By Jeff Eriks and Evan Williams, Cambridge Companies
May 2, 2018
Understanding processes for different levels of jurisdiction will make a difference in the length of time devoted to the design and construction of your Facility.
Construction projects, whether they are new builds or upgrades, require compliance with federal, state, county and even local regulations. Each one of these entities may require different levels of approval and follow different processes. The earlier you involve the code officials in your process, the more likely you are to have a smooth transition through the stages of your project. These are many of the regulations and codes, different types of permits and the timelines that may be required.
Regulations and Codes
There are a patchwork of different policies, codes, best practices, requirements and laws that govern site development and construction. At the federal level, the ADA governs accessibility to and within a building. Every state has unique building code amendments and land use requirements. At the local level, municipalities and counties inject their own specific requirements. These are often the most variable and include unique zoning and land-use requirements, local utility and connection requirements, bulk design and aesthetic requirements,
as well as local customs and opinions/rules. What is essential to remember about code officers as a property owner? Code officials deal with these codes/rules/policies every day; it is their everyday reality and the responsibility of the property owner (or their developer and representatives) to either know all the requirements, or to engage project team members, who will involve the necessary parties to ensure that all of the requirements are being addressed.
The result of these variable code and regulation overlays is that it is rare to design a facility once and use it repeatedly, nor can you expect to eliminate or shorten the permitting process by using a design previously approved in another area. Every project is reviewed individually and has its own unique characteristics. They all must go through the normal process required by the local municipality or governing jurisdiction and must be approved on its own merit.
As an owner, you must engage a team that has knowledge of the local process that can help manage it for you from start to finish. However, they also must understand the operations, goals, budget, schedule requirements and everything else that makes your project unique.
It is best to build a team early in the project development process and schedule a meeting with the local authorities to make the personal introductions. While you are there, find out what their specific process looks like, understand what they are looking for, figure out where they draw the line when it comes to design and site permitting requirements, and where you can “push back” to avoid any costly impacts including aesthetics, site layout, etc. This initial meeting should be used to ask questions and learn the process. Let the local code officials talk so you can learn. Do not push back at this meeting but hear what they are saying and ask clarifying questions, so you absolutely understand the fine line between a “requirement” and a “recommendation”. Sometimes “recommendations” or “preferences” are used like “requirements” and if you do not clearly understand the difference, it may end up costing additional money.