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How Long Does It Take to Get a Full Building Permit?
By Sandy Wolf
April 17, 2018
If you are reading this post, it is likely that your architect has informed you that you need a full building permit for whatever project you are doing. That may be building the home of your dreams, or it may be that you are launching a restaurant in a brand new building. The process in Seattle covers both commercial and residential project types.
(Not sure if you need a full building permit for your commercial space? This may help. And, stay tuned for a residential version, coming soon.)
The first step in a full building permit is to set up a project number with the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI, for short). This involves your architect creating a site plan and giving a brief description of the work you are proposing for your project. We then submit it to the SDCI and they take one to two weeks processing the information, having an inspector visit the site if necessary, and generally setting up the project in the system with an assigned project number.
Once your project number is official, your architect can schedule an intake date. An intake date is essentially a digital appointment with the city that indicates the day that your architect needs to submit drawings so that the city can begin reviewing your permit for compliance with applicable codes.
With the pace of construction in Seattle right now, SDCI is very busy and often intake dates can be anywhere from two to four months out. So, be sure to keep in mind: if your project requires a full building permit, you could set up a project number in May and not be able to submit drawings to the city until July, or later.
This is a good time to note that this post specifically reflects Seattle’s building permit process. Many jurisdictions do not require intake dates and processes differ between cities. Be sure to check with your architect or building department for how things work in your city.
Okay, your intake date is here and your permit drawings have been submitted for review. What now? Even once the City of Seattle has your project for review, you are not out of the woods. After your intake date, the city will take anywhere from two to eight weeks to do the initial review of your permit drawings. Then, at the end of this review time, they will issue permit corrections.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Corrections? Shouldn’t my architect have known exactly what the city needed to see?” and in an ideal world, sure. In reality, architects are humans (and so are plan reviewers), and so there is no such thing as perfect drawings (or perfect code interpretations). In Seattle in particular, land use and building codes are always changing (as well as the interpretation of those codes), and so every project will have at least one correction cycle. If you have a large or complicated project, you may actually have two or three corrections cycles, so keep that in mind.
Once the city issues your corrections, your architect will take time to address all of the correction items, checking in with the city’s reviewers to clarify corrections as necessary, and then will resubmit the drawings to the city. At this point, the city will take another two weeks to review the drawings and determine if they have additional corrections. If not, they will send out permit fees. Once the permit fees are paid, they will issue your drawings a week or so later, and then you have your building permit and can start construction!
We’ve thrown a lot of timelines out there as this is a complex process. When clients ask how long a full building permit will take we always recommend that you plan on four to nine months, with the caveat that every project is different. For any project that requires full building permit review, you will need to build extra time in to your project schedule. Every project is unique, and timing is something we always discuss at the outset of the design process to make sure you are prepared.