Keen to move their permitting and plan review to an electronic process, the City of Rexburg, Idaho, considered a number of solutions. However, what they found was “a complete overbuild” for their electronic plan review requirements. The city chose DigEplan for its attractive, short implementation time and straight-forward, fully integrated plan review with Cityworks PLL.
With a population of 35,000, the City of Rexburg in Madison County, Idaho, has been using the Cityworks solution since 2012 and wanted the ability to conduct electronic plan review integrated with Cityworks. The city had been using a paper-based system to review plans, yet they were well aware that it presented a number of challenges.
“Our policies require three sets of plans to be submitted, but we had more than three people that needed to review the plans.” Bret Stoddard, building official for the City of Rexburg, explained.
“The logistics of passing around three sets of 24×36 size plans was cumbersome,” he continued. “We like to keep one set in our permit tech’s hand, so then you just have two sets to pass around anywhere between six to eight people. We try to review plans in a timely fashion, but it was hard to do when reviewers couldn’t get hold of the plans. Plans also got lost because somebody may have thrown them to the back of their desk, then all of the sudden it becomes a decorative piece rather than something that’s in the process.”
Faron Young, asset management system administrator for the City of Rexburg added, “When you think about it, paper processes are really backwards. Professionals design these plans on a computer in a digital format, such as CAD, and they are then printed. Often, we then scan them so that we can work on them in a digital format, converting from electronic, to paper, back to electronic. It isn’t just that the process takes time and money, but it’s also the loss of quality.”
Knowing electronic plan review would make a major difference to their efficiency, the City of Rexburg began the search for the right partner.
“We looked seriously at a number of vendors in the market, but the other software vendors we found were beyond what we really needed,” said Stoddard. “It’s like buying a Cadillac when all you really need is a Geo Metro.”
For the City of Rexburg, DigEplan’s integration into existing systems that were already enhancing permitting was a huge benefit.
“ArcGIS has been an important component to our city for many years, and we integrated GIS-centric platform Cityworks PLL for permitting to expand our capabilities and simplify processes,” said Stoddard.
“Combining ArcGIS with Cityworks, for example, allows us to use a map-based search of property history for the complete development process, including zoning, platting, building, and infrastructure,” he explained. “It provides knowledge of any special conditions that exist with the property from the onset of any new project, such as conditional use permits, sunset clauses, or restrictive lot covenants. Without this easily accessible map layer, a great deal of research is required, and things could be overlooked.”
Implementation in Weeks
Having made the decision to introduce DigEplan, the City of Rexburg was anxious to get the system installed quickly.
“The simplicity of DigEplan was reflected considerably in the time it took to implement, which was estimated at around four weeks. This was a sixth of the time of other software, which were six months minimum,” said Stoddard. “We were keen to get up and running so we could actually use what we had purchased. We managed it in record time, only lagging a couple of weeks due to it coinciding with COVID-19. This came down to the commitment of the DigEplan team making it happen. I believe they went beyond just the typical implementation and were very accommodating, ensuring that it would work with the city’s processes. The simplicity of implementing DigEplan alongside Cityworks is the number one reason I would recommend DigEplan and Cityworks.”
Stoddard says that doing plan reviews in DigEplan is easy, but as with any new system, there was a learning curve as staff got used to new processes.
“The training from TruePoint Solutions helped us to get on our feet quickly,” he said.
Digital Plan Efficiency
DigEplan enables collaboration and digital efficiency for the City of Rexburg.
“We have users in a variety of departments—building, fire, public works, planning and zoning—that all need to review plans,” said Young. “DigEplan speeds up this process, with multiple users able to access and mark-up simultaneously.”
Young says that DigEplan also creates consistency, providing the ability to see others’ comments and vice versa.
“Everyone is working from the same set of plans, and it removes contradicting comments from people in the same process,” he explained. “It provides a very easy, consistent way to communicate plans, required revisions, or approvals back and forth between the design professional and the building department. It also gives us one version of the plan, so that anyone on site, such as a builder or contractor, are all working off the same exact plan set that was revised and approved.”
All permitting applications for the City of Rexburg are now required to be submitted electronically, which is favored by the architects and designers who were the driving force behind the change.
“It is beneficial for the architects and designers that are not located in our area to submit plans online, removing the need for them to ship cumbersome triangle tubes,” Stoddard said. “Our local larger design firm said DigEplan was one of the easiest software solutions that they’ve worked with, so we’ve had really good feedback.”
Stoddard also says that developers can now easily upload plans through the Cityworks public portal and download the revision report or the approval report with those pages commented. “It enables them to have the plans at their fingertips, wherever they have internet connection, and makes for very nice two-way communication.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, DigEplan has also given the city the ability to do plan review remotely since plans no longer need to be physically dropped off.
“As it is all now digital, we can continue working whatever scenarios we face,” Stoddard said.
Robust Audit Trail
The City of Rexburg is required to keep commercial plans indefinitely and residential plans for two years, so storage was challenging.
“For a long time, when we were collecting paper, there was a point where real estate was what was being purchased to try to manage storage,” Stoddard said. “But with DigEplan, it is definitely manageable to keep plans even longer than two years, providing a better benefit to the community. This creates an audit trail, so should you need to go back to any of the plans, it is easier to find them, and you can justify the decision that was made because you can follow through the comment history.”
For the City of Rexburg, DigEplan has slotted into their existing processes and provided them with the consistency benefits of electronic plan review and efficiencies delivered from integration into their Cityworks platform. To learn more about this project, watch the video presentation below by DigEplan CEO Jason Matthews.
By Christy Hunt, President – North American Markets, DigEplan