Today I spent time with a chapel hill town inspector. Inspectors are responsible for code enforcement of all town buildings and houses. I’m not sure about residential, but any commercial building will be inspected multiple times during all stages of construction. Each state has their own set of codes, as well as national codes. And there are….well a lot of codes. Just the NC electrical code book alone is a few hundred pages.

And to make it easier these codes are not easy to read and can be left up to interpretation. This is where inspectors come in, they have to enforce these codes based on the state’s interpretation of them. Sometimes builders have different interpretations (conflict). Sometimes inspectors fail permits based on what they’ve seen delaying construction (conflict), and sometimes there is big, big, money on the line.

For example, I took a tour with an inspector at the new Carolina Square where the new target is going to be. (It’s a lot smaller than I thought it would be) if the inspector has to fail the construction during their site visit right before the new Target is expected to be open, then the construction company is now on the line to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees each day that the building is not up to code.

It’s a thankless job with a lot of potential angry constructors you have to deal with, but these codes are meant to protect us and keep construction mistakes from hurting people or even worse. We don’t think about the invisible public employees that are responsible for making a town operate smoothly like inspectors. But it’s worth remembering the next time you walk into any kind of store that many inspectors had to approve it’s safety before you could even step in.

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