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  • 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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  • Code Sheet

    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

    I agree with having a code sheet, which can also be a “life safety plan”.  Here in CA, for school submissions to DSA, we also have a separate fire dept sheet showing the fire lanes and with the local FD jurisdiction signoff so that sheet doesn’t get ‘marked up’ during plan check.  We’ve used “life safety plans” for our medical projects as the wall fire and smoke rating indicators get very confusing when mixed with everything else on a typical architectural floor plan.

    Depending on the project’s complexity there may be more than one ‘code sheet’ in the front of the set.  For example a sheet with room and building exiting capacities may be separate from the code sheet showing occupancies, separations and construction types.

    We try to keep all of the code sheets and informational sheets out of the “A” drawings to separate them from construction and detailing, so as a rule we use “G” [for general] in the front of our sets.  It’s a lot easier to tailor the presentation of code review requirements to the AHJ the project will be reviewed by while keeping your ‘regular’ document standards typical as well.

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    Michael Elia AIA
    Associate Principal
    NTD Architecture
    San Dimas CA
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  • Three Steps

    Three Steps

    Sent: 05-13-2014 19:39
    From: Charles Graham
    Subject: Permit Streamlining Best Practices

    1.Find out the documentation required by the AHJ.
    2.Perform a thorough code analysis and report it.
    2. Provide the required documentation.

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    Charles Graham AIA
    Architect
    O’Neal, Inc.
    Greenville SC
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    I would add to that list to always have a presubmittal meeting with your AHJ. At the presubmittal meeting you walk the AHJ through your project and identify any potential problems you should be prepared to respond to in the submittal.

    Donald Henke AIA

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    Donald Henke AIA
    Senior Architect
    Jacobs
    Plano TX
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    Your three step process makes a lot of sense Charles … but I wonder if have you have faced situations where

    1      The AHJ requirements were unclear or inconsistent (for example between plan check and field inspection)
    2The code was interpreted differently between yourself and the AHJ
    3In addition to the ‘required’ documentation there were additional requirements that came up later?

    Cheers

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    Michael Malinowski AIA
    AIA Director – California Region
    Applied Architecture, Inc.
    Sacramento CA

  • Some Things I’d Like to See Fixed

    Here’ are the top things I’d like to see ‘fixed’ in the permitting process:

    1.  Uniform enforcemnt of all provisions of the code:  If energy and green compliance are normal parts of the code, then why are they subject to extraordinary scrutiny and certification on the construction documents?  If what my office has specified is code compliant, then the AHJ’s plans examiner can see it, or ask me to specify it in a specific location.   Why do I need to ‘sign-off’ on the CF-1R and RMM-1 forms?  How are those code sections special compared to the code provisions?  Those examples are California specific, but other states have similar ‘special enforcement’ areas.  Is it just enviro-hype driving this?  Really??  I’m dismayed at how government sees itself as a marketing operation all the time.  Don’t do that.  Just legislate, then enforce uniformly.. Just it like it says in the US Constitution.  I should only have to demonstrate my responsibility for the construction documents in one way… The way the Architect’s Practice Act says I should… By sealing and signing the documents I’m in responsible  charge of (usually done in the title blocks of each sheet).

    2.  AHJ’s need to either keep their websites up-to-date, or simply not offer anything but a phone number:  One of my local AHJ’s still lists the 2010 editions of the codes on their website, when in reality they’ve been using the 2013’s since January of this year.

    3.  AHJ’s need to keep their form libraries up-to-date:  Same as above… Haven’t been getting updated CALGreen forms until just now… 5 months into adoption!  Come on!!

    David M. Sanders, AIA

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