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Construction Ahead! 5 Ways to Get Construction Projects on Track


by Claire Bouchard, SAFEbuilt, cbouchard@safebuilt.com

Before the dirt ever starts flying at a construction site, project plans need review and evaluation; Don’t be THAT municipality that has plan review backlogs!

Construction means development. If you have development, you collect new impact fees, and if it is a retail business, new sales tax collections. You might have a line of developers waiting for their plan reviews so they can start moving dirt and making money. These are great problems to have, right?  Now, let’s take off the rose-colored glasses; plan review backlogs are a pain for local government, and impacts your local economy.

Have the developers called and complained? Are construction schedules delayed by months and months? If so, I wager to bet that your community’s building reputation is at risk or has been soured by a bad experience with your plan review process.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/construction/bps/uspermits.html), there were 112,500 housing building permits pulled in March 2017, with a valuation of nearly $23 million. Municipalities are facing unprecedented backlogs as they become victims of their own success. People are flocking to metro areas and the demand for housing, retail and buildings is on the rise.

The City and County of Denver feels this pain. With a population nearing 700,000, and the 19th most populated city in the country, they were facing significant plan review backlogs just two years ago. Recognizing the impact this was having in the community, the City and County of Denver had the foresight to increase their own staffing, make improvements in technology, and hire a third‐party provider for supplemental building and zoning plan review. With these approaches, including a dedicated project manager and highly trained staff from the third-party provider, their backlog was minimized within the year and they are now able to process plan reviews on schedule.

Volumes of plans or staffing gaps in the community development office wreak havoc on Community Development. Luckily, there are solutions you can start right away that will get construction projects back on track!

Let the Dirt Fly with These 5 Solutions

1. Improve internal efficiencies

Maintaining a flexible and experienced workforce that can keep up with changing development demands is critical. Ensure your staff is well-trained on various types of plan reviews and they have the experience and resources needed to handle increased volumes of permit applications.

2. Create a streamlined process

Standardizing submittal forms and checklists, as well as pre-submittal meetings, paves the way for more timely plan reviews and the relieves the backlog pressures.

3. Give the green light to outside expeditors

Allowing building permit expeditors within your community helps speed up the permitting process. Expeditors keep projects moving forward so your staff can focus on other plan reviews and issues. When you partner with professional expeditors you are showing developers that you’re on their side – an ally rather than a roadblock.

4. Get caught up with third-party plan reviewers

Whether you are facing a staffing shortage, dealing with a fluctuating workload, or needing additional technical expertise on a large or complex project, a third-party building plan review firm can lighten your load, even if it’s for a short window of time.

5. Employ a third-party electronic plan review provider

Municipalities, businesses, developers and residents save time and money by going digital. Electronic plan review (EPR) immediately streamlines the plan review process. Multiple plan examiners evaluate various project aspects at the same time, achieving collaboration and consensus faster.  You’ll have happier customers because they get their plans back in record time! Say good-bye to paper plans, and hello to EPR.

Being flexible, nimble, and innovative is the hallmark of 21st century local governments. With a handful of tactics in your pocket, you are poised to take on community development strategically and efficiently. Oh, and let your customers know they will need to order lots of “pardon our dust” signs!

About SAFEbuilt

Since 1992, SAFEbuilt has provided full-service building department programs, building code plan reviews, complete project support, planning services, building code inspections and code enforcement for cities, towns, counties and other public agencies. SAFEbuilt is the premier third party provider trusted by more than 500 communities across the country. Let’s work together soon so your community can benefit from SAFEbuilt’s expertise the way Denver did! Learn more at www.safebuilt.com.

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