Chapter III -Building Departments and Building Permits for Container Homes

The services of an architect or contractor will almost always include the application and issuance of the proper permits to accompany the plans produced. In many people eyes this alone can be enough to justify the use of an architect or contractor.

The building permits are issued based on the fact that your plans meet the code requirements for the jurisdiction your building will be located in. The building codes for your jurisdiction are available for download based on the state you are located in. You can download the pertinent codes for your jurisdiction here.

Some jurisdictions require working plans from a licensed architect or home planner. Other states leave the approval to the local officials. In most states you can be qualified to do your own design work as an owner/builder. An owner/builder’s plans are generally accepted for a building permit if they are competently drawn. The requirements vary, in some jurisdictions an owner/builder may be allowed to submit plans for a two-story wood frame building but not for a single story steel building. Therefore it is best to check with the local authorities in your area to see how the regulations read.  Even if the authorities require the seal of a licensed architect or planner on your plans, it is still possible to pay a professional to “bless” your drawings with his signature and sign off on your plans, if everything is drawn correctly. It is also possible to hire students to do the actual drafting and then pay an engineer to do the necessary calculations.

The steps are as follows:

Complete your plans as far as you can take them following to the jurisdiction’s checklist for plan submissions.>

Have an engineer or architect look your plans over, and make any needed corrections and/or additions.

Pay the fees and submit all the copies plans to the Planning Dept.

Make changes as required while in Plan Check.

With final plan approval your building permit will be issued.

Construction begins.

Inspectors examine each stage of construction, from the foundation to the roof.

Upon final inspection and OK, occupancy permit is issued.

When it’s time to make some personal contacts in your local Building Department, Planning, Zoning, or Department of Permits you can start by calling on the most local government body that has jurisdiction over the property where you will be building. They will be able to provide you with specific information about which building codes have been adapted in the area, as well as the location of the various departments you will be visiting. Be sure to ask about any local changes or modifications that have been adopted by that local jurisdiction. Get a schedule of fees for building permits (there will be many) while you are there, and a list of the documents required when submitting plans.

Local boards, councils, and assemblies frequently exclude portions of "standard" codes and/or adopt requirements that are not specifically prescribed in the codebook so it's important to obtain a copy of any local adaptations to the state code, these variations can usually be obtained at your local building department counter.

Depending upon other specifics about your project -- including but not limited to whether or not you have a well, septic system, wetlands, sensitive environmental conditions, or public use areas -- you may also be subject to state and/or federal requirements. Many jurisdictions will also require energy calculations be incorporated into the plans. Generally a minimum of 3 or 4 sets of plans are required to be submitted.

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