The Building Permit Process Explained

Prelude

After I wrote this and built the chart below, it occurred to me that one could simply file a dummy permit application way before the real one needs to be filed and then wait for the AHJ to come back and explain everything wrong — a rough-shot yet surefire way to get it right once it’s time for the real deal! 😩


As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, thoroughly researching permitting requirements is vitally important to the success of any project — not just that, but doing the research in the very beginning when you’d rather just get on with the design. Everyone in the architecture industry has a first time they hit the wall that is the building permit process, and they usually hit that wall while attempting to do their research, or when they first file that permit application.

Everyone I’ve ever taught permitting research to goes through the same motions of hitting that wall and saying it can’t be done, no one knows anything and no one will help them. This is when I tell them that’s correct, you’re actually doing it right! Welcome to dealing with a government agency! With these frustrations in mind, I thought I would chart the building permit process, perhaps this will be a handy guide for your next building permit shitshow adventure with your local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction).

PS
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that there are some really great jurisdictional authorities out there that do an outstanding job of preparing the people who prepare the permit applications, I just wish there were a lot more of them.

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