Passing Up a Good Thing?

Back Web Only Mar 7, 2018 By Russell Nichols

Mike Malinowski, president of the Streamline Institute, had a plan.

With 26 industry professionals, he set out to create a program that streamlines permitting for construction in the Sacramento region. The idea was that with clear standards for building document content and organization plus a checklist used by all participating jurisdictions, plan examiners, building officials and design professionals could be on the same page.

“Nothing like this has ever been done,” Malinowski says. “This is really a fabulous tool for large firms to train architects on what a great set of documents looks like. Everyone is doing something different, but this brings it all together in one place.”

Malinowski’s team started brainstorming this concept in November 2014. By July 2015, the Prequalified Architecture Submittal System, or PASS, was live, available for any regional jurisdiction to adopt.

Compared to regular submittal projects, the point of the PASS program is to shorten the approval process, and the checklist allows building officials and architects to be better organized. Getting on the PASS registry requires jurisdictions and design professionals to complete a training class and pass a test.

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But there was an unexpected problem. As of February 2018, 18 out of the 18 jurisdictions the team formally asked to adopt the PASS program have done so. But design professionals haven’t been so quick to sign up.

“I had always assumed the biggest challenge would be getting the jurisdictions on board,” Malinowski says.

Elk Grove adopted the program in 2015, but hasn’t received any PASS submittals to date. Neither has Rancho Cordova. Joe Cuffe, Rancho Cordova’s building official, doesn’t understand the hold up. The program consists of two levels: PASS TI covers tenant improvements and small commercial projects; PASS NC covers new commercial or multifamily projects of any size. The PASS checklist removes much of the guesswork for architects and allows partner jurisdictions to interpret building code consistently, he says.

“Due to the uniformity of the checklists and standardized details,” Cuffee says, “this process is much quicker and cleaner.”

Roseville has fared better with four projects submitted using the PASS program, which has saved builders up to two weeks of review time, says Chris Robles, the City’s economic development director. “The downside is the program is underused,” he says.

Hibser Yamauchi Architects currently has a PASS project in the works in Roseville. The Davis-based firm designed the improvements for a second medical office building at the Kaiser Roseville Oncology Center. This is the first PASS project for architect Nicholas Galabov, who was certified in 2017. If adopted by more businesses, this program can help save time and money for the region and support the economic growth, Galabov says.

“With the PASS project certification, it feels like going to the airport without needing to go through security,” Galabov says. “You don’t have to take your belt and shoes off or open your suitcase. You go straight through and board the plane because you gained the trust of officials by participating in the program.”

Randy Goodwin, West Sacramento’s chief building official, was on the team that helped develop the program and believes it works. The required class and test might be keeping design professionals away, he says, but it’s not difficult and takes less than a day to complete — more than worth the time it saves on submittals.

In West Sacramento, Goodwin has seen only two PASS applicants. One of them had a project reviewed faster than any submittal he has seen in his 10 years as a city architect.

“It met all the parameters, we approved it and off it went to construction,” Goodwin says. “The back and forth is really what eats up all the time. This program cuts weeks off, even months with some projects. I think it’s really just about architects taking the time to do it.”


Gene Paolini (not verified)March 12, 2018 - 9:11am

As Building Official of the City of Roseville at the time, I was instrumental in working with Mike and getting buy in from all the local jurisdictions and our local chapter of Building Officials, Sacramento Valley Association of Building Officials (SVABO).