february 2021, issue 1
BRIEFING ON CONSTRUCTION & Some other stuff
Written by TATIANA gUSt
My name is Tatiana Gust and I am an engineer who works as a building code consultant and enjoys being a permit expeditor!
I started the blog for Elite Permits because I love everything related to permits. I can talk all day about it, so I want to share all that I know to help others with their permitting experiences.
Often, when talking about permitting, I see rolling eyes or expressions of “I don’t want to talk about it” but, since it is my passion, I often get people to tell me about their experiences. I regularly work with architects, builders, and owners who at one point or another have had an unpleasant experience because they did not know any better. At this point you must be thinking, “the architect should know better” or “the builder does this for a living so they should know too!”
Well… it is not that simple.
Building codes are updated every 3 years, local ordinances change from one city to the next, and these are updated on a regular basis. So, what may work for one project may not work for the next one because of different regulations, it is hard to keep up with the changes.
I will never forget when I had a builder asked me to stop by a commercial site in Naples. He was talking to his architect about including an interior window to separate the showroom from the auto repair shop he was working at, so the clients could see the technicians working on their cars. The architect kept saying that it was going to cost a lot of money because it needed a fire wall, and the glass had to be fire rated glass. Both were incredibly good at their respective jobs; they had been working in the same municipality for many years and this was a standard requirement from the fire department, however, the builder had met me on another job and was hoping I could offer him a cheaper solution to please the owner.
When I got there, I looked at the space and I knew that both the building code and the fire code had exceptions to the fire wall requirement, which neither of them was aware of. Due to the amount of time, effort and knowledge to get a permit through, my services are not cheap, but I was so confident that what I was telling them was an acceptable practice, that I offered them this: “If I cannot get this through, I will not charge you a penny and I will do all the inspections for free.” They were asking me only for permitting help, but I offered my private provider inspection services for free if I was not able to keep my promises. They both just looked at me with huge eyes and smiled, they thought they had me… little did they know that I was sure, without a doubt, that I could get it approved. And so, I did!
The owner was happier, the builder looked like a champ, and the architect just kept asking me about other jobs where I could help them with similar solutions. My fee for the overall project (inspections and all) was about half of the cost of the fire window they originally wanted to install, so in their mind I not only saved them time, but money, and they liked their place much better since they have a more flexible space.
To me, the most rewarding aspect of the experience was not that I got a better job, but that I helped the builder to please the owner, I helped the owner to have an overall lower cost for the project, within their time frame, while still preserving the building codes as they were intended. Last but not least, I gave the architect new perspectives that he was not aware of, which he could implement into new projects. For me, I was part of something bigger in which everyone benefited.
So the lesson that I learned from this, was that when you go to the building department they just give you “yes” or “no” answers to what you propose, what I mean is they tell you if it meets or does not meet code, but they will not give you alternatives that can improve everyone’s outcome. That’s why we are here for, that’s what a true building permit expediter do.
Please join my weekly letter to receive topics related to construction.