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City strengthens building-permit process

October 14, 2009

Starting Nov. 1, the city of Indianapolis will require that all building plans for Class 1 structures, which include commercial, industrial and multifamily buildings, be reviewed before a building permit is issued.

The pre-permit review could add nearly three weeks to the permitting process, requiring architects, engineers and contractors to allow for the additional time in their project schedules.

Conversely, the change could help prevent time-consuming corrections to a project already under construction.

Permit approval currently is based on the issuing of what’s called a "construction design release" by the state of Indiana and a completed application to the city’s Office of Code Enforcement.

A construction contractor typically can apply for a building permit in Indianapolis and receive it the same day. The new, pre-permit review is expected to take an additional 15 days to 20 days to complete. 

Cameron Smith, a project manager at Indianapolis-based Shiel Sexton Co. Inc., has mixed feelings about the change.

“From a contractor’s perspective, we see it as an additional item on our schedule; it’s increasing our time to complete the job, which we never like,” Smith said. “On the other hand, it’s best to get everything on the table first thing, so the city and state knows what’s going on with the project.”

OCE Director Rick Powers said in a written statement that effective building code enforcement is essential to building safety and to maintaining affordable insurance rates for residents and business owners.
 
“This new process will improve public safety, and it will save the building industry both time and money if corrections are made prior to construction,” he said.

The pre-permit review is the latest in a series of improvements the city has undertaken following a 2003 audit by the New Jersey-based Insurance Services Office Inc. The ISO lowered the city’s grade for building-code effectiveness because it lacked a detailed building code plan review for commercial, industrial and multifamily properties.

The ISO also admonished the city for low inspection rates and the absence of building-inspector training.

Insurance companies use the ISO rating to set insurance premiums.

The city since has more than doubled its number of building inspectors, started a building inspector certification program and increased inspection rates from 30 percent to 95 percent.

The city encourages applicants to include the plan review in their project timelines, submit a completed application according to requirements and submit building plans as early as possible, concurrent with the application for the construction design release they submit to the state.

OCE will hold a workshop on the pre-permit process at 9 a.m. Oct. 20 at its offices at 1200 Madison Ave., Suite 100.
 

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