Skip to content

The Growth of Remote Virtual Inspections

About the Author: Ryan M. Colker is Vice President, Innovation, at the International Code Council.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought lots of change to the construction industry—particularly for building code and fire safety departments. Most states and the federal government declared code administration and enforcement essential services. However, many departments were faced with the need to implement new policies and procedures to assure their work could continue safely.

The International Code Council conducted a survey of code departments in March and April of 2020 to gauge their virtual capabilities. Based on over 1,150 responses from all 50 states and Washington, DC, the survey found that the majority of departments (93%) were still doing inspections either remotely or in person. About two-thirds (65%) of jurisdictions reported that some or all employees that conduct plan review or inspections are working remotely. While many jurisdictions made the switch to electronic processes, a large percentage still did not have the capacity to go virtual—for example, 61% did not have the capability to do electronic or remote inspections.1


In August and September 2020, the Code Council again surveyed code departments to see how their processes and practices changed given a little time to adapt. By September nearly all departments were performing inspections (98% versus 93% in April) while nearly half still had key staff working remotely (47% versus 65% in April). In September 53% of departments still did not have the capability to do remote virtual inspections (down from 61% in April).

While remote virtual inspection (RVI) was seen by many as an opportunity to reduce exposure to the virus, many departments were unsure of where to start. Some larger jurisdictions including Los Angeles City and County and North Las Vegas, Nevada already had virtual inspection programs for many small or routine projects and were willing to share their lessons learned with others. Smaller, rural jurisdictions like Miami, Ohio were using remote virtual inspections to cut down on travel times. The Code Council produced a series of documents and held webinars to help provide guidance and get departments up to speed.2 The most recent publication, Model Program for Online Services: Permitting, Plan Review and Remote Inspections, captures best practices from building officials, industry professionals and inspection agencies.3

Remote virtual inspections and off-site construction

The two Code Council surveys primarily captured results in the context of inspections at the job site, but could provide insight into the potential for growth in remote virtual inspections for off-site construction. As code departments become more comfortable with the technology that comfort may spread to state industrialized building programs. The recently released off-site construction standards developed by the Code Council and the Modular Building Institute (MBI) allows for the use of remote virtual inspections at the discretion of the Authority Having Jurisdiction.4

One off-site construction project taking advantage of remote virtual inspection is a 296-room, 105-foot-tall modular citizenM hotel going up in Washington, DC. As COVID-19 threatened to slow construction, the hotel chain, local development manager Altus Realty and third party inspection agency ICC-NTA looked for solutions to mitigate the risk. They approached the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) about the possibility of using remote virtual inspection within the factory in Poland. After a few practice inspections to test out the technology and to ensure DCRA and NTA approved of the procedures, a formal all-virtual inspection process was underway. To assure the same level of quality and compliance as an on-site inspection, NTA personnel developed remote virtual inspection procedures that mirrored NTA’s in-plant inspection procedures and the DCRA Third-Party Program Procedure Manual requirements.


In addition to ramping up the virtual inspection program at NTA the manufacturer also needed to prepare for the virtual inspection process. Quality assurance personnel were assigned to assist with inspections. In advance of the inspection on-site personnel provide NTA with copies of all material listings for each module. During the inspection plant personnel show the serial number for the unit being inspected and walk through an inspection checklist with the NTA inspector. Close ups or more focused videos can be requested by the NTA inspector.

Using the remote virtual inspection process NTA inspectors can monitor testing of modules including water testing of window installation, pressure testing of plumbing systems and other important procedures.

While it took some getting used to for the inspectors, a good rapport with the quality assurance personnel in the factory and comfort on the part of DCRA with the protocols put in place by NTA, the remote virtual inspection process provided some valuable lessons for the project team and may open opportunities for further use of remote virtual inspections in the future.



1 International Code Council, Building Safety and COVID-19: Analysis of U.S. Code Department Responses to the Pandemic. July 1, 2020.

2 See for access to virtual resources.

3 International Code Council, Model Program for Online Services: Permitting, Plan Review and Remote Inspections. April 2021.

4 ICC/MBI 1205-2021 Standard for Off-Site Construction: Inspection and Regulatory Compliance, Section 301.2.

More from Modular Advantage

Inside the Construction of 355 Sango Court

This year’s winner for Best of Show for Permanent Structures is 355 Sango Court, a 105,818 square foot affordable housing development manufactured by Nampa, Idaho based Autovol. The project team also included Prefab Logic for module design, Nibbi Brothers as the general contractor, Acc U Set Construction as the modular installer, and the overall project design was by David Baker Architects and DCI and Fard.

Aster Place by ROC Modular

Aster Place, a supportive housing building in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, won the Best of Show Award and Honorable Mention for relocatable structures in the social and supportive housing category at this year’s World of Modular conference.

Looking Back at the 2024 World of Modular

On March 18-21, the Modular Building Institute presented its 41st annual
convention and tradeshow, hosted again at the luxurious the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, FL. Nearly 1,500 attendees from around the world gathered to learn, network, and find ways to expand both their businesses and the industry at-large.

Touring Japan’s Offsite Construction Industry: An Interview with James Haas, Offsite Construction Sales Manager for Nichiha

Nichiha USA, a premier provider of building envelope solutions and member of the Modular Building Institute (MBI), recently partnered with MBI for a trip to Japan to visit the Nichiha home office in Nagoya as well as several other offsite manufacturers around the country. Besides learning about different offsite building methodologies and systems, the trip was an excellent chance for both MBI and Nichiha to create closer ties with potential industry partners in Japan.

Modular Multi-family Construction: A Field Study of Energy Code Compliance and Performance through Offsite Prefabrication

Prefabrication in a factory setting may improve the performance of modular buildings compared to traditional site-built buildings. To validate this premise, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funded a 3-year study from 2020-2023 comparing the energy performance of more than 50 modular and site-built multifamily buildings under construction in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Inflation Comes in Hot to Begin ’24

Last year was a shockingly good one for the U.S. economy, at least relative to expectations. Coming into 2023, the conventional wisdom was that near-term recession was inevitable in America. In the face of belligerent excess inflation (above the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent mandate), monetary policymakers began ratcheting interest rates higher in March 2022. That process continued throughout the balance of the year and into 2023.

A Huge Win for the Modular Construction Industry in Massachusetts

In early February, 2024, the Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) released its proposed 10th Edition building codes. This draft included several amendments targeting modular construction that would have created an extremely difficult environment for the entire modular industry and could have eliminated the industry entirely in the state.

FEMA Announces Hawaii Housing Plan Using Modular Construction

Utah becomes the second state in the country, following Virginia, to fully adopt ICC/MBI standards 1200 and 1205. MBI will continue to work with leadership in Utah to implement the new program.

Supply and Demand: Solving Canada’s Housing Crisis One Relocatable Housing Unit at a Time

Not only do Moda Modular’s repurposed employee housing solutions cut the emissions related to construction down to nearly zero, but they also keep building materials that are often not biodegradable from slowly decaying in storage facilities.
It’s the classic environmental mantra of reduce, reuse, and recycle, scaled up and applied to building after building.

ICC/MBI Standards 1200 & 1205 Provide Foundation for Utah’s First-Ever State Modular Program

Utah becomes the second state in the country, following Virginia, to fully adopt ICC/MBI standards 1200 and 1205. MBI will continue to work with leadership in Utah to implement the new program.