Building and fire safety director got his edge from transformative experiences at GCSU

Daniel Brown inspects carnival ride

Building and fire safety director got his edge from transformative experiences at GCSU

D aniel Brown ’11, has come a long way since earning his GED. 

Daniel Brown in his office.
Daniel Brown in his office.

A first-generation, nontraditional college student, he earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Georgia College & State University (GCSU).

He’s always been fascinated by buildings and architecture, owing to his studies and work in construction and plant operations at GCSU.

Daniel’s the chief building official of building and fire safety for Macon-Bibb County through his company, SAFEbuilt. At Safebuilt—a 30-year-old company—he leads his interdisciplinary team of four inspectors to provide inspections, review construction plans, enforce building patents, provide guidance and permitting services.

“Any set of building plans is required to come through this office for review,” Daniel said. “It’s a simple process for the most part, but at times, there are technicalities. That’s when we reference the books. There’s one for every trade. The building code book alone is three-and-a-half inches thick.”

Daniel is a certified building official by the International Code Council, Soil Conservation Commission for Georgia and Main Street 101. However, he’s always looking for new opportunities to grow in his field.

“I want to not only be able to speak to my clients, but at least understand what's being spoken to me,” Daniel said.

With I-16 and I-75 strategically located in the center of town, Macon, Georgia, is a treasure of historic buildings and new developments. Those include a new amphitheater and renovations at the Macon City Auditorium, which Brown reviewed and permitted.

His team’s goal is to protect safety and equity of buildings in the area. 

Daniel Brown inspecting a carnival ride for proper setup, missing and damaged components and current licenses as part of the public safety program.
Daniel Brown inspecting a carnival ride for proper setup, missing and damaged components and current licenses as part of the public safety program.

“We have so many residential, industrial and/or commercial jobs happening at one time,” he said. “But there are always problems when it comes to construction and development. I’m constantly trying to come up with a way to make the project move forward, yet still meet the intent of what we're trying to accomplish.”

If someone has an issue with a building, Daniel is called.

“I like to meet with clients to see what they’re trying. Then, we’ll find a solution,” he said. “I like the challenge.”

As a commercial plans’ examiner, Brown worked with 20 to 25 Amazon executives, design professionals and their attorneys on site at the 1,016,000 square-foot Amazon Distribution Center in Macon.

“That was an incredible experience,” he said. “There were special building provisions that had to be addressed. So, I apprised the group regarding safety issues, such as storing combustible items like perfume, located in the warehouse.”

“I told them, ‘This goes well beyond just simple conversations. You have to get me the performance-based design, meaning it's been tested enough to meet the intent,’” Daniel said.

After a few months of going back-and-forth and reviewing the thick manual page-by-page, Amazon came up with a performance-based system design for a hazardous material storage area that met building codes. 

When addressing safety issues, Daniel has to be assertive. He learned those skills from his advisor, Dr. Bob Wilson, professor emeritus of history and university historian at Georgia College, where his public speaking classes required him to speak in front of his peers. 

Honestly, if I didn't have the Georgia College degree, I never would’ve gotten the interview. They thought I was teachable and trainable. So, they gave me the job.
– Daniel Brown

“In the beginning, I thought, ‘I can't speak in front of these people,’” he said. “I finally just told myself, ‘You have no choice but to do it.’ It turned out not to be so bad. I did it a few more times. Then, these speaking experiences included presenting to groups outside of Georgia College. Today, I have no problem speaking to people at all. That skill has grown stronger and stronger.”

These transformative speaking skills turned him into the confident and competent speaker Daniel is today.

“It prepared me to work big pre-construction meetings with 20 to 30 people including architects and company presidents,” he said. 

Daniel’s graduation day. Pictured from left to right are: Maddie Belle, Kari, Clarissa, Daniel and Seth.
Daniel’s graduation day. Pictured from left to right are: Maddie Belle, Kari, Clarissa, Daniel and Seth.

Daniel took a historical architecture class from Jim Turner, professor of public history. That class helped Daniel land his job.

He left Georgia College with more confidence than when he started.

“The instruction I received prepared me for my job and the knowledge has actually been learned, not just memorized,” he said. “Sometimes I think about just how fortunate I am to have had that learning opportunity.”

“My public history coursework was perfect,” Daniel said. “I’ve been in building design and construction my whole life. Then here, I've found the skills and knowledge from the preservation side, so I've got the actual technical knowledge I can combine and incorporate those concepts at work.”

He gives a “shout out” to his three office workers—one, a permit manager and two permit technicians, as well as his wife, Kari McCage Brown, ’07, ’20, coordinator of Business Outreach at Georgia College.

“Kari saw me through all my education,” Daniel said. “Then, she found the posting for the building inspector job with Macon-Bibb County. When she asked me about it, I thought, ‘I just don't think I qualify for it.’ She thought otherwise and applied for that position for me. Then, I got a call to interview with the building inspector.”

He feels his knowledge of construction, public history and historic preservation gave him the edge he needed to get the job.

“Honestly, if I didn't have the Georgia College degree, I never would’ve gotten the interview,” Daniel said. “They thought I was teachable and trainable. So, they gave me the job.”