To assure an expeditious process of obtaining permits (zoning, building, electrical, etc.) needed for a building project, the Architect must begin by finding out from the applicable governing authorities what codes apply. In so doing, it is important to determine if the nature of the project and/or the site on which it is located will be subject to any requirements above and beyond those included in the normal zoning and building codes – e.g.:
After gathering the information described above, the next step is researching the zoning code, building code and, if applicable, any other regulations. During research it isn’t unusual for questions to arise about interpretation of the regulations. When this happens, answers to the questions should be obtained from the governing authority. On rare occasions, research may reveal a severe hardship in achieving compliance with a particular requirement. If so, it may be worth entering into a process culminating with a public hearing of the board of appeals at which approval of a variance from the requirement in question is obtained. The primary features of this process are as follows.
*In most, if not all, cases when the building department representative supports the design concept the variance is approved.
The first step in the permitting process itself is to determine all particulars of the process because every building department has its own requirements relating to the application form(s), fee(s) and associated deliverables to be submitted.
A cover letter itemizing everything being submitted should accompany the application and associated deliverables. Office copies of the letter and all deliverables other than the drawings should be made and kept for future reference in case any questions about the submittal are raised by the governing authority.
Even after designing a project in accord with careful code research, it is not unusual to receive a correction letter. In order to successfully address issues raised in the correction letter it is best to communicate with the person who sent it and review the following:
As was the case with the original submittal, the resubmittal required by a correction letter should be transmitted with a cover letter itemizing everything being submitted and including comments confirming the issues raised in the communications with the person who sent the correction letter. Once again, make an office copy of the letter for future reference if any questions are raised.
Incidentally, even though the most efficient permitting process is that of making a single submittal for the overall building permit, some projects have such a demanding time frame that a “fast track” approach is warranted. In these cases, partial permits (e.g. demolition permit, rough grading permit, foundation permit, etc.) may be obtained prior to the overall permit. When the fast track approach is taken, it is important for the Client as well as the design team to understand that the design of work covered by any foundation and/or other fast track permit becomes a framework within which all subsequent design work must fit. Otherwise, the Client must be willing to pay extra cost to revise work that has already been designed and may have already been constructed.