The Huddle: Permit in a Day

The Huddle is a process where the entire project team meets with plan review professionals in an extended session, with issues sorted out ‘real time’ and a permit being issued at the end of the process. I understand this approach is being used in Raleigh NC, and Dallas Texas.  From stories I’ve heard, the process in Raleigh is not as streamlined as the process in Dallas,  In Dallas the plans are submitted a couple of weeks prior to the meeting; all the conversations occur in a group setting, and there is a consensus reached and a permit is issued, contingent on final plans coming back in two weeks or less incorporating all agreed on changes.  In Raleigh, the presubmittal is closer to the meeting date; plan review disciplines takes plans to their private workstation for a review; and comments are dealt with one discipline at a time.  I have heard the process in Raleigh can extend over several days; and there is much time by the project team spent waiting.  Both approaches cost several thousand dollars an hour from what I heard – the hourly chargeable rate for all involved staff on the jurisdiction side of the counter.  Nov 2014.  Additional info would be welcome to help clarify details, other locations where the Huddle is being used, and actual costs and time savings realized.

Rolling Review

Rolling Review

is the submittal and review of design documents that occurs while the development of the documents is still in process.  This may at first sound unworkable, but it has been proven as a very effective tool for permit processing of  large, complex projects on a tight time line.  To implement it successfully requires a disciplined and scripted plan; otherwise allowing a partially complete drawing package to be submitted would lead to confusion, extra work on the part of all involved, and disappointment.

I have used Rolling Review on a number of projects successfully, and found the following to be important to success:

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  1. Agreement on the process, expectations, and cost prior to application.  The jurisdiction must be willing to work with this approach, and also must get by-in from the individual plan reviewers if possible.  Getting an understanding of the goals, mutual benefits, and interactive nature of the process is critical to getting any benefit.  Without a clear road map, expectations and buy in, a rolling review can become a frustrating waste of time, money and paper. 
  2. Each discipline’s submittals MUST be accompanied with a written narrative, which consists of a concise but detailed description of the current status of the drawings (a spreadsheet works well for this) and a description of specifically what the plan reviewer is being asked to look at.  A list of particular questions is helpful.  Example:  Review the grade plan calculation method and results.  Review the method used to establish ‘average roof height’ above the grade plan.  Review the occupancy separation analysis and conclusions.  Without a detailed direction, a plan review might consist of one line: “application too incomplete for review”.
  3. Ability of plan preparers and plan reviewers to discuss the submittals during the review process.

Large projects which I have tracked using this technique included the Globe Mills; which turned an urban ruin, long abandoned grain mill into a transit oriented mixed use /mixed income development on a tightly scripted timeline dictated by Housing Tax Credit financing; (called the largest and most complex historic adaptive reuse in the Sacramento Region); the adaptive reuse of the National Register six story city block sized Hotel Stockton in downtown Stockton Ca, and the currently underway WAL in Sacramento which is also a six story full city block sized adaptive reuse and expansion of a national register abandoned warehouse property.  More on these projects here: www.appliedarts.net

 

Digital Seal and Signature

Even electronic plans in some jurisdictions require ‘wet stamp’ and wet signature before permits are
images issued.  This can involve separate trips to the building department by all the licensed professionals, for a long session of stamping and signing for large sets of drawings.  This is a considerable cost to the private sector, that can be eliminated by acceptance by the jurisdiction of some electronic means of seal and signature on the plans.

More info on this topic here: APracticalDeploymentStrategyforDigitalSignaturesandSeals from Fiatech, an organization devoted to technology based reform in regulatory environments

Have you used electronic seal and signature?  If so, has it saved time and hassle?  Downsides/negatives?

Electronic Plan Check

DWF vs PDF
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Electronic Plan Check

A traditional permit process involves submitting paper copies of plans.  When ‘parallell’ tracking is used, where multiple disciplines review plans simultaneously (instead of sequentially) a separate full set of plans is normally required for each reviewing entity or discipline, such as life safety, electrical, mechanical, fire sprinklers, civil, etc.  In larger jurisdictions this can mean 10 sets of plans for each review cycle, which involves thousands of sheets of paper.  Normally as the correction cycles proceed, much or all of this paper ends up as waste, as revised plans supercede previous submittals.  Some jurisdictions do not permit just changed sheets to be submitted; sometimes so many sheets are affected by a revision that full sets must be duplicated, at considerable expense.

In the electronic plan check process, the submittal is a digital version of the drawings, either in virtual form (such as an upload to an FTP site) or in physical form (such as a burned dvd).  The jurisdiction distributes the electronic file to multiple plan reviewers who can work simultaneously, and comments are created in electronic form, including potential ‘red marks’ or notations in the electronic files to help the plan preparer understand the concern or question.

Plan reviewers need large monitors to be able to effectively ‘flip back and forth’ though plan sets electronically; and often fast computers with large memory is also required to minimize delay in accessing the information.  Large plan sets and dense sheets can bog down systems even with fast processors.

When expedited plan review is used that requires plan reviewers to work overtime at home, electronic plan review may not work as the equipment would ordinarily not be available.  Thus, in certain jurisdictions the fastest available permit processing excludes the use of electronic plan submittals.

PDF’s are often used as a format for submitted documents; but all pdf’s are not the same.  Other formats can be used such as DWF.  See comparison here: https://www.cadmasters.com/class/dwfvspdf.htm and here: http://dwf.blogs.com/beyond_the_paper/2006/06/comparison_of_d.html

DWF vs PDF

Comments on electronic plan check?

Comments PDF programs and approaches?

Have you been required to use particular software, and arrange pdf’s in a particular format?

How did the electronic review affect the time for permit processing?

PreQualification

PreQualification is tailoring the permit process to the applicant.  Applicants who are prequalfied because of training and/or experienced who prepare document and design packages that are better organized, more complete, and include information which facilitates quick understanding and review, have access to a plan check process from those applicants who are not pre-qualified.

PreQualification can be based on license status; experience, or training.  There is tremendous potential in the area of PreQualification as this means of streamlining has not been well used or considered.
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One method of creating a PreQualification based program:  An AIA Component works with local regional juridictions to develop a series of classes that cover preparation of documents in accordance with a well developed standard; example standards this program from Florida.  The Classes would be a win – win: a source of non-dues revenue to the component; a competitive advantage for those architects willing to invest the time and money in training; and improved economic conditions in the community resulting from more efficient and effective permit processes.

Florida Technical Guides is an excellent and comprehensive set of tools for establishing permit document packages that are easy to plan check.

Pre-Application Meetings

20130211_162345 (Large)PreApplication meetings can result in much greater efficiency for all parties involved: Design Professionals as well as the Builidng Department.

 

At it’s best, PreApplication Meeting bring to light issues and concerns early, and help avoid a ‘gotcha’ syndrome where issues come to light only after huge investments in time and money as plans are developed in detail.

Some locales provide this as a service at no additional cost. Some charge special fees.  Some jurisdictions do not choose to invest the ‘up front’ time, which is to the detriment of all parties when things get sticky late in the game.

 

Comments: what works, what doesn’t

What is important to success of a pre-app meeting?

What is a reasonable cost for pre-app meetings?

Professional Certification

Mike in a meetingProfessional Certification Programs are not new.  They have been used successfully in New York City for decades, on many thousands of projects.  In some jurisdictionsProfessional Certification is limited to very simple tenant improvement plans.  In many cases these programs are optional; and design professionals can choose whether this is an appropriate strategy on a case by case basis.  In other juridictions, Professional Certification is used for many if not most permit processes (Hawaii as I understand it is an example of this; but the Certification is often performed by a licensed professional selected by the plan preparer).

Many jurisdictions do not support any level of Professional certification.  In some jurisdictions there may be political barriers to certification; there may also be concerns about liability on the part of the certifying professional, as the legal immunities that are associated with individuals who perform plan review for jurisdictions may not extend to the person certifying the plans.

Note that these programs are often called “Self Certification’, but here the more broad term “Professional Certification” is used, as it includes the potential of peer review.

Have you experienced the option of ‘professional certification’?

If you had the option but didn’t use it, what were the reasons?

If you have used Professional or Self Certification, what was your experience?

What are the characteristics of programs that work; and those that do not?AIAAustin Self Certification

The Huddle: Permit in a Day

The Huddle: Permit in a Day

The Huddle is a process where the entire project team meets with plan review professionals in an extended session, with issues sorted out ‘real time’ and a permit being issued at the end of the process. I understand this approach is being used in Raleigh NC, and Dallas Texas.  From stories I’ve heard, the process in Raleigh is not as streamlined as the process in Dallas,  In Dallas the plans are submitted a couple of weeks prior to the meeting; all the conversations occur in a group setting, and there is a consensus reached and a permit is issued, contingent on final plans coming back in two weeks or less incorporating all agreed on changes.  In Raleigh, the presubmittal is closer to the meeting date; plan review disciplines takes plans to their private workstation for a review; and comments are dealt with one discipline at a time.  I have heard the process in Raleigh can extend over several days; and there is much time by the project team spent waiting.  Both approaches cost several thousand dollars an hour from what I heard – the hourly chargeable rate for all involved staff on the jurisdiction side of the counter.  Nov 2014.  Additional info would be welcome to help clarify details, other locations where the Huddle is being used, and actual costs and time savings realized.

Processing Time Benchmarking

When permit processing has time targets, and there is on line reporting of results as compared to targets, the feedback loop established can help keep the system from spiraling into super long lead times by allowing corrective measures when negative trends develop (such as bringing on outside plan check resources)

Do the jurisdictions you work in provide plan check target times, and tracking of plan review processes on line?

Have you found benchmarking helps project processing efficiency?

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