Getting a Building Permit

If you are thinking of remodeling or building a new office, restaurant or any commercial space, you may need a building permit, any new construction, alterations, additions, demolitions, renovation at the facility requires certain regulations to make sure the construction complies with the building codes and by-laws, to ensure life safety, liability, accessibility, and sustainability.

Building permits are an essential part of the construction process. It protects the community and the property owner through a legal document that approves all the construction details of the project.

Obtaining building permits for any project can be a challenging and overwhelming process. Like most regulations, there are several different types of permits, reviews, and licenses depending on the type of facility, locations, and intended use. Besides, codes can vary between cities and provinces, each reflecting different safety priorities. Codes changes from year to year and some types of construction do not even need a building permit.

As you can see, applying for commercial building permits requires a lot of coordination, understanding and experience. The permitting process can add significant cost if is not managed properly. Most owners hire a general contractor to pull the permits and manage the entire project, to avoid complications, delays and stress.

When do you need a permit?

As we mentioned before, building permits are required for, all new construction, additions and exterior alterations, building demolition, any changes of use of a building or land (either all or in part), most repairs and renovations for a heritage building, construction projects and any change of land use or occupancy on private property, major internal work.

Many construction projects requires not only the building permit but also additional and separate trades permits for electrical, gas, plumbing or HVAC. This depends of the scale of the project and internal work. The permit is typically issued by the specific trade contractor hired by the general contractor (GC).

How much can a permit cost?

The building permit fee is highly dependent on the scale of the project; besides, the cost varies depending on the complexity of the project, the value of the work, the additional permits that might be required and the time it takes Inspectors to review the application, the site plans, legal documents and visit the construction site. To give you an example, the cost can range from a few hundred dollars for small, simple projects to thousands for large-scale, complex projects.

How long does it takes?

Issuing building permits can take weeks and even months. That is why is recommended to apply as soon as possible. It also depends on the time of the year you are applying, if it is a busy season like summer will take more time. In addition, the timeline varies from city to city, in Vancouver BC, for a small commercial project, it can take up to two months. Right now with Covid-19 the city is still working and receiving applications, however everything is online and the process might take a little longer.

The process

The documentation required might vary from project to project as we mentioned before. You need to find out the checklist and guides that applies for your specific project. However, the city has developed some general steps to make the process easier and you can find it online.

As first step, the city of Vancouver recommends to determine if your project requires a separate development permit. This permit is required for large-scale projects or where particular types of land uses are being proposed.

Second, you need to fill out the application for a building permit form along with the owner´s undertaking (schedule D). Besides, in the application package you should compile the building drawings, site plan, and estimated value of the project.

*There are many checklist and guides that you can refer to verify if your application package is complete, such as a check list for commercial and industrial buildings, change of use, building envelop repairs , demolition of commercial buildings, etc.

Third, during the building project you might have to contact a building inspector to have the project checked and verify the information provided for the building permit and he will outline the different inspections required during the different stages of the project, such as electrical, plumbing, framing and HVAC. Once the building permit has been issued, you can start working on site without any problem.

Fourth, once the project has gone through all the inspections the owner might requires an occupancy permit, however this is an entire other process with particular documents, forms, checklist and guides.

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