Professional Certification

Programs that bypass normal plan check based on the licensed professional’s representation that the plans comply with all applicable code provisions are called ‘professional certification’ or ‘self certification’.

While likely the oldest program for Professional Certification is in New York (in use for over 2 decades), there are other similar programs around the country.

Some of the certification programs are limited to Residential projects.  For example in Austin Texas the local AIA component was a leader in putting a program into place that allows a single family residential permit to be issued based on the Architect’s license.  This program was in large part driven by a backlog that led to a situation where it was reported to take longer to get a permit for a new home than to build it.

In other locations these programs were driven by ‘economic development interests’.  Phoenix is an example where the local AIA component was a stakeholder in working with an energized local politician to put a certification program into place.  The Phoenix program has been widely adopted by surrounding jurisdictions so when looked at regionally similar parameter covers a broad geography; and this has become a key part of the local design services market with over 200 participating design professionals.  The Phoenix program has been used for some rather large projects such as a new car dealership.  It has been promoted with the phrase ‘permit in a day’ (although with the coordination required from other agencies, that’s really not an fully accurate descriptor from a 20,000 foot level).

The Phoenix program was the driver behind a similar program using the same ‘Permit Simplicity’ name that is being promoted at this time in certain northern CA locations (Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Yolo County).  Some other locations with Professional Certification programs: Charlotte NC (Mecklengburg County); Clark County Nevada (called Permit Now).

These programs all vary to some degree. The most robust of them use ‘audits’ to check program operation, flags to weed out those gaming the system, and a registry to qualify those who are bypassing the normal plan check process via training.  Some simply defer plan review until after the permit is issued.

Some argue that these programs tend to shift liability to design professionals without appropriate consideration, to benefit developers and contractors.

A few references to consider:

Winners and Losers in the Self-Certification Process …

For years NY City has been shifting the roles of building inspector and plan examiner …

‘Self-Certified’ NYC Building Plans Rife With Violations…/90362.htm

Insurance Journal

May 27, 2008 – Self-certification has become common since it was created in 1995 to tackle a backlog of plans … Some critics have called for ending the program, and the results of the recent reviews fueled their ire. … to go after faulty building permit applications and other bad practices.

Self-Certification: The Good and the Bad…/selfcertification-the-good-and-t…

May 2, 2012 – In saving construction time, the lure of self-certification can often be a … its Department of Buildings launching a self-certification site in 1995.