The State Architect's Corner

Photo of State Architect, Chester A. Widom, FAIA

It was such an excellent opportunity to see and interact with those of you who were among the over 700 clients and stakeholders at our recent DSA 20/20: Focus on the Future events. Considering the incredible level of school construction underway right now that is keeping all of us very busy, this was an ideal time to host such an event. DSA is projecting to receive projects worth over $7 billion in value this fiscal year. The DSA 20/20 events provided insight into future trends and challenges within our industry, a forum to exchange ideas, and most importantly a venue to discuss how the Division of the State Architect (DSA) can serve you better.

I was especially happy to hear the positive feedback regarding DSA’s efforts to expedite the construction process and alleviate potential pressures associated with rapidly escalating inflationary costs. We hope those of you who attended took away increased knowledge and a better understanding of our services and processes.

The event presentations, a video of the Sacramento event, and a summary “recap” are now available on the DSA 20/20 webpage. However, DSA 20/20: Focus on the Future was only the start. We have several other major and exciting initiatives that will occur soon.

DSA hopes to continue the theme of outreach and interaction by hosting similar, but more sharply focused events in each of our regional offices. Because we expect the tremendous amount of work submitted to DSA by school districts over the past year to continue, we want to ensure our partnerships and processes consistently deliver positive results.

These regional office outreach events are expected to take place this fall. This will be perfect timing since DSA will implement fully electronic plan review by the end of the third quarter of this year! Though it has been a long time in the making, we will finally match the practices being used by our clients and the industry.

Over the past eighteen months, DSA has acquired the necessary resources to conduct electronic plan review, researched and determined staffing needs, and secured a contract with AECOM to help oversee development of procedures and training.

Development of procedures and training is currently underway, and in June we expect to begin using electronic plan review on a “soft” basis for selected projects throughout the summer. After making adjustments for lessons learned from these projects, all DSA staff will be fully trained to implement the use of electronic plan review on practically all projects by mid-September. If you are interested in proposing a project to be used during this soft phase, please contact your regional DSA office.

Because all of our regional offices have been conducting some plan reviews electronically over the years, we expect the transition will not be tremendously difficult. In fact, one of our offices has already completed successful electronic plan review on some larger projects up to $40 million in value.

As with the implementation of any extensive process change, we fully expect to experience trials and tribulations along the way. However, as DSA demonstrated with the project submittal appointment system, the inspection card process, use of DSABox, and numerous other significant changes made over the past six years, we will immediately recognize and address any issues that arise.

As we learned through implementation of the appointment system, we recognize the value of additional staff positions to administer the process and ensure success. Positions were recently hired in each regional office for the appointment system, and we are in the process of including similar additions of staff to address the needs of electronic plan review.

While electronic plan review is a significant step towards improving our client services, I am also very excited to announce the progress of other DSA improvements underway. Later this year, we will begin development of an online learning management tool that will eventually allow us to offer online training for clients to learn at their convenience. We also hope this tool will be used in the future for DSA-required certification and testing.

Additionally, DSA is working to deliver a web-based form submittal system. This system will not only create time savings for clients who will no longer need to submit duplicate information on the various forms required by DSA, but will also ensure the consistency and validity of data supplied. We hope to have our online forms submittal portal ready for use by early 2019.

And that’s not all — DSA has commenced an overhaul of the E-Tracker database system. Our new system, currently referred to as “I-Tracker,” will contain the upgrades and improvement long desired by both DSA staff and clients. The new system will provide enhanced project data and also incorporate elements that support the DSA project submittal appointment process. We expect I-Tracker to be operational in 2019.

I hope our efforts continue to exhibit our commitment to serve as your trusted partner and advisor in the construction of great schools. I look forward to working with all of you for the remainder of 2018 and in the future.

Thank you for making a difference!

Chester A. Widom, FAIA
State Architect

Digital Signature of State Architect, Chester A. Widom, FAIA