by Andrew Getty
The Code Officer and a Clerk of the Works have similar, but very different roles. A Clerk of the Works is not the Code Officer. Nor is the Code Officer a Clerk of the Works.
The Code Officer will be working directly for the local municipality to administer the NYS Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
Usually they also administer the local Zoning regulations as well.
All too often Code Officers are called Zoning Officers, making an assumption that all they enforce are “local” regulations.
Years ago [pre-1984] zoning was the primary function, but in today’s world more time is spent on state building and fire safety regulations than on zoning.
The two issues are very closely interwoven in every project application.
Usually the first review is all about zoning. Setbacks, location on the lot, use of the structure and property are local zoning issues.
Once that is determined, then we go to the State Building Code.
The Code Officer’s job is to review permit applications and documents, communicate with the applicant accordingly and grant permits when appropriate.
Also to conduct selected inspections and issue final certificates upon reasonable verification of substantial completion and compliance.
Record keeping is a huge part of the process, therefore being organized is essential.
In the Town of Webb code office, Tina is invaluable for this.
There are both hard / paper files and a sophisticated electronic software program for this.
Did you know that the code office must keep hard copies of plans and documents for seven  years after the building is gone… that can be a long time! So our files continue to grow.
A Clerk of the Works does not work for the local municipality. Usually they work directly for the owner, or the owner’s design professional.
Their specific jobs may vary depending on the size of the job and the needs of the owner.
For larger projects they are usually on the job almost every day, if not all the time.
Monitoring materials and the progress of the work may be one of many potential tasks.
Overseeing contractors and making sure the plans are adhered to, are the most common responsibilities.
Often the Clerk of the Works is directly involved in approval of bills, and payment draws due the general contractor.
Although the Clerk of the Works may also monitor code compliance issues, they do not have any jurisdiction for actual enforcement or final certifications of the codes.
Again, the Clerk of the Works is employed by the owner, not the municipality. His job is to ensure the owner is getting what the plans say.
Assuming the plans were properly prepared and signed by a licensed design professional in the State of New York and were given a proper plan review prior to the issuance of the building permit to verify that substantial compliance is shown on those plans, compliance with codes is achieved if the work progresses according to the plan.
The Code Officer’s job includes inspections at critical times to ascertain substantial compliance with the plan, thus compliance with the State codes.
The Code Officer may have over one-thousand active building permits at any given time.
It’s impossible to be at every job all the time to see everything.
Usually the Clerk of the Works has just one, maybe two jobs! Either the owner, the general contractor, sub-contractor or the Clerk of the Works should be aware of the required inspections and be calling the code office in advance to schedule accordingly.
Most inspections don’t take that long. It is a matter of documentation of compliance for the record.
It is amazing how often this concept is not understood.
Too often owners will assume that the local Code Officer oversees everything, therefore knows exactly what is going on all the time, as if they were their personal Clerk of the Works. It doesn’t work that way.
If you are thinking of a major project and have any concerns or reservations about the progress of the work, hire a Clerk of the Works for the job.
That person works directly for you.
There are many competent contractors that can be relied on in every way, without the need of oversight.
However, do not assume that the local code office is also your quality control and satisfaction guarantee outlet.
Knowledge and understanding of who does what, when and why is important.