A major element in any building project is the Permit. The permitting process ensures that a project is conforming to local, state and other codes, such as the Seattle Land-Use Code, the State Energy Code, and the IBC (International Building Code).
A standard permit set provides a site plan showing the scope of new work, building plans, exterior elevations, a building section and wall section, window/door schedules, architectural details, and structural plans and details. For a full review project (see below) there’s an initial cycle of reviews, typically by an Ordinance/Structural reviewer, a Land-Use reviewer, an Energy Code reviewer, perhaps a Geo/Soils reviewer if there’s significant proposed groundwork, and others depending on the project. After the initial cycle the various reviewers return “corrections” to the architect. “Corrections” is an unfortunate term, really a misnomer – in general these comments are not pointing out mistakes but asking for clarifications, requesting that references be updated to reflect the current addition of the various codes, etc. When these “corrections” are addressed, returned to the assorted reviewers, and then approved, the permit is issued.
It’s very important to take permit lead-times into account in planning a project. In Seattle, especially, the process can be very lengthy. There are several steps in the process:
- Determine if your project qualifies for an over-the-counter STFI (Subject To Field Inspection) permit. For small projects this is a good option, with reduced review time and cost;
- For all other projects the first step is to submit a Preliminary Application Form, with a site plan. Once the City reviews this and approves it, you’re issued a project number.
- With that project number, you can now schedule a permit intake appointment.
- On or before 7:00 am on the day of your intake appointment, you need to submit online your plan set, required forms, structural calculations, etc.
If you’re going the full-review route, get ready for long delays. Obtaining a project number used to be a one or two-day process once the Preliminary Application Form was submitted. But since the City rolled out their new website this Spring it’s become another weeks-long process. When you do finally receive your project number and attempt to schedule a permit submittal, you’ll find that available dates are three months or more out. Then, once you’ve (hopefully) successfully submitted your permit documents on your appointed date, the review period will average 8-10 weeks.
In other words, once you begin a project, it may be 6 months or more before you have a permit in hand.