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Why Hiring an Architect or Designer Matters and Getting Your Permits in Order

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

Understanding the Role of an Architect or Designer in the Custom Home Building Process

Building a custom home is a significant investment and a complex process that requires a lot of planning and decision-making. One of those decisions will be hiring an architect or designer to help you bring your dream home to life.

Architects and designers play a crucial role in the custom home building process as they are responsible for creating the design and plans for your home. They work closely with you to understand your vision, needs, and preferences and translate them into a functional and aesthetically pleasing design that meets building codes and regulations.

Questions to Ask When Interviewing Potential Architects or Designers

When selecting an architect or designer, make sure you ask the right questions to ensure they are the right fit for your project. Some important questions to ask include their experience in designing custom homes, their design style, their process for working with clients, their availability and timeline, their fee structure, and their experience working with contractors.

Reviewing and Selecting Design Options

Once you have selected an architect or designer, they will present you with design options based on your vision and requirements. This is the time to review and evaluate the designs carefully, taking into account factors such as functionality, aesthetics, cost, and feasibility. You may also want to consider incorporating sustainable and energy-efficient features into the design. IMPORTANT! Take your time with this stage, as it is the basis for everything that is to come. Check to make sure there are places in your kitchen for a range, fridge and dishwasher. If you want a kitchen island, make sure that's in your plans. Is there a mechanical room? Are all the extra features you want incorporated into the design? Did the designer add a walk-in closet in your master bedroom like you've always wanted?

Look at the final design from every angle you can and try to imagine yourself living in the house. Walk around the house in your mind and ask yourself questions along the way - is there enough room in the laundry room? Is the hallway too tight? Is the entryway big enough? Should the house include a mudroom? Is there any wasted space that could be better utilized? The more time you spend at this stage making sure everything is perfect, the fewer problems you'll have later on (....what do you mean, I have to put a hot water tank in the closet because there was no mechanical room in the house plans?).

Getting Permits and Approvals

Building a custom home can be an exciting and rewarding journey. However, before you get too far into the process, there are several permits and approvals needed to ensure your project meets all of the city's regulations.

Overview of the Permit and Approval Process

The permit and approval process ensures your construction project adheres to local building codes, zoning regulations, and land use bylaws.

The process involves obtaining various permits from the local municipality or regional district, which may include building permits, plumbing permits, electrical permits, and environmental permits. These permits are necessary to demonstrate compliance with safety, environmental, and design standards.

It is important to engage professionals such as architects, engineers, and builders who can assist in preparing the required documentation, including architectural drawings, engineering plans, and environmental impact assessments.

The permit and approval process may involve reviews, inspections, and consultations with different departments or agencies. Make sure you follow the application procedures, submit the necessary forms, pay the required fees, and attend any required meetings or hearings.

The timeline for the permitting process can vary depending on the jurisdiction and project complexity, so it is advisable to allocate sufficient time for this stage.

Common Permit and Approval Requirements for Custom Home Builds

When applying for permits and approvals for a custom home build in Canada, there are several common requirements to consider. These typically include:

  • Architectural Drawings: These will be prepared by your architect or designer. They will showcase the design, layout, and dimensions of your custom home as well as the location of your custom home on the property, setbacks from property boundaries, and access points. These drawings should comply with building codes and regulations.

  • Engineering Plans: Engage a structural engineer to develop engineering plans that demonstrate the structural integrity of your home. These plans may include foundation design, framing details, and seismic considerations.

  • Energy Efficiency Compliance: Ensure your home meets the energy efficiency requirements outlined by BC Energy Step Code or your specific province or territory's standards. This may involve demonstrating the use of energy-efficient materials, insulation, heating, and cooling systems.

  • Sewer and Water Connection: Verify if your property has access to municipal sewer and water services. If not, you may need to include plans for alternative wastewater treatment systems or well installations.

  • Environmental Impact Assessment: Although uncommon, in certain cases, you may be required to conduct an environmental impact assessment, especially if your property is near environmentally sensitive areas or requires the removal of trees or vegetation.

Remember, these requirements may vary depending on the specific location and project scope, so consult with local authorities and professionals for accurate guidance.

How to Submit a Permit Application

If you're planning to apply for a permit for your custom home construction, here's a general outline of the steps involved. It's important to keep in mind that your builder will likely assist in compiling the necessary documents or even handle the process entirely.

Regardless of who handles the permits, however, it's important to have a good understanding of the types of permits required and the associated dates, deadlines and fees.

  1. Gather Required Documentation: Compile all the necessary documentation, including architectural drawings, engineering plans, site plans, energy efficiency compliance reports, and any other supporting materials.

  2. Complete Application Forms: Obtain the relevant application forms from the local municipality or regional district. Fill them out accurately and provide all requested information.

  3. Pay Application Fees: Calculate the required fees based on the scope of your project and submit the payment along with your application. The fees typically cover the review process and any subsequent inspections. Depending on your area, some additional fees are required for bonds to ensure quality control can be required until your build is completed.

  4. Submit the Application: Submit your completed application forms, supporting documents, and fee payment to the appropriate department or office of the local municipality or regional district. Ensure you meet any specified submission deadlines.

  5. Track the Application: Keep a record of the application submission and any receipt or acknowledgment provided. Follow up with the municipality or regional district to confirm receipt and inquire about the estimated review timeline.

Preparing for Inspections and Assessments

Throughout the construction process of your custom home, your builder will need to be prepared for inspections and assessments to ensure compliance with building codes and regulations. There are a few helpful steps to facilitate this process.

Firstly, review the construction schedule in collaboration with your builder. Establish a clear timeline that identifies the crucial milestones when inspections will be required by yourself as well as by the city. This will help ensure that inspections are scheduled at the appropriate stages, such as foundation, framing, plumbing, electrical, and the final inspection for occupancy.

The best way to make sure that everything is completed for the city home inspector is to do your own walkthru/inspection with your builder before they schedule the inspection with the city.

Each inspection will have specific requirements, so take the time to familiarize yourself with them. Ensure that the relevant work is completed, visible, and easily accessible for inspection purposes.

In the event that an inspection reveals non-compliance issues, it is crucial to address them promptly. Collaborate with your builder to rectify any identified issues and make the necessary corrections. Schedule re-inspections as needed to ensure that all requirements are met and compliance is achieved.

Maintaining proper documentation throughout the inspection and assessment phase is essential. Keep records of all inspections, including the dates, findings, and any corrective actions taken. This documentation will serve as evidence of compliance and may be required for future reference.

Effective communication with the building department and inspectors is vital throughout the process. Stay in touch with them, ask questions when needed, and ensure that all necessary information is conveyed promptly. Open and transparent communication will help facilitate a smooth progression of your custom home build while meeting all the necessary requirements.

It's important to note that the specific permit and approval process, as well as the requirements and procedures, may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the scope of your project. To ensure accurate and tailored guidance, consult with local authorities, building departments, and professionals who possess the necessary expertise and knowledge specific to your situation.

Your dream home should be an extension of your personality, and that's where we come in. Our design and construction experts are passionate about bringing your ideas to life, ensuring a seamless process that results in a home that perfectly embodies your tastes and aspirations. It's time to step into a world of luxury, distinction, and craftsmanship with White Wolf Homes as your dedicated custom home builders.

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