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Building permit process - Frequently asked questions

 

1. What's the difference between a Building Permit and a Development Permit?
2. How can I track progress of my application?
3. What can applicants do to speed up the application process?
4. How long will it take the city to process my application?
5. What happens if my application is rejected?
6. What type of drawings do I need?
7. When do I need to get a partial permit?
8. Is a demolition permit needed for interior partitioning?
9. How do I get an occupancy permit?
10. Who can I talk to if something goes wrong?

1. What's the difference between a Building Permit and a Development Permit?

The Building Permit process is based on the Safety Codes Act and the Alberta Building Code, Plumbing Code, Electrical Code and Fire Code for the construction, alteration or addition for both Residential and Commercial Buildings. Plan reviews, approvals, and site inspections, are provided in accordance to the required codes by each discipline to ensure safety for all the citizens of The City of Calgary.

A Building Permit applies to new buildings or structures, including retaining walls over a meter in height and swimming pools or hot tubs, and to demolitions, relocations, repairs or alterations to existing buildings and structures. Building Permits are designed to address life and safety issues of the occupants and users of those buildings or structures.

A Building Permit will not be granted for a project which does not already have a Development permit or a Business Use Confirmation. Development Permits are required for new projects, changes in use, or additions to existing structures; for example, a new building in a particular location or an addition to an office or warehouse requires a Building Permit. Development Permits address issues of community planning, bylaws, land use, image, and compatibility. When undertaking a new project, it is always best to consult with the Development office to find out what kinds of permits you will need. In addition, a project that triggers a land-use change requires a lengthy and involved process that you will need to take into consideration when planning your project.

The Development Permit process is based on the Municipal Government Act and the Land-Use By-Law. Plan reviews, approvals, and site inspections in relationship to land use, site development, streetscape, planning principles, densities, landscaping, transportation, parking etc., are provided to ensure that development takes place in accordance to the approved planning, engineering and environmental policies.

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2. How can I track progress of my application?

The VISTA online system is the best way to track the progress of your application. You can go to www.calgary.ca/VISTA to access the system. Entering the JAC (Job Access code) on your Permit receipt into the system will allow you access a page that tracks your application's progress through the system.

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3. What can applicants do to speed up the application process?

Carefully following the application requirement lists to ensure the application is complete is the best thing you can do to make sure that your application is approved as quickly as possible. Make sure that you are using the right checklist for the job and the most up-to-date version of that checklist by having one faxed to you or downloading it from the City website. The checklists are general guidelines to the process, beyond that, there are project specific considerations you'll need to take into account. Also make sure that you have submitted the correct fee with your application.

You'll want to provide all the documents required and respond to the different departments involved in approving your plans, as well as to assist them when they consider your application. For example, fire exit travel distances are set out by the Code. An initial application for a building may conform to these distances. But sometimes once the interior layout is created, it changes travel times for occupants of the building, requiring changes to the plans in order to ensure the safety of the occupants in the case of a fire. Having the interior layout prepared at the time of initial application could prevent having to delay the project while plans are revised to ensure occupants are able to exit the building safely and in time in the case of a fire.

You can also help your application move through the approval process quickly by responding quickly to any request for additional information, plans and other documents during the Circulation review. If you have questions, you should contact a Customer Service Representative at 403-268-5311. When you call, the Customer Service Representative will be able to best help you if you have been clear and concise about providing necessary information like the permit number, the project address and the type of permit requested.

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4. How long will it take the city to process my application?

The length of time it takes to process an application depends on how large the project is and whether the application is clear and complete at the time it is submitted. A small project with a complete set of drawings and all other necessary information will take fewer days to approve than a large project or one that is missing information. An explanation of the factors that influence approval times can be found in Section 3: Permit Process Approval Targets.

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5. What happens if my application is rejected?

The City is conscious that a rejected application represents a considerable investment of time and works to reduce the possibility that your application is rejected. For example, when you submit the application initially, The City checks to make sure that the architect's and engineer's seals are there and any necessary Professional Schedules have been included with the submission. If they aren't, you'll be informed when you submit, so that you can fix it before the application even starts its process. You will be informed of any nonconforming issues at this time. You may respond to these items by clarifying the issues, or redesigning the project to correct the items. You might also choose to propose an alternative solution by providing adequate supporting documentation to address the code objectives and functional requirements. If you don't agree with the code interpretation provided, you can ask to discuss the issue with the Supervisor or the Chief Building Inspector.

Permits may be issued with conditions, which need to be addressed prior to or during construction. On occasion, as the Permit is reviewed by each of the Plans Examination Safety Codes Officers, the number of permit conditions can grow to an unreasonable number, in which case the permit application will be returned to the applicant to allow them to correct those deficiencies and resubmit the application. In either case, the conditions need to be corrected.

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6. What type of drawings do I need?

See the Complete Application Requirement List for your specific project to determine the number of drawings required and the preferred scale. Drawings should include the project title, scale, north arrow, dimensions and room labels on plans. Drawings required include:

  • Site Plan or Key Plan
  • Architectural / Structural floor and mezzanine plan(s)
  • Elevations if work includes exterior additions or alterations
  • Details of the wall assemblies and doors
  • Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Sprinkler drawings if the value of the work in any of these trades exceeds $5,000 of work or significantly changes existing systems
  • A geotechnical report is required for new construction or additions over 500 m2 (4645 ft2)
  • A Mechanical Site Slip from Engineering will be required for new construction and additions with new foundations which could affect underground services

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7. When do I need to get a partial permit?

Partial Permits may be for excavation, foundation, interior none load bearing wall removal, construction of a particular portion of the project, etc. A Partial Permit is intended to allow a portion of the work to progress in advance of the full Building Permit. Also, a Partial Permit may permit a project to start if the drawings for one portion are complete but the balance of the drawings are in progress, or if the Development requires some additional information for the whole project but is satisfied that part of the project can proceed in advance of the final information.

A Partial Permit may be applied for at the time of the initial Building Permit application or may be applied for at any later date prior to the release of the full Building Permit. There is a fee charged for the Partial Permit which is in addition to the full Building Permit fee.

A Partial Permit cannot be released if there is an outstanding Development Permit which has not been released unless the Development Manager is in support of the work proceeding in advance of the full Development Permit. If there are no Development Permit or By Law issues outstanding and if adequate drawings have been submitted with the necessary supporting documents then the Partial Permit can typically be released in three days from the time of application for small projects and in seven days from the time of application for large projects.

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8. Is a demolition permit needed for interior partitioning?

The answer to this question depends on what kind of work will be done in the interior partitioning. If non-load bearing partitions are removed at the time of the interior partitioning work, then the cost of the demolition work would have been included in the full permit and there would be no additional permit required. If the intention is to remove the non-load bearing partitions in advance of the full Building Permit, then either a Partial Permit or a separate permit for the non-load bearing removal would be required.

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9. How do I get an occupancy permit?

The Occupancy Permit is only issued after all of the inspectors have signed off on the project. During the course of construction, the contractor should have called the City inspectors as required to review the progress of the work. The Building Inspector will leave an Application for Occupancy form behind. At the final inspection, the City and Fire inspectors will sign off their acceptance. The Building Inspector will issue an Occupancy Permit once all of the inspectors have signed off on the project. New businesses will need to arrange for a Business License after they have received their Occupancy Permit.

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10. Who can I talk to if something goes wrong?

Call 311 and describe the problem and they will redirect your call for the best assistance.

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