Building permits! Are they just a piece of paper stating you can build a specific design? Some may feel this way, but they are designed to ensure your project’s plans comply with local standards for land use, zoning and construction. In Philadelphia a building permit is required before beginning projects to enlarge, repair, change, add to or demolish a structure, and to install equipment or systems in a structure. This includes:
- New construction
- Alterations and Additions to existing structures.
- Changes in the occupancy classification.
- Installation or modification of fire suppression or mechanical systems
Architects create construction documents that comply with the building codes of the local jurisdiction. These documents identify that the proposed construction meets the safety and legal confines of the code, and a design professional (me, the architect) is responsible for its design. Hence the reason for liability insurance, but that’s a discussion for another day!
When the intended construction is for a new use of the space, it must be determined that the new use is allowed by the zoning district the building resides in. If so, it will be approved to build; if not you must propose a variance. A variance is when you ask for an exception to the zoning district’s code. The variance may be a simple task, but it may also be a large undertaking, or even worse, a termination of your intent. You are typically required to present your case before the municipality’s board. The board will then vote to approve or deny the proposal. If approved the local community typically is allotted 30 days to appeal the approval. In contentious cases, the process can be long and tedious. A good architect by your side that understands the nuances of code is essential.
JL Architects is involved with all these approval processes, whether it’s a variance to build an entire development, a new occupancy use, or a by right permit for a single location. We have obtained thousands of building permits and variances for our clients – in over 38 states within our 31 years of business. We have practically done it all, except something for you. So, think of JLA when building your dreams.
-Nathan Houser, Architectural Designer