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What you need to know about the building permit process.

March 3, 2018

Hire an Architect to help you navigate through the complex plan review process.

The law requires that your project be prepared by a licensed architect to apply for a permit. Over the last 30 years, the permitting process has changed. Planning and zoning regulations have become more complex and building codes have become significantly more restrictive and the construction atmosphere has become more problematic. Failure to comply with local codes can lead to faulty construction or expensive fixes to correct the mistakes. That is why it becomes ever so important to hire an architect from the onset of a project to help you navigate through the quagmire of building code and zoning regulations applicable to your project. An architect can help you get through the process faster because he or she already have existing knowledge of the local codes and processes that you need to get your permits.

Building codes are not going to get any simpler, and jurisdictions will enforce these regulations relentlessly.  The solution is to build more time into the project schedule for permit review and necessary approvals from neighborhood associations, historic and conservation district departments.

After having established the objectives and the restrictions affecting the project, coming up with design solutions, preparing the Construction Documents, the drawings are issued to the reviewing jurisdiction with a permit application.

It can often take between 2 weeks for a simple project to over 9 months to obtain a permit for a large project.

This lengthy review process is caused by understaffed building departments and large backlogs of projects to be reviewed. Today, the scope and extent of the building codes regulations is much larger. Not only does it take longer for architects to prepare the more extensive documentation that is required to demonstrate compliance, it takes longer for the plans examiners to do their jobs. An architect is familiar with the permit process and can aid in streamlining the plan review process by helping owners navigate through each review department.

There are numerous review and planning departments that a project must be reviewed by and that creates a lengthy permit process. The most important are the city plan review department, the historic district committee if applicable to your project, a design advisory committee if your project is within a character conservation district or zoning overlay area, the state fire marshal’s office if it is a commercial project, and others. An architect working with these plan review agencies in parallel can save lots of time and money rather than doing one at a time. Having an architect on your side who has a good relationship and familiarity with local building code enforcement officials and the permit process is the most effective way to ensure that permits are expedited. An architect will tell you what it will take to permit your project, how long, what applications and what the projected permit costs will be.

You must submit plans prepared by an architect for any new construction or for an addition or alteration to an existing building for both residential and commercial projects.

As soon as you start thinking about your new construction hire an architect. The sooner an architect can begin coordinating and stream-lining the construction permit process the faster you can begin construction. When an architect manages the building permit process from the beginning, the sooner you will receive a building permit. An experienced architect can ensure that your building permit will be ready to issue expeditiously and without delays.

permit flowchart

In most cases, architects will be the most knowledgeable about building codes in your municipality. Architects make sure that building code criteria become part of the plans before applying for a building permit. If you are thinking about building, make sure you hire a licensed architect to help you navigate through the complexities of the permit and plan approval process. An architect can help you save time and money.


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