultant.
3. A Degree Augments Experience
Make no mistake, says William Ondulich, a degree is not a substitute for real-world experience. What it does do, however, is allow you to enter the workforce with a substantial advantage. There are some aspects of the industry that you simply can’t learn by swinging a hammer — just as there are also crucial elements to construction that you won’t learn in the classroom.
In other words, it’s best if you have both education and experience. Many students log on-the-job hours during the summer vacation and other school breaks or even while pursuing their four-year degree. The latter setup will require a lot of work and dedication, but it’s worthwhile for the edge you’ll have when it comes time to find employment.
4. It Boosts Your Bottom Line
In this industry as in almost every other, getting that diploma may be expensive, but it will pay off in the long run. People with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees make more than people who don’t. Enough said?
5. Networking and Job Placement Benefits
There are benefits to a college education that extend beyond the nuts-and-bolts (no pun intended) of what you learn in the classroom, explains William Ondulich. Most four-year schools have job placement programs, so you will get a little assistance landing a position where you can use your newfound knowledge.
Not only that, but you’ll be better positioned to do some networking. Your instructors and classmates will continue to be good business connections once you’re out there in the real world. Even just having an alma mater in common with a potential customer or colleague might be enough to tip a bid in your favor.
What is the impact of building codes on the state of America’s affordable housing? This was the question raised when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson took to the nation’s roadways as part of a recent bus tour dedicated to uncovering barriers to affordable housing in our cities and communities. We talked with building official William Ondulich of Largo to get some insider information.
The Driving Affordable Housing Across America Bus Tour was developed by the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing, of which Carson is also the chair. The tour itself kicked off in Louisville, KY, in January. At every stop, says William Ondulich, representatives from local community organizations met with Carson and his crew to discuss the current and future availability of affordable housing in the United States.
These organizations, 35 in all, included members of the International Code Council as well as engineering, housing, emergency response, insurance, and other state and local entities. Their response to HUD’s request for information on the topic included the following points, reports William Ondulich of Largo:
- Building codes, and the need for communities to comply with them, are not an appreciable barrier to affordable housing, according to every available study or report on the subject
- Modern model codes, in fact, are a way for housing authorities and builders to reduce planning, engineering, and construction costs, building delays, insurance rates, utility bills, and the costs associated with disaster recovery
- Adopting modern model codes is one way to achieve regulatory consistency while at the same time supporting HUD’s administrative efforts to encourage code enforcement and alignment
The tour will run through June 2020, and is expected to make several dozen more stops in Southeast, Midwest, and West Coast communities. Look for William Ondulich of Largo to synthesize future reports from the road as developments occur.
Ask any young child what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll likely hear one of a dozen or so standard answers: firefighter, teacher, ballerina, movie star, astronaut, doctor. One of the last career aspirations you’d expect out of the mouths of babes is “building official”. Nevertheless, a career that involves building code plan review, code enforcement, building inspection, and similar responsibilities is a worthwhile and rewarding way to make a living. We sat down with William Ondulich, Chief Building Official with NOVA Engineering, to learn about the steps that are necessary to achieve this professional position.
First Things First: What Does the Job Entail?
William Ondulich explains that a building official is tasked with inspecting and reviewing both new construction and existing structures to evaluate their overall safety and to ensure that they are compliant with all municipal and state ordinances, zoning regulations, and codes.
Building officials can work for local government agencies or in the private sector. Accomplished professionals in this industry often use the experience they’ve gained to step into a managerial, administrative, or educational role later in their career.
It All Starts with Education
To become a building inspector or code official, all you really need is a high school diploma. Having experience in the construction industry won’t hurt, either.
However, as in other fields, earning a college degree will open additional doors and position you to make more money right out of the starting gate. What degree program should you enroll in if you are thinking of becoming a building official? According to William Ondulich, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Arizona, the best majors for this industry are engineering, architecture, and building construction technology.
Expect a fair amount of on-the-job learning to take place once you have graduated and been offered a position. Most jurisdictions also require at least some level of licensure and certification. The International Code Council, in describing the role of a certified building official, says that they are:
responsible for the development, administration, interpretation, application, and enforcement of the codes adopted by their jurisdiction. They will be able to manage their department’s budget and the certification and training of inspection staff. They will have an understanding of laws and regulations pertaining to human resources. They will have a thorough knowledge of customer service, develop and maintain effective relationships with all client groups, and be able to effectively communicate with contractors, homeowners, subordinates, superiors, news media, elected officials, and civic organizations.
The certification process will depend upon the area in which you live and work, any areas of specialization you might already have (or are striving for), and the requirements of your current position.
Some Fast Facts About the Building Department Industry
William Ondulich cites the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a fairly sunny job outlook. It is anticipated that the industry’s growth over the next eight years will total about 7%.
The skills that building inspectors bring to their positions are not easy ones to automate or to outsource, so this career is a good choice for those who value job security.
What about compensation? The median income for someone working in the building industry in this role is about $57,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey conducted by the ICC survey found that the median salary range across the United States was between $50,000 and $75,000, with fully one-fifth of respondents bringing home a salary closer to $100,000.
In short, William Ondulich concludes, the position of building official might be a lot more attractive than young people assume. Knowing that you are making a difference in matters of public safety, fulfilling a multifaceted role that means no two days are ever the same, plenty of opportunities for advancement, and a steady paycheck are just some of the benefits of growing up to become a building official.
In 2014, a western neighborhood in the city of Largo was attempting to navigate their way through solving a very specific problem: a dilapidated, un-cared for home was causing a blight on the visage of the otherwise lovely area. Largo building official William Ondulich explains how this situation came to be, and how he was able to help solve it.
Three years earlier, in 2011, the owner of the home which resided on Hillside Avenue, sadly passed away. The property was then remanded to his estate, but unfortunately, no one ever claimed ownership of the building. With no one to live inside it, the home quickly fell into disrepair.
In an article run by the Tampa Bay Times, the property was described thusly: “The dilapidated house looks like a strong wind could knock it over. It has broken windows, boarded-up doors and a jungle-like lawn with a shopping cart abandoned in a watery pit. It’s on an otherwise well-kept street, where neighbors describe it as an endless source of rats, roaches, mosquitoes, and feral cats.” With this sort of public image, William Ondulich notes, it’s no wonder the local community was up in arms about attempting to make the city solve this problem.
In fact, William Ondulich informs us, before the city moved to take action, local residents had taken it upon themselves to try to keep the lot and surrounding areas clean, getting rid of debris and mowing the lawn. Left unchecked, the abandoned home was negatively affecting their own property values-something that was totally unacceptable in their eyes.
Finally, William Ondulich tells us, the residents of Largo had had enough. In just two hours, they had obtained anywhere from 50 to 55 signatures, petitioning for the foreclosure of the house. Because of their initiative, the city of Largo was made to foreclose on the house, which cost around $12,000 in legal fees and took about a year to finalize.
$12,000 may seem like a lot of money, but it’s nothing, says William Ondulich, compared to the $160,000 in code enforcement fine the abandoned property stacked up over the course of seven years. This is in addition to the $1,650 that the city initially spent to clean up the property shortly after the original owner’s passing in 2011, according to William Ondulich. At the end of the day, there was simply no other option.
“Basically I’ve exhausted all my legal remedies with the property, and it continues to this day to be a blight on the neighborhood”, William Ondulich was quoted as saying, in reference to the decision being made to demolish the house and have affordable housing placed on the lot.