“Wash your hands often.” With Candice Georgiadis & Dominic Sims

Coming out of the crisis, I would love to see not only a renewed, but lasting appreciation for sanitation as well as personal hygiene and health — simple acts like washing our hands more often to taking better care of ourselves. Whereas we often took personal hygiene and health for granted or just didn’t really register it […]

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Coming out of the crisis, I would love to see not only a renewed, but lasting appreciation for sanitation as well as personal hygiene and health — simple acts like washing our hands more often to taking better care of ourselves. Whereas we often took personal hygiene and health for granted or just didn’t really register it as a conscious act, these unprecedented times have brought it back to the forefront, which I hope continues far after this is over.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dominic Sims, CBO, the Chief Executive Officer of the International Code Council. He was appointed to the position in 2012. As CEO, Sims is responsible for the overall activities and financial performance of the association, including its six subsidiaries.

The Code Council is a member-focused association dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, affordable and resilient buildings. Every state in the U.S. and many global markets rely on the International Codes and its family of services.

During his 17-year tenure, Sims has also served the Code Council as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President. He has served on and/or chaired numerous national Committees and Task Forces across a span of topics, including code and standards development, government affairs and business/member development.

Prior to his work with the Code Council, Sims served as the CEO of the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI) and guided its consolidation between regional organizations that formed the Code Council in 2003. Sims has served on the boards of SBCCI, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH). He is currently on the board of directors for the National Institute of Building Science and the International Building Quality Center and is active in several other professional associations.

Before joining SBCCI, he was Executive Director of the Palm Beach County, Florida Planning, Zoning and Building, where he had responsibility for comprehensive development, construction, and licensing and compliance activities for a high-growth region in the United States.

Having worked in the building safety field since 1983, Sims has held numerous positions, both elected and appointed at the federal, state and local levels including the White House Panel on Seismic Safety, The Society for Standards Professionals (SES) Standards Committee and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Policy Committee.

His experience includes serving as a Councilman/Vice Mayor for the town of Jupiter, Florida and Vice Chairman of the Governor’s Building Code Study Commission — which helped form his views on the importance of being active in public policy discussions concerning building safety.

Sims earned a B.A. in Organizational Management and Business from Palm Beach Atlantic University. He resides in Pelham, Alabama.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The book that has had the greatest impact for me is Stronger in the Broken Places: Nine Lessons for Turning Crisis Into Triumph by James Lee Witt. For a little background, James Lee Witt is the former Chief Executive Officer of the International Code Council as well as a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which being in the building safety industry is an organization I highly admire and work closely with. The book teaches you how to lean on collaboration and teamwork to overcome adversity and disaster. I’ve applied many of the learnings from the book in both my personal life and career.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

While not exactly a quote, there is a philosophy that I learned early on from FEMA that centered around the idea that regardless of the inadequacies and/or unpreparedness of a community, we cannot let them fail. As a chief building official, I live this every day. As the CEO of the International Code Council, which is a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of building safety solutions including product evaluation, accreditation, certification, codification and training, it is our responsibility to ensure the resiliency and sustainability of our communities.

Not many people realize this, but building codes are our first line of defense against natural disasters whether that be a hurricane, wildfire, tornado or as we’re currently experiencing — a public health crisis. In fact, this philosophy has never rung truer than during the state of current affairs. While deemed an essential industry by the Department of Homeland Defense, the building safety industry is rising to help building departments with the tools and assets necessary to handle switching to a virtual workload. Although it remains an obstacle, we have incorporated our guiding philosophy into our duty to our members and we will not let them fail.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Building off the last question, the International Code Council along with supplying the building industry with safety solutions also develops the International Codes (I-Codes), which are the most widely used set of model building safety codes in the world. The I-Codes are a complete set of modern, correlated building safety codes which provide guidance for architectural, structural, fire protection/life-safety, plumbing, mechanical, resiliency and energy conservation designs and systems of today’s modern buildings and structures.

When the United States was first starting to feel the brunt of the virus in March, the Code Council conducted a survey to learn how code officials are coping with the professional challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were startling, and a bit disconcerting — while the majority of code departments surveyed (93%) were still performing inspections, either remotely or in-person; 6 in 10 respondents did not have the capability to remotely carry out critical aspects of their work. With the pandemic forcing society to spend more time indoors, having a strong and resilient built environment is more important than ever.

Understanding the critical role of code officials in the pandemic response, we launched our Coronavirus Response Center with resources like free webinars, tips and best practices for adopting a virtual strategy, as well as survey results highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on building departments. We are also gathering the brightest minds across the building industry for a taskforce whose focus will be on addressing COVID-19 concerns and advising on tips and best practices. The knowledge stemming from the taskforce will also be considered for the latest edition of the I-Codes.

What gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

Despite not knowing exactly what a post-pandemic landscape will look like, I’m hopeful in the strength and resiliency of our industry as well as our society. The building safety industry is one of the backbones to ensuring safety for us all. As we navigate the ‘new normal’ of our future, knowing the commitment of this industry gives me hope. It is my sincere hope that we’ll all come out of this pandemic enlightened as we move towards a safer future together.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic?

I am continuously inspired by the resiliency and passion of people. Take for example healthcare workers, grocery store workers, truck drivers and all workers deemed essential who have been working daily to ensure our safety during this pandemic.

Speaking on our industry, Code Officials, another essential function right now, have been pivotal in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our buildings and structures, including temporary healthcare structures and occupancies which have been critical to treat the overflow of patients from hospitals. What’s so inspiring is that many of these individuals work for departments that are severely underfunded and not given the tools to do their jobs remotely, in some cases potentially putting them in harm’s way. Yet day-in and day -out, these individuals are rising to the occasion with 93 percent of departments continuing to perform inspections, either remotely or in-person for the safety of the greater community. This speaks highly of building safety professional’s commitment to keeping our society safe — even at their own risk.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

Coming out of the crisis, I would love to see not only a renewed, but lasting appreciation for sanitation as well as personal hygiene and health — simple acts like washing our hands more often to taking better care of ourselves. Whereas we often took personal hygiene and health for granted or just didn’t really register it as a conscious act, these unprecedented times have brought it back to the forefront, which I hope continues far after this is over.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, what would you tell them?

“Your input is important, and we value it.”

I think at times, young people may not feel they have a voice because of their age and experience, especially in the workforce, but they have a unique perspective that is valuable. In fact, at the Code Council we created various programs that span from filling the talent pipeline to helping young professionals advance in their careers. Starting with our Safety 2.0 initiative, we partner with high schools, colleges and the military to spread awareness and recruitment for building code training and prepare a new generation of building safety professionals. Once acclimated and adjusted to the industry, we have a program titled Emerging Leadership Council which allows the current leaders of the building safety industry to connect with new talent in hopes of shaking-up the status quo and redefining success. We have even implemented a mentorship program where motivated young professionals can shadow Code Council board members and potentially fast-track their careers.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?

I’m not the first person to say this, but if I could have a private meal with anyone in the world it would be Michelle Obama. I’ve watched her autobiography, Becoming, twice and would like to sit to get to know her better. I truly admire her view of the world and how she not only overcomes the adversity she faces, but catapults over it.

“I can’t wait for the world to be perfect because it will never be, and you have to keep moving forward.” This line touched me on a deeper level because that’s the mindset you must have during disaster mitigation. It’s easy during a crisis to get down on yourself, especially when the impact and benefits may not always be obvious, but we have to keep doing our part. After all, it’s the little differences that continue to help form the bigger picture and our future.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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