Roanoke, Va.’s population of nearly 100,000 has generated about 1,100 building permits so far in 2012. Ryan McHugh, plans examiner with the Roanoke Building Department, specifies that many of those are combination permits, containing several permits for specialized trade work -- like electrical, plumbing, mechanical, gas and demolition -- within them. The city’s four building inspectors complete between 800 and 1,000 inspections per month.

Contractors and home renovators in Roanoke now have a new option to help expedite their construction project. They used to leave a voicemail message with the city’s Building Department to alert officials that their project had met a milestone and was ready for an inspection. Staff would monitor the voicemail messages and schedule the next business day’s workload for building inspectors accordingly.

Like most cities, however, Roanoke has since added an online permit center, where permit holders can request official sign-off by a city inspector. Visitors to the website can also access permit applications and information, monitor permit status, view the inspection calendar and review historical permit data dating back 10 years.

But the growth in smartphone and tablet use over the past few years led officials to consider simplifying the permitting process even further.

McHugh explained to Government Technology that permit placards are required to be visible on all active building projects in Roanoke. Over the course of a couple months, city staff added quick response (QR) codes to permit placards. Adding this capability, McHugh said, allows quick access to project information and other data available via the website from mobile devices.

View Full Story
Government Technology Editor Noelle Knell Noelle Knell  |  Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.