5 Tips for Navigating the Permitting Process Smoothly

We recently sat down with Laura Swartz, Communications Specialist for Denver’s Community Planning and Development department, to talk about the permitting process and how best to navigate it. Our biggest takeaway? While the permitting process has historically gotten a bad rap, it doesn’t have to be that way. They have been hard at work streamlining the process, revising materials for clarity, and making resources readily available online. There are numerous permits out there, some more complicated than others. For the purposes of this blog, we are focusing on residential permits that require a plan review. Read on for our top tips and takeaways on navigating the permitting process smoothly.

1. Check for the most current policies before you start designing

Many things have changed in the past year, and if you research them before you get started, you can save yourself time and headaches down the road once you get into permitting. To directly access Denver Development Services’ reference page on building code, policies and guides, we recommend keeping this link handy: denvergov.org/buildingcode

One example of policy that affects residential permits and has recently changed is the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) for residential projects. The IECC was adopted in Denver in 2016, and after living with it for a year and receiving feedback from customers, the city revised the code policy for residential projects in November of 2017. Check out an easily digestible summary of the changes here. We highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this policy before starting your next project, especially if it involves a remodel or addition, since the rules are different than they were 6 months ago.

2. Save time by submitting electronically

As of November 2017, it is now possible to submit for residential permits via email, making the entire process paperless. Instead of taking the time to drive downtown, find parking, and bring 4 hard copies of your signed and sealed plans, you can now submit a pdf of your plans via email. The city’s goal is to eventually make the entire permitting process paperless. Check out the residential permitting guide for more information.

If you’re curious as to how long the wait times are once you’ve made your initial submittal, head over to denvergov.org/ds and scroll to the bottom to see a table of estimated review times. These are updated quarterly and don’t reflect resubmittals. In spite of the record number of permits being submitted, we were pleasantly surprised to see the majority of target wait times are being met.

3. Create a valid electronic signature

As you prepare to submit for your permit electronically, it is crucial to make sure your plans are signed and sealed correctly. So far, the biggest roadblock with electronic submittals has been electronic signatures that are not valid. To create a valid electronic signature, you will need to use either Adobe Acrobat or BlueBeam Revu. We won’t get into the details of how to create these here, but do check out this step-by-step tutorial with screen shots if you have any doubts.

4. Get better answers quicker via email

If you have questions, the best way to get answers is by emailing residentialpermits@denvergov.org. Why is email better than calling? Email makes it easier to include detailed information about your question, making sure your question gets in front of the right person quicker. Assuming your email includes all relevant information, you can expect an email response within 24-48 hours. It is the same people answering questions via email and phone as who are doing the plan reviews, so include as many details as possible when asking questions.

5. Other ways to stay informed

Denver CPD has a Code and Policy alert e-newsletter with updates on code and other news that may impact building and development projects. If you’re interested, you can sign-up here.

Periodically throughout the year Denver CPD offers informative presentations on the permitting process for specific types of projects. The next presentation for residential permitting, which will include tips and Q&A, is on Sunday, March 4th, at the Colorado Garden & Home Show from 4:00-5:00pm.

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