Best Practices

Good question, Michael. I’ll be interested to learn the outcome, as permitting processes vary so widely across the country. Thomas’ recommendation is on target as a practice recommendation; it not only supports the permitting process but will be invaluable over the life of the building, for reference as codes change and buildings are modified to respond to changing needs.

It sounds as though Scottsdale’s process alows for preliminary meetings with codes officials; that is my primary recommendation as a best practice for authorities having jurisdiction.

But as to the larger question of how permitting agencies streamline the permitting process – as an architect who practices primarily in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, I have to say that there is very little interest on the part of permitting authorities in streamlining the permit process; rather, it continues to evolve in ways that complexify it. Most recently in the City of Philadelphia, in response to tragedies resulting from poor practices in building demolition, Streets Department review of even the simplest projects changed dramatically, effective May 1st, making it significantly more time-consuming and costly to get permits for even the simplest projects. Certainly changes were needed in the demolition permitting process, but the implications of the changes actually implemented do not seem to be well understood by the troops enforcing them, resulting in unnecessary costs and delays to projects that do not involve demolition.

Until about a decade ago, it was possible to get a sketch-level review with a plans examiner that would allow the design team to get feedback from the AHJ agency, ultimately streamlining the permitting process. That is no longer possible in the City of Philadelphia or in most of the surrounding townships and municipalities, who largely rely on consultants for plans review.

That would be my strongest recommendation – the ability to have meaningful discussion with authorities having jurisdiction early in the design process. A shared interpretation of codes requirements between the architect of record and the AHJ, and a transparent permitting process that allows dialogue, are the most important elements in streamlining the permitting process.

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Mary Holland AIA
CICADA Architecture/Planning, Inc.
Philadelphia PA
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Original Message:
Sent: 05-15-2014 19:36
From: Thomas Dwyer
Subject: Permit Streamlining Best Practices

We have found that one of the best ways to improve the permitting process is the development of a code data sheet(s). We have a standard code data sheet that includes all the code, zoning, occupancy, building type and construction type information. It also includes a plan(s), which show all rated walls, room sizes, occupancy capacities, exit separations, travel paths and distances, and exit capacities. We review this with the code agency in the preliminary meeting and include it in the front of the document set. This makes it easier for them to find the information they need for their review. It works to expedite the process. Tom
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Thomas Dwyer AIA
Thomas A. Dwyer AIA
Scottsdale AZ
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