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Building Code/Permit Administration

This page provides examples of city and county building codes in Washington State, along with related resources.

Overview

Washington State statutes call for local jurisdictions (cities and counties) to require a building permit when any structural change or when alterations are made to an existing building or when any new construction is undertaken. (Separate permits for plumbing, mechanical and electrical work may also be required when applicable.) The State Building Code Council (SBCC) was created to advise the Legislature on building code issues and to develop the building codes used in Washington State. These codes help to ensure buildings and facilities constructed in the state are safe and healthy for building occupants, accessible to persons with disabilities and the elderly, and energy efficient.

State Building Codes

Permit Procedures

Information Brochures and Bulletins

Automated Application and Tracking Systems

Permitting Activity (Statistics)

Preapproved Plans for Streamlined Approval

Several West Coast cities have initiated programs that reduce the time and cost of the permit process for the developer for certain types of housing, while promoting well-designed housing. These cities offer contractors the opportunity to purchase or use house plans that have been preapproved by the city for conformance with building codes and/or other standards.

There are two significantly different approaches to preapproved plans in the permit process. In the first approach, local jurisdictions develop a library of housing plans that have been preapproved. In contrast, the approach that prevails in Washington is one in which an applicant submits a "basic" plan that, once approved, the jurisdiction will keep on file. Any future requests to develop a house using the same plan will be considered preapproved. Subsequent uses of this plan often involve a minimal review time and reduced, or in some cases, no fees.

Examples of Plans Offering Preapproval

  • King County Residential Basics Program – the county will keep an applicant's plan on file if additional houses are built using the same basic plan. There is limited review time and no plan review fee charged
  • Pierce County Base Plan Guide - Applicants can submit a base plan that will be kept on file for use for future buildings and that will be considered preapproved

Examples of Ordinances that Create a Base Plan,/Preapproval Program

Examples of Out-of-State Plans Offering Preapproval

Regulatory Barriers and Permit-Streamlining Ordinances and Resources

Local governments have adopted a variety of regulations over time to assure safe buildings and roads, to assure that adequate public facilities such as water are available, and to safeguard the qualities that citizens enjoy. There also is measurable economic and fiscal value in promoting efficient land use patterns and wise use of limited resources.

On the other hand, direct costs related to design or facility requirements add to the bottom line of a project. The permit process adds to overall time of getting a project built, and time is money for a developer. These costs are reflected in the final cost of housing.

A Housing and Urban Development report (see below) found estimates that "(r)egulations governing the design and construction of buildings contribute up to 20% of the cost of construction." Local governments have the challenge of balancing such competing interest and goals.

This section offers reports and resources helpful in identifying regulatory barriers to affordable housing. It also notes information sources for best practices and approaches that other communities have used to reduce duplicative regulations and permit process delays, or to add flexibility to permit processes.

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Regulatory Barriers Clearinghouse – Offers a huge database of articles, reports, and strategies on regulatory streamlining that is keyword searchable by categories of topics. Interested persons may subscribe to email alerts to receive updates on new research and resources available from HUD. Alternately, the Edge, an online magazine, is updated regularly with news on interesting affordable housing programs around the country.
  • State of Washington: Governor's Office for Regulatory Innovation and Assistance (ORIA) – Offers help in understanding Washington environmental permitting and applicable government regulations. Also provides small business permit assistance. In addition, ORA maintains and updates the one-stop Joint Aquatic Resources Permit Application (JARPA) form, which people can use to apply for more than one federal and state aquatic-related permit at a time (and also some local government shoreline permits). It also offers useful ORIA publications on environmental permitting, regulatory improvement, and local government permitting best practices.
  • White House: Housing Development Toolkit (2016) – This toolkit offers 10 strategies for local governments to improve housing affordability through modernizing zoning codes, housing permit processes, and other land-use policies. 

Recommended Resources


Last Modified: August 22, 2017