Small-scale building permits increase by 150 per cent, Chicago mayor says

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in early December that there has been a more than 150 percent increase in building permits issued through mid-November 2014 for small to mid-size new construction projects as compared to the same period in 2010, and has steadily increased year to year. So far in 2014, the City issued 1,436 building permits in this category compared to 573 in 2010 — an increase of 863 permits.

“After years of remaining flat, Chicago’s economy is moving in the right direction with more new construction taking place,” the mayor said in a statement. “We have more work to do, and I will continue to make the tough decisions necessary to ensure everyone in Chicago participates in our city’s economic growth, and that city government is able to meet the needs of a growing economy.”

Permits for small to mid-size construction projects with plans are issued through the city’s Electronic Plan Review System (E-Plan). These projects include residential (including single-family homes), commercial and industrial buildings smaller than 80 feet in height, 150,000 square feet and with fewer than 40 dwelling units.

In anticipation of the uptick in building permits, Chicago rolled out its E-Plan system in 2012 for paperless processing of over 500,000 design documents each year, the city’s news release reported. “The innovative E-Plan system facilitates multi-discipline review and tracking of projects through every step of the process, allowing design professionals to submit plans electronically from the convenience of their offices, multiple plan reviewers to examine and approve plans simultaneously, and design professionals to receive corrections and approvals in real time.”

Throughout 2014, and in collaboration with the Zoning Division of the Department of Planning and Development, the Department of Buildings made technical improvements to the E-Plan system including a new process for archiving inactive projects, design professional training for a better project description on the building permit application to help reduce number of permit reviews, and improved communication between departments, with regular meetings to discuss enhancements and progress.

Other building permit process improvements made this year include a new welcome desk at City Hall for customer concerns and questions, a new process to accommodate the requests for “in-person” meetings to clarify building and zoning code questions, and additional staff for the Neighborhood Residential Permit Centers, trained and dedicated to meeting homeowners’ needs for building permits.

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“Through better collaboration with other agencies and industry partners, finding operational efficiencies, and making it easier for people to do business with city government, we are ready to meet the permit demands of a growing economy,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Felicia Davis. “For 2015, we will build on our success and continue to find new opportunities to move the building permit process forward.”

With over 40,000 building permit applications processed yearly, the Chicago Department of Buildings oversees one of the largest permitting operations in the country, issuing many types of building permits including repair and replace permits, small and mid-size new construction/renovation and large-scale development projects.


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