A QUICK STORY
It was a rainy humid day in Orlando, FL, and Karen was getting all of the documents gathered to upload the plans to the City of Dallas for her client’s spa project. The plans were electronically signed and sealed, individually as requested, and even flattened (per the eplans submittal guide that she combed through multiple times to make sure she was familiar with the process and as prepared as she could be).
“Done.” Karen said to herself as she uploaded the eighteen (18) sheets of plans to the ‘Drawings’ folder and the applications to the ‘Documents’ folder. “I can check that one off my list,” she said to herself and went on about her day to other daunting lists of projects and fires that kept popping up.
Weeks went by and Karen received an email from her project manager asking for a status of her list of projects and where they were in the permitting process. “Shoot,” she said to herself, “I submitted that project to the City of Dallas a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t think I ever received an email from the City confirming that they received it and passed pre-screen like it stated in the eplans submittal guide,” she thought to herself. She quickly searched her emails, made a few calls, and discovered that she never completed the task that sent the project to the City for pre-screening.
“Crap! I can’t believe I forgot to do that, and now two weeks has been lost!”
COMMON PITFALLS WITH ONLINE SUBMITTALS
This is another common pitfall: online submittals are becoming more and more widely used, and each jurisdiction has different requirements and steps that are needed. Missing a crucial step could cost precious time. We are humans and humans are not perfect, mistakes happen, we learn from them and move on. I bet Karen won’t ever make that mistake again!
When the time comes to submit the package for permitting and plan review (whether online and uploaded electronically, in person, or sending it out via UPS or FEDEX), in order to ensure a smooth submittal process, a common pitfall of “submit it and forget it” is not recommended. Being forward thinking with a phone call and email follow-up with the applicable reviewing agencies where packages were sent (or uploaded electronically) is recommended. This will ensure proper receipt of submittal and that the actual processing (or routing of the plans) has officially begun.
So what does ‘uploaded electronically’ mean?
Great question! As previously mentioned, some jurisdictions use online ePlans submittal technology. A common platform is ProjectDox where the jurisdiction must invite the applicant to upload drawings once an online application is processed (or an email of a PDF copy of the application is sent to the jurisdiction for processing). Multiple steps could be involved so allowing enough time to get through these steps is recommended. Most jurisdictions will have an ePlans submittal guide (or a similarly named document) that will go through the steps of the process and may also have a file naming protocol (it’s not fun when the plans get kicked back just because they are not named properly). The applicant must also register for an account with ProjectDox and create a username and password. ProjectDox terminology is “pushing the task back to the applicant or back to the jurisdiction.” The system actually has tasks that have to be “completed.” A common pitfall with ProjectDox is uploading the plans properly but not completing the task that is available, which actually puts the project into the jurisdiction’s queue for review (remember Karen’s story?).
Most jurisdictions will have a pre-screen or sufficiency review as their first step to ensure that the applicant has read the ePlans submittal guide, named the plan sheets appropriately, and provided all of the information needed for review. Once the pre-screen process is completed, and the project is put in the queue for review, the applicant will typically get an email.
FEES AND CONFIRMATIONS
Sometimes there are also fees that have to be paid once pre-screening is complete prior to plans being officially routed for review. Some agencies have the ability for applicants to pay fees online using a credit card or an e-check. Other agencies require a physical check to be mailed, adding more time to get the drawings in the queue for review.
Once confirmation is received that the plans are officially in for review, the clock is now ticking, and being proactive instead of reactive is key. Verifying the time frame for review and obtaining the permit number for tracking purposes is also recommended. Now would be a good time to let the entire team know that the permit submission has been successfully made and share the permit number and any pertinent information gathered from the jurisdiction about the review process, so that again, everyone is on the same page.
STAY TUNED IN
Continuing to be present with the agencies about the project and the team on any status changes along the way is key to keeping the project moving along through the steps. It is also valuable to determine who will be the main point of contact who communicates with the agency reviewers since multiple people calling and emailing is a common pitfall that could be a detriment to the project’s success. We want to build relationships with the agencies and reviewers, not upset them. If a General Contractor (GC) is on board, indicating to them to let the applicant (or whoever was established to be the main contact) take the lead is wise, so that there is not a breakdown in the communication. Any comments or concerns from the reviewers should go directly to the architect or engineers to ensure that the project continues to move along as smoothly as possible.
For additional information on Permit Submittals, please contact us at 407.645.5008 or via email at [email protected].