New tech streamlines review of construction documents


Electronic submission of plans will streamline the construction process. Courtesy Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Michigan has become the first state to fully implement the new Accela Inc. technology plan. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs recently announced that plans can be submitted to the Bureau of Construction Codes through a new Accela e-PlanCheck program.

Electronic submission is intended to not only use the bureau’s resources more efficiently, but also to save customers time and money.

“The new customer-friendly Accela program launched by LARA makes the electronic processing of plan reviews quicker, more predictable and less costly, and is a major accomplishment toward streamlining the construction process,” said Lee Schwartz, executive vice president for government relations for the Home Builders Association of Michigan.

“For a builder or developer, time is literally money. Delays due to changes and mailing submissions back and forth increase costs, which are passed along to the customer.”

The new system creates a one-stop portal for submitting construction documents for new projects, additions or renovations to the BCC and other agencies involved in the review.

 “Our bureaus can work more cohesively with each other and with our customers,” said LARA Director Shelly Edgerton.

Accela Inc. is a San Ramon, California-based provider of web, mobile and cloud-based software for governmental services. Customers use the Accela portal and create an account. From that account, they can submit plans, open a permit, apply for a license and track the status of these activities.

Accela incorporated a feature called e-PlanCheck, from Los Angeles-based e-PlanSoft, allowing plans to be submitted for review electronically, said Keith Lambert, acting director of the BCC. Plans are attached to the review and can be electronically reviewed by the BCC, Bureau of Fire Safety and the Health Facilities Examination Service area of the Bureau of Health Services, with corrections and comments communicated electronically to the customer.

The new system is expected to enhance the industry’s ability to make payments online, have plans reviewed more quickly, provide plans to multiple bureaus with one application, track the status of their projects, and save on mailing and printing, Lambert said.

“The e-PlanCheck software costs BCC $163,000 to launch, and we pay a yearly license fee, as we do for all software. It was created by Accela, E-plan, and State of Michigan staff working together,” Lambert said.

The city of Grand Rapids has been using Accela Automation for licensing and permitting of skilled trades for several years. Through this technology, the whole state will eventually be able to share data, he said.

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