Rejections and appeals
It is important to know that a permit cannot be denied for any reasons other than code infractions or incomplete submissions. Every building code prescribes the manner in which a denial is presented to the applicant. In most code jurisdictions, the procedure for a permit refusal involves a written response explaining the code infractions that caused the permit to be denied. This is intended to give the applicant a full understanding of where the application was found to be lacking and provide a blueprint for resolving the issues in a resubmission. If all of the code issues are fully addressed in a subsequent submission, then a permit should be issued.
In many cases, there can be several rounds of rejection and resubmission. While this may be frustrating and time consuming, getting a building permit can be compared to taking a test where you must score 100%. Building departments cannot let any infractions they detect slip through without being addressed, so it is best to consider the application to be a multi-step affair. Forming and maintaining a good working relationship with the plan reviewer is very helpful. At best, the plan reviewer will be acting as an advocate and will be assisting you with understanding where the plans fall short of meeting the code and making suggestions regarding how the deficiencies can be corrected. At worst, they are obliged to make your mistakes known to you, and you will have to Decorating Gallery out how to correct them.
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Building codes cover a wide range of issues and topics, and there are many areas in which a set of building plans may not conform to the code that have nothing at all to do with alternative compliance issues. In the author’s experience as a consultant, the majority of permit denials for projects proposing “alternative” materials have to do with issues that are unrelated to these specific material choices; denials are much more likely to be related to zoning issues (lot lines and setbacks, overall height, grading, parking allocation), space allocation (minimum room sizes, means of egress, staircases and railings, window size and placement), and services (well/water, sewer/septic, HVAC) — none of which have anything to do with alternative materials or assemblies. These are common problems experienced by conventional and alternative proposals alike. Addressing them requires an understanding of the codes, but does not directly influence the use of alternative approaches.
Should there be a disagreement about code compliance, every code jurisdiction has an established route for appeals. Often, this involves taking the dispute to the Chief Building Official. Should this fail to resolve the issue, there will be a higher regional, state, or provincial authority that will hear appeals, and the pathway to accessing the appeal should be provided to you. Many appeal processes are quasi-judicial and involve a hearing where both the applicant and the building department put forth their arguments and a panel renders a decision.
The appeal process can add time and cost to a project, but it also tends to resolve matters in favor of a reasonable application. Many building departments will take a matter to appeal not to prevent the building project from going forward, but to receive a directive ruling from a higher authority. This can help to deflect potential liability issues for the municipality and clarify the local building department’s interpretation of the code.