Thought Leadership

Benefits of Addressing Growth Challenges with Auxiliary Staff

By 2050, the United Nations estimates that 89% of the United States’ population will live in cities and urban areas.

When city growth is handled in a thoughtful way, urbanization offers a number of advantages to city residents, local economies, and even the environment:

  • More job opportunities
  • Economic diversification
  • Increased tourism
  • Improved public transportation systems
  • Greater access to social services

But rapid growth can present a number of challenges for the city officials and building departments managing plan reviews, safety inspections, code compliance, and internal staffing.

Spikes in plan review activity and staffing shortages can create frustrating approval delays for developers, who need to keep their projects moving smoothly, and for the city, which loses revenue opportunity when high-value initiatives stall.

The Benefits of Leveraging Auxiliary Staff

Auxiliary building services staff is a budget-friendly supplemental solution for cities experiencing rapid growth and development. Here are six advantages of using auxiliary staff to keep projects moving forward.

1. Scalable Engagements Can Help Accelerate Plan Reviews 

Normal ebbs and flows in permit application activity are to be expected – but with urbanization on the rise, and the American Rescue Plan Act going into effect, cities could soon see a major surge in plan review submissions.

Ballooning backlogs cause approval times to increase, frustrating residents and developers, but  auxiliary staff can help you accelerate the plan review process by supporting the work of your in-house team, minimizing your backlog, and helping to keep projects moving. Scalable service models allow you to ramp up your auxiliary engagement as activity increases, and dial it back when the workload subsides.

2. Cost-Effective Ways to Address Staffing Issues

When building departments face staffing shortages, traditional avenues for managing backlog activity include hiring more full-time employees and implementing mandatory overtime for current staff.

But both options can be costly. Mandatory overtime is expensive and may cause employee burnout if used as a long-term solution. Hiring full-time employees comes with built-in costs:

      • Recruiting and talent sourcing
      • Hiring and onboarding (average cost per employee is $4,000)
      • Training and continuing education
      • Providing jobsite equipment
      • Maintaining full-time salaries when workload decreases

Auxiliary staff eliminates recruiting, hiring, training, and equipment costs, and allows you to design your engagement based on volume of work, helping to alleviate budgeting issues associated with high backlog volume.

3. Support for In-House Staff

As backlogs grow, so does the pressure your in-house staff faces to chip away at a ballooning number of plan reviews. Combine that pressure with the stress of fielding complaints from frustrated residents and developers, plus the physical toll of working overtime, and you have a recipe for unhappy employees.

By expediting plan reviews and minimizing backlog volume, auxiliary staff relieves some of the burden on internal employees, helping to improve their overall work/life balance.

4. Access to Specialized Experts

The “Silver Tsunami,” America’s rapidly retiring workforce, is poised to create major knowledge gaps for building departments, particularly in highly specialized disciplines such as zoning, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and fire protection review.

Like hiring any full-time employee, adding an in-house specialist to your team is costly and time-consuming, particularly if you’re limited to talent sourcing in your immediate area.

An auxiliary staff partner with access to a national workforce will tailor your outsourced team to meet your city’s unique needs, including specialized experts working remotely around the country.

5. Increased Growth and Revenue Potential

When the plan review process is optimized and developers can begin construction projects quickly, your city realizes the benefits sooner, including new jobs, more tourist activity, and increased tax revenue. And because developers want to work with high-potential cities that prioritize revenue-generating projects, they’re likely to continue submitting plans that ignite your community’s growth.

This cycle of increased growth and revenue begins with plan review. Using auxiliary staff can help ensure faster turnaround times to mobilize high-value projects and keep the cycle in motion.

6. Improved Community Satisfaction

Faster plan review turnaround times for residential and commercial projects benefit the community as a whole. Supporting your building department with expert auxiliary staff can help reduce complaints about time between plan submission and approval, and increase the level of service your city provides.

As urbanization continues to increase, leveraging expert auxiliary staff can help keep growth initiatives on track for rapidly developing cities, all while maintaining budget stability, reducing the burden on building departments, and enhancing community satisfaction.

News & Events

CGA wins Outstanding Study/Plan Award from the Florida Planning and Zoning Association

Congratulations to the CGA team for winning the Outstanding Study/Plan Award by the Florida Planning and Zoning Association for the Urban Form and Density Report created for the City of Wilton Manors, FL. This award was judged based on Innovativeness, Effectiveness, Implementation, Comprehensiveness and Clarity.

The City of Wilton Manors’ Urban Form and Density Report, determined the steps needed to best redevelop Wilton Manors’ mixed-use districts, while maintaining the City’s small-town identity and character celebrated there today. Through effective inventory and analysis studies and public engagement workshops, CGA was able to not only identify the future urban form of the City’s mixed-use districts–the true connective spine of the community, but also effectively develop a step-by-step guideline of recommendations to achieve the maximum potential through increasing density by tiered development incentives in order to strengthen and animate the public realm.

We are so proud of the work the CGA team put in too this project and look forward to seeing in implemented in the City of Wilton Manors.

Click here for an in-depth look at the work that went in to this report.

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Consultants’ Competitive Negotiation Act (CCNA) Legislative Update

Thresholds under CCNA continuing contracts have increased

On July 1, CCNA thresholds for continuing services contracts increased under CS/CS/HB 441. The approved bill increases the maximum limit for CCNA continuing contracts for Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Surveying, and Architecture from an estimated per-project construction cost of $2 million to $4 million and increases the maximum limit for procuring a study from $200,000 per study to $500,000.

Read the bill details at

View a copy of the enacted bill HB441

Chapter No. 2020-127

House of Representatives Staff Analysis of the Bill

Download the flyer

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2020 World Landscape Architecture Month

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) have coined April as World Landscape Architecture Month, where industry professionals and partners join to celebrate the designs of public and private spaces. CGA Florida’s LA team was invited to host an Instagram Takeover of the ASLA Instagram account. Our own Gianno Feoli, (Director, Landscape Urbanism and Design, CGA Florida), dedicated his time and talent to create the most engaging Instagram stories any of the ASLA audience had seen. We have posted these stories to the CGA Instagram account and you may view them there under our LA + Urbanism highlights reel. Congratulations to our Florida Landscape Architecture team!

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On February 12th, Jimmy Messick PE (Project Manager, CGA Florida) led the ASCE Broward 4th Annual Engineer for a Day event, which was hosted at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) offices in Fort Lauderdale. James Messick, PE, the 2020 Engineer for a Day Chairman and Maria Scudella (Marketing Coordinator, Fort Lauderdale) coordinated CGA’s participation in this event.

The event is an exciting student outreach program created to encourage high school students to consider civil engineering as a future career field. Students from local Broward County schools (and one from Palm Beach County) submitted an essay that answered the question: What problems would a civil engineer face when designing a floating city? 

The day was divided up into (2) sessions, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The morning session comprised of, attendees interacting with local university students, professors and other engineering professionals, where they learned about the academic requirements necessary for completing an engineering degree.

During the afternoon portion, the students split up into smaller groups and toured local engineering firms. This allowed them to experience a “real engineering environment”. The students’ then, “job shadowed” at a firm that specialized in the discipline they favored.

The day was a success and CGA looks forward to participating in future E4aday events.

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United Way Tools for Schools

Tools for School

Saturday January 25th, 2020 marked the seventh annual United Way of Broward County Tools for Schools giveaway. Our CGA staff joined the United Way of Broward County to assist in their efforts to deliver school supplies to hundreds of Broward County public school teachers. More than 700 teachers from schools across Broward County received over $300,000 in free school supplies and gift cards. The supplies include crayons, No. 2 pencils, notebook paper, Crayola washable markers, Crayola colored pencils, pens, scissors, highlighters, folders, and glue. Teachers also received gift cards to buy additional materials.

Reading Pals Program 

Read Across South Florida with CGA and Dr. Seuss! 

For the third year in a row, CGA collaborated with Women United of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties in their initiative “Read Across South Florida”. The outreach program, which is nationwide, promotes literacy throughout the community. For this effort, the book chosen was Dr. Seuss’s “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! 

Broward’s Read Across South Florida pledged to read this book to 26 classrooms, reaching approximately 520 students. United Way didn’t want to just read the book with the children; they wanted each child to go home with a book of their own, setting a goal of at least 520 books for Broward’s Read Across South Florida initiative.  

Kristina Ellis (Building Code Services Coordinator, CGA Florida), who is involved with United Way, wanted to assist in their efforts of achieving the goal set of 520 books. So, she set a target for CGA to sponsor at least 20% of the total goal (104 books)She requested the staff either purchase books on Amazon for an average cost of $6.50 or provide monetary donations (in any amount) that was pooled together to purchase books. 

In the end, CGA collected and donated 224 books Dr. Seuss books to READ ACROSS AMERICA! This was celebrated on February 28th in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, (which is on March 2). By accomplishing this goal this ensured there were enough books to take home for every child that was read to! The day was a collective effort of many volunteers who showed their solidarity to make a lasting impact in our community and in these children’s lives.  

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Silvia Vargas APA New Orleans Meeting

Silvia Vargas, AICP, Principal Planner in our Miami office, participated in the American Planning Association (APA) Leadership meetings taking place in New Orleans ahead of the organization’s annual National Planning Conference. Silvia is the elected American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Commissioner for Region III, which represents AICP planners from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and South America.

During the course of the conference, Silvia:

  • Provided mentoring to young women who are planning students or emerging professionals as part of APA’s Mentor/Match program.
  • Co-emcee’d the induction ceremony of the 2018 Class of AICP Fellows. The Fellow of AICP (FAICP) is the highest honor bestowed by the Institute to those AICP planners who have achieved excellence in professional practice, teaching and mentoring, research, public and community service, and leadership.
  • Led the College of Fellows’ annual meeting where the creation of a new Fellows Endowment fund was approved.
  • Attended the APA Foundation’s Donor Reception, celebrating the many planners who through their donations since 2017 have made it possible for the Foundation to award twice as many student scholarships and to provide planning assistance to communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, California, and other areas devastated by natural disasters last year.
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Silvia E. Vargas, AICP, LEED AP Joins CGA

Calvin, Giordano & Associates, Inc. (CGA) welcomes Silvia E. Vargas to the CGA Miami office as a Principal Planner. Silvia joins CGA with 25 years of public and private sector experience in community planning and design. In her new role she will pursue and manage a variety of planning projects, including comprehensive plans and area plans, as well as providing public engagement support for other types of CGA projects.

Silvia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Kansas. Prior to joining CGA, Silvia ran her own planning consultancy, Silvia E. Vargas Community Planning, LLC (SEVCP), where she concentrated on helping local governments and nonprofits design and execute creative planning processes to engage their stakeholders.

Silvia’s work includes many comprehensive and strategic plans; visioning, neighborhood, district, downtown and corridor plans; grant preparation; parks and recreation master plans; institutional campus master plans; site-scale planning; and land acquisition program for recreational and environmental preservation purposes.

Her efforts have been recognized with numerous awards and speaking opportunities.

Silvia is actively involved in the advancement of the planning profession through the American Planning Association (APA), currently as a nationally-elected Commissioner of the American Institute of Certified Planners Commission. She has consulted as an expert to The American Architectural Foundation’s Sustainable Cities’ and City Managers’ Design Academies. She is also a member of ULI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI).