Last week I was the innovation keynote speaker for the FL Building Officials Emerging Tech Conference on problem solving in the building code industry. I wasn’t sure building code officials had a lot of leeway to be innovative, but it turns out government organizations need innovation as much the private sector.

It looks like the city of Port St. Lucie, Florida isn’t waiting around for an aha innovative moment to hit them. Building Code Administrator Joel Dramis came up with a solution to the problem of an overwhelming number of building permits being issued and long lines in the office.

He used a creativity technique of finding ideas from other industries and came up with the idea of a drive-thru for building permits. This idea came from the fast food restaurant industry, which has also spawned other ideas such as a drive-thru for weddings, legal help and medical help.

Joel says their new drive-thru at the building department is their latest effort to improve customer service. No matter what the weather is, they can get business done from the comfort of their car.

The city averages 200 permits a day, 4,000 a month, and 48,000 a year. They can handle business tax, utilities, engineering, or planning and zoning, all through the drive-thru window. The innovative service is the first in the country.

He also came up with an idea he got from the post office to put up a 24 hour mail box where people can drop paperwork off after hours.

The first building code was put into law by King Hammurabi of Babylon and was literally written in stone! If you built a house and that house collapsed and killed someone the penalty was death. If it collapsed and killed your whole family, apparently that was okay.

With more innovation and denser populations, building codes started addressing more complex issues for building code officials and will continue to become more complex in the future. Then problem solving in the building code industry will become more important.