Improve Life Safety and Building Inspections with Technology

06/19/2018 | By Jindou Lee

Everyone knows that building inspections are a critical component of any building safety program. Inspectors have a different view of a building, one grounded in the moving parts of the specific structure instead of an overall view that numbers represent.

Life safety is maintained by cataloguing risk factors like blocked emergency exits and faulty fire safety systems.

When that data isn’t used, tragedies like the Grenfell Tower fire in London and the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, CA, occur with greater regularity. These issues are discovered and documented by inspectors who understand the ways in which their job saves lives.

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Building inspections are investments that build on each other, a preventative force that creates safer buildings that stay safer and are upgraded when needed.


Another thing that larger tragedies are teaching building owners is that traditional clipboard-and-pen inspection is missing the vital opportunities that new technology offer to improve efficiency and limit liability. Knowledge is power, and when inspections meet business analytics, owners and managers have unprecedented capability to combat minor issues before they become lawsuits.

The weakness of clipboard-and-pen building inspections is the ease with which the information collected can fall off the face of the earth. Simple databases begin to see strain once the information concerns more than one building. Owners don’t have time to look at every piece of information or, most importantly, put those pieces of information together.

Building Inspections Get a Boost with Technology

Technologies have come around to cutting through the bureaucracy that multi-building management can inspire. Smart databases with regularized digital documentation are allowing for unprecedented amounts of information sharing, and it’s saving building owners a lot of money.

Discovering that isolated equipment failures are actually examples of a recall on machinery is much easier when your database is piecing together information on its own.

How many times would it be useful to know that a set of fire alarms began failing at the same time? Or those similar complaints about a series of emergency doors installed by the same contractor began cropping up in various buildings? It’s these kinds of questions that are driving a smart technology boom for inspectors.

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Inspectors are getting the tools they need to be part of this technological update as well. Along with a smart database, one needs inspectors with normalized and intelligent materials at their disposal to input this information in a useful way. Digital inspection materials are an important part of this, and they’re changing the way that inspections affect building safety.

Digital inspection materials on mobile devices give owners unprecedented power to see and control the things that need to be noted. Smart inspections drive data, in turn drives smarter inspections. Smart inspections also offer cost-efficient solutions that drive growth and limit liability across multiple properties, something that’s becoming more important given the viral nature of information sharing in modern culture.

Be Proactive for Life Safety

Life safety isn’t only about the regulations that owners are legally obligated to conform to or the issues they could go to court over. The clipboard-and-pen inspections that inspectors have been relying on are simply not able to keep up with the issues that arise, let alone report them in a useful way. Examples include ice in the parking lot or the emergency exit door that has a tendency to stick closed.

These are small issues that can come into sharp focus when emergencies happen, and they’re issues that aren’t visible in a traditional, outdated database.

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Use inspectors as the valuable tool that they are to get that detailed view of things. Update security and safety measures to reflect the importance of those individual ecosystems and protect the reputation of the building and construction community.

Jindou Lee, CEO of HappyCoJindou Lee is CEO of HappyCo, a San Francisco-based software company that builds mobile and cloud solutions to enable real-time property operations. Its Happy Inspector product is used by thousands of companies and has captured more than 100 million items inspected. The company was founded in 2011 and is privately held.


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