More permits than you can shake a stick at
Construction requires numerous permits issued by the town or city in which the project is located. Even if you're moving or putting up a new wall, you will need a Building Permit. The requirements for each permit are governed either by a municipal bylaw or by a provincial regulation. The Planning Department issues Development Permits, and the Building Department issues Building Permits and other construction-related permits.
For any project that involves creating a new building, altering in either form or appearance the exterior of an existing building, or significant paving or landscape work, a Development Permit is required. If the proposed construction does not alter the exterior of a building, the owner can skip ahead to applying for a Building Permit.
Planning and Development
Each municipality has a Planning and Development Department that is tasked with establishing an overall plan for the land use development throughout the city and with creating and enforcing rules to follow that plan as land is developed and redeveloped. Each municipality creates a strategy called the Official Community Plan and implements it by way of two documents - a Zoning Bylaw and a Zoning Map - that together classify each piece of land based on 'zone' types.
Zoning Bylaw and Zoning Map
The Zoning Bylaw stipulates the requirements and limitations of each zone. These requirements define the acceptable use, density, size, and setbacks for a given property with that zoning designation.
In the Zoning Map, each individual property is outlined and its designated land use zone is shown in a distinct colour.
When a property owner wants to build something that is not allowed in the existing zone designation, the owner can apply to the city to change the designated use to another. This process is called rezoning and involves public consultation and extensive review by the City.
If no rezoning is required or if the rezoning application has been approved, the owner applies for a Development Permit. The Planning and Development Department reviews the proposal to ensure that its proposed use and density are allowed in that property's zone designation. It then reviews the exterior characteristics of the building: size, form, and character.
The use is what kind of activity occurs. Examples of use categories are retail, residential, industrial, office, hospital, and school.
Floor space ratio (FSR) quantifies the amount of activity or the number of people that will be expected in a given area of land.
Size and Location
A building's height and the portion of the lot that it occupies are both limited. Setbacks or yards limit how close a building can be to the property line.
Form and Character
Form refers to the general shape of a building.
Character includes the exterior materials (colour, patterning, type), the 'style', the amount of articulation of the building shape, and the extent of decorative detailing.
If the Development Permit has been approved or none is required, a property owner must apply for a Building Permit and receive approval before any construction may begin. This application includes at least a few forms and a varying number of construction drawings.
Building Division, Permits & Licensing
The Building Department reviews the submitted applications for compliance with technical regulations. Usually multiple departments will review the proposal, and one Plan Reviewer will consolidate comments. In addition, utility companies must provide their review, detail their work accordingly, and approve the proposal. The Planning Department also reviews the proposal to ensure that it matches what was approved in the Development Permit.
Bylaws, Building Codes, and Acts
All construction projects in BC must comply with the British Columbia Building Code (BCBC), with all Codes referenced in turn by the BCBC, and with all relevant Acts passed by the province. They must also comply with all Bylaws that the city, town, or district passes that regulate aspects of building design and construction.
Provincial and National Codes affecting construction
BC Building Code
BC Plumbing Code
BC Fire Code
Canadian Electrical Code
BC Building Act
Utilities Commission Act
Builders Lien Act
Public Health Act
Food Safety Act
Provincial Acts affecting construction
Municipal Bylaws related to construction
Fire Protection Bylaw
Tree Protection Bylaw
Soil Removal & Deposition Bylaw
Solid Waste Management Bylaw
Street and Traffic Bylaw
Noise Control Bylaw
When all relevant parties have reviewed the Building Permit application and deemed it to comply with all Codes, Acts, and Bylaws, the City will issue a Building Permit. However, certain types of work still require specific additional, separate Permits.
Tree Removal Permit
Once construction is mostly complete, inspections are conducted to confirm completion and ensure the building complies with all relevant regulations. Until the City approves Occupancy, the building remains a construction site and cannot be occupied. Occupancy is followed by the project closeout phase.
All Architects or Engineers that provided Letters of Assurance at the start of a project must provide the corresponding Letters of Assurance for completion. Test results must be provided for various aspects of the building. A property legal survey must be performed when the building is complete to certify that the
building is located according to the approved Building and Development Permits.