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Building permit process - Frequently asked questions

The building permit process

The building permit process for commercial buildings is based on the Safety Codes Act, Permit Regulation and Alberta Building Code. Plan reviews and site inspections are provided to ensure all Calgarians are safe. Other trade permits for electrical, plumbing, gas and mechanical may be required. Each trade follows its own set of codes and work must be completed by a qualified tradesperson.

Examples of projects that require a building permit:

  • new buildings or structures
  • retaining walls over 1.2 meters in height
  • swimming pools or hot tubs
  • demolitions
  • relocations
  • repairs or alterations to existing buildings and structures
  • change of occupancy or use of a space

For all new commercial projects, including new buildings and additions, an approved development permit is required before a building permit can be issued. Most tenant improvements and repair projects generally do not require a development permit, unless the work being done alters the approved development permit.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a building permit and a development permit?

A building permit is designed to address life and safety issues of a structure. It gives authorization to erect, demolish, relocate, alter or repair a structure, or change the use or occupancy of a space. A building permit application is reviewed for compliance with the Alberta Building Code by a plans examiner to ensure that our built environment is safe.

A development permit allows The City to review a development to see if it meets the Land Use Bylaw requirements and any other relevant policies or plans, such as area redevelopment plans and the Municipal Government Act. There may be conditions attached to the approval of a development permit.

Development permits are required for new projects, changes in use or additions to existing structures. Development permits address community planning, bylaws, land use, image and compatibility issues.

The development permit process is based on the Municipal Government Act and the Land Use Bylaw. Plan reviews, approvals and site inspections are provided, to ensure that development meets the approved planning, engineering and environmental policies. The process looks at land use, site development, streetscape, planning principles, densities, landscaping, transportation, parking and more.

When undertaking a new project, it is always best to consult with the Planning Services Centre to find out what kinds of permits you will need.

How can I track the progress of my application?

The VISTA online system is the best way to track the progress of your application. By using your Job Access Code (JAC), you can access a page that tracks your application as it circulates through the different processes. You can find your JAC on the bottom of your building permit application receipt.

What can applicants do to speed up the application process?

To speed up the process, make sure you are submitting a complete application by following the appropriate requirement list. Ensure you:

  • Have the appropriate drawings and specifications.
  • Use the appropriate fee calculator to estimate your permit fees.
  • Provide all documents required.
  • Respond to the different departments reviewing your plans and provide additional information, plans and other documents when requested in a timely manner.
  • Submit detailed floor plans showing how the space will be used and a detailed key or site plan showing the entire layout of the site where your business is located.

How long will it take The City to process my application?

We’re committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.

A building permit for a minor tenant improvement may be issued within 21 calendar days, provided code requirements are met and all necessary documentation is provided in the application. The timeline of a permit application will increase if amendments or resubmissions are needed from the applicant.

Larger projects may be issued in 56 calendar days, provided that all requirements and necessary documentation was provided at the time of application.

What happens if my application is refused?

We understand that a rejected application represents a considerable investment of time. To help prevent your permit being refused, The City will work with you to address concerns.

At the time of application, your application is pre-screened to ensure that you are submitting a complete application and that your drawings have all the necessary information for a plans examiner to review. This may include architect and engineer seals and stamps and any necessary professional schedules. Sometimes applications may require further information, which should be provided by the applicant in a timely manner, to prevent the application being refused.

Permits are reviewed by a number of plans examination safety codes officers, depending on the type of work being done and which codes are involved. For example, a restaurant is generally reviewed by a building, mechanical and plumbing safety codes officer. The plans are also reviewed by an Alberta Health Services plans examiner.

Plans are reviewed for compliance with all applicable codes. If there are major deficiencies, the plans examiner will contact the applicant for more information or for revised drawings. Permits may be issued with conditions, which need to be addressed prior to or during construction.

What type of drawings do I need?

The drawings required for your specific project will differ depending on the type of work being done. Choosing the appropriate requirement list will help you understand what is required for your application. All drawings should include the project title, scale, north arrow, dimensions and room labels on plans.

Your drawings may require:

  • Site plan or key plan
  • Architectural/structural floor and mezzanine plans
  • Elevations if work includes exterior additions or alterations
  • Details of the wall assemblies and doors
  • Plumbing, mechanical, electrical and sprinkler drawings
  • A mechanical site slip from an engineer is required for new construction and additions with new foundations that could affect underground services

If you are having difficulty determining which application requirement list to use, contact the Planning Services Centre.

How can I apply for a partial permit?

A partial permit allows a portion of the work to progress in advance of the full building permit. You may request a partial permit for excavation, foundation or construction of a particular

portion of the project. A partial permit is only applicable to new buildings or additions to existing buildings.

A partial permit can be applied for at any time until the full building permit is issued. In addition to providing the requirements for your project, a written letter outlining the scope of the partial permit may be required, as well as the partial permit fee.

A partial permit can only be released if the development permit has been released or you have obtained a letter from the development officer stating that there are no objections to the partial permit.

If there are no outstanding development permits or bylaw issues and if adequate drawings and supporting documents have been submitted, then the partial permit can typically be released in 21 days from the application date.

Is it possible to apply for a demolition permit for interior partition changes?

Existing interior partitions demolition can be included under the building permit for the new renovations, or it can be covered under a separate building permit where the scope of work is noted as interior partitions removal only. Interior partition is defined as a non-load bearing wall.

If you have applied for a interior partitions removal permit, the permit may be issued as a quick-release permit, if the requirements are met.

How do I get an occupancy permit?

An occupancy permit is the final approval indicating that the building is safe to occupy. The building safety codes officer will review the scope of work to determine if an occupancy permit is required. If required, the building safety codes officer will provide an application for occupancy form to the general contractor at the time of inspection.

The building inspector will determine which other authorities are required to sign off on the project. It is the contractor’s responsibility to call in the necessary progress inspections as required. After all the required inspections are completed and signed off, the contractor will call 311 to book the building occupancy or final inspection. If occupancy is granted, the building inspector will leave the signed occupancy permit with the contractor on site. New businesses will need to arrange for a business licence after they have received their occupancy permit.

Who can I talk to if something goes wrong?

Contact the Planning Services Centre and describe the issue, so that we can help you resolve your problem.

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