Sunday, March 14, 2010

Third Party Plan Review

Just like any other government service, Building Departments have recently fallen victim to major revenue declines. In response, many municipalities have chosen to eliminate staff and outsource plan reviews to Third Party Plan checkers. These services are typically performed by individuals who still practice in the industry but assist the municipality so that they can earn a little extra on the side.  Typically, the checker will stop by the city, pick up the week's submissions, and drop off the plans he reviewed during the week. If you're thinking that this may result in delayed permit approval time, you're right.
To be cynical, one must recognize that these third parties constantly feel the need to justify their existence. Very rarely will these checkers return a set of fully reviewed drawings devoid of any review comments. They will almost always find something wrong with your drawings. Architects, Engineers, and CMs need to factor this into their project schedules.
Recently, cunning and strategic designers have attempted to 'game' the system by intentionally leaving off a few 'gimmies'. In hopes that the checker will feel satisfied after finding the errors. I once did something similar but for separate reasons...

When I was 20, I had to submit drawings that I had produced for a small residential remodel in San Luis Obispo. I had assistance from my neighbor who was also an accomplished residential contractor (first job in the industry was hauling debris for him). His recommendation was that because of my age, I should selectively omit some obvious information. When I submitted my drawings, none of the kitchen outlets had GFI labels. Noticing this, the plan checker allowed me to correct this error in red ink and wet-sign the drawings. A permit was issued  over the counter and I was on my merry way. I should add that this remodel  was minor and required no engineering calculations or a licensed architect. 
Good luck at the counter...

Disclaimer:  This article is written for informational purposes only. The author in no way advocates attempting to swindle, cheat, or in any other way try to deceive a government official. Use common sense when dealing with your local government and always treat people with the utmost respect.