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  • Carol Mckee

Please Permit Me

Permitting process

Getting a building permit is required pretty universally around the country for any new project and often for renovation of an existing building. Usually in the permitting process on a new build there will be some back-and-forth between the permit office and they contractor. Normally it would only take a few weeks to get the permit issued.

But when you are building a passive house there’s a learning curve for the permit office and the contractor as well as the architect. The permit office was unfamiliar with the concept and questions many parts of it that delayed the processing of the permit. In fact these delays meant that it took 3 months to get our building permits.

We submitted for permits in the middle of May. There were three back-and-forth‘s with the county on miscellaneous things, and just as I thought we were going to get issued permits at the end of June, they threw a curveball. Some of the materials that we are using are not standard or new technology such as Armorwall on the exterior. This product is sheathing with foam insulation built into it. It is kind of like zip sheeting but even more energy efficient. It is often uses on commercial jobs, but is very applicable to a Passive House build.

The country wanted to see all of the engineering specs for the Armorwall and have a structural engineer certify that the Armorwall sheathing would meet current code, which is circa 2018. The ironic part of this request is that the material is already approved for the 2021 code that is going to be released soon, but it is not in the 2018 codebook. So even though it was approved for an updated version of building code the permit office decided that it's lack of presence in current code meant that they wanted an engineer to certify the product. So we had to go back to the structural engineer, and the architect, who then went back to Armorwall. We had to give the county all of the manufacturer's sheer testing, load testing, wind resistance testing, fastener specifications, etc. And to top that off, Armorwall was recently purchased by Dupont. That added in another layer of complication and so there was delay in just getting what the requested info as it had to be reviewed by DuPont before it was released.

To make a long story short, we submitted our permit application in May, and we finally got permits August 16. I really can’t fault the architect or the structural engineer, for this delay. I can’t really blame the building department, because they are just trying to make sure that this is a safe way to build a home. I can place some of the blame at Dupont‘s doorstep, because they took weeks to get us what we asked for and they did not provide the required format of the information which just made for more delay.

It’s certainly not the timing that I was really hoping for but it is what it is. Fortuneately if finally all came together and we were able to get the house placement survey company on site shortly afterwards. If you missed that blog post go check it out because the survey process was really interesting!

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