Nov 7, 2023
9:56 am

5 Ways to Streamline the Construction Document Package Submission and Review Process

engineer, architect drawing up plans

When you’re developing land or constructing/ significantly renovating a building for a retail business, you need to submit a construction document package (also known as the detailed design package) for municipal review and approval.

Developed by an engineering firm or architect, these drawings show how the project will be built – and ensure it is designed to meet all building codes and municipal regulations.

If there are errors and oversights in the submission, it can result in the package being sent back. Major revisions can impact the entire project schedule. So it’s important to get it right.

Here are 5 ways to help you streamline the process.

1. Hire a professional engineer or architect to prepare your submission.

Planning departments are busy. They don’t want to waste their time reviewing low-quality submissions. Because public safety is a risk, they want to know all submissions have been prepared by qualified professionals, following recognized drafting standards.

All submitted drawings must be reviewed and ‘stamped’ by an engineer or an architect licensed to practice in the province where you are building.

Many business owners ask if General Contractors can perform this work. The answer is no. However, they may be able to recommend a reputable firm that does.

Pro tip: Design firms that have worked in your municipality will have greater familiarity with local bylaws and processes. That said, nothing should ever be taken for granted. Project management best practices will ensure no steps are missed – to prevent risk.

2. Ensure your property is suited to your goals.

Sometimes, a business owner may have big plans only to realize their lot does not meet the requirements. It may be too small to accommodate the building footprint, infrastructure, parking and traffic requirements. It may not be properly zoned. Or there could be several mitigating factors related to the location.

In many cases, it can be valuable to involve an engineer or architect before selecting a piece of property to verify it can accommodate your current and future needs.

3. Confirm which applications you’ll need to submit.

The nature of your project will determine what applications you’ll need to submit. The most common ones include:

Construction Drawings: Covers civil engineering requirements such as the Development/Site Plan Agreement approval and the design of Site Grading & Service approval (including tie-ins).*

New Commercial Construction Applications: For any new buildings.

Alteration to Existing Buildings Applications: For any renovation or additions.

Demolition Permit Applications: To remove any existing buildings or infrastructure on site.

Rezoning/ Land Use Applications: To change land use on an existing property.

In addition, there will be a wide range of permits you’ll need to pull before construction can begin. Note: Petroleum/tank approval typically falls under provincial authority.

* The Construction Drawings section is more complicated. Off-site civil works (such as sidewalks, curbs, gutters, driveways, etc.) are often handled at the Building Permit stage, but are reviewed by the approving authority’s engineering department. This is usually tied into a Municipal Improvement Agreement (it may be called something else, depending on the jurisdiction) and identified during the Development Permit phase.

An option for larger projects…

For larger ‘ground-up’ construction projects, you may have the option of including a pre-application or pre-consultation meeting. It’s a voluntary process where a prospective applicant presents their proposal to the planning department for review prior to a formal application being made

4. Follow all steps and key requirements exactly as outlined.

Each municipality will have very detailed submission requirements. For example, the City of Calgary calls theirs CARL (Complete Application Requirements List). It will outline everything that must be included as part of the submission.

Missing just one component could result in your project being sent back for reapplication.

Simple oversights (like leaving out a required ‘comments page’) can set a project back weeks. Serious omissions can add months to a project by the time changes are resubmitted and approved.

5. Verify drawings meet all code, bylaw and zoning requirements.

To ensure the safety and well-being of the public, each province will have its own Building Code, which will provide strict guidelines around design specifications. In some municipalities (such as the City of Vancouver) all regional and municipal codes are derived from the Canadian National Building Code as a starting point. This also happens with other national codes, such as the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC), National Plumbing Code (NPC), and national HVAC codes (ASHRAE).

Provincial Health Code guidelines apply to restaurants and businesses that sell and handle food.

In addition, buildings must meet the National Energy Code of Canada and Code requirements around accessibility through barrier-free design.

The application will also need to conform to all municipal bylaws and zoning requirements.

Changes and revisions are commonly required.

As anyone who has worked in a municipal planning department will tell you, there is no way to ensure your application is successful. The best advice is to submit a complete application and address the planning review comments in full.

It’s not uncommon for commercial submissions to be sent back for minor revisions. By choosing an experienced engineering or architecture firm for your submission, you can reduce the risk of major errors and oversights that have the potential to seriously derail your project.

One retail engineering firm for multiple builds guide download