Guidelines to Washington DC Building Permit Process?

Are you navigating through the building Guidelines to Permit process in Washington DC? Do you consider it to be challenging and difficult? Obtaining a building permit in Washington DC can take around 5 months or more. For the last few years, various aspects like the thriving construction market, revised zoning code, and the implementation of Green building have created a difficult environment for the building owners and developers, who are not acquainted with the permit expediting the process in DC.

Whether it’s a building permitting need for hotels, offices, multi-families or high-end residences, managing permit expeditions is a vital part of every project’s success. So, you should pay heed to a few things while undergoing building permit expeditions in DC like the process of permitting, agencies involved in the permitting process and permit review disciplines for involved agencies.

The Process of Permitting

If you are applying for a construction permit in Washington DC, it should entail an online submittal to the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) for reviewing and approval from all relevant agencies.

Check out the steps of the building permitting process as per 2018 Mark G. Anderson Consultants Inc.

Preparation to meet the minimum requirements of DCRA permit:

  • Submission of online application
  • Payment of filing fees
  • PRC record payment
  • Sending of invitation to project document
  • Uploading the plan of the applicant to project document
  • Reviews of the plan by PRC
  • Acceptance of job by PRC

Planning Review Cycle:

  • Assigning review disciplines by PRC
  • The applicant referred to engage sister agency’s processes
  • Sister agency review
  • Review by DCRA disciplines
  • Applicant notified of approval
  • Residual fee submission
  • Permit issuance

You need to spend time ensuring that your permit application and drawings are complete before submission as multiple rounds of reviews are conducted by several agencies till your plan gets the required approvals. It is only after the review and approval of the relevant agencies, DCRA will issue your building permit. Keep in mind that design changes pertaining to the issue of a building permit could lead to additional plan checks. Cases, where major design changes have been made, permitting process of the project, may need to be started from the beginning.

Agencies Involved in the Permitting Process


The primary agency involved in the permitting process is the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) for Washington DC. However, like other permitting agencies in other cities dealing with the issues of busy construction markets, DCRA faces the problems of limited resources corresponding to the processing workload. Considering the statistics of the past 5 years, the volume of the permit has grown above 30%. However, the number of permit reviewers has not perceived a parallel increase. It is uncertain about how DCRA will overcome the challenges and move forward, though the agency has discovered varied options for streamlining their process like the commencement of new permitting programs.

Other Reviewing Agencies

Even if DCRA is the prime permit issuance agency, other agencies get engaged in the review process before the application reaches DCRA. Projects requiring reviews from additional agencies include new building additions, excavation, restaurant and historic district locales. Usually, a building permit gets issued once a project meets all the standard requirements of a relevant discipline, though there is currently no central tracking system to consolidate updates from involved agencies.

Permit Review disciplines as per Permit STAT for involved agencies:

  • DCRA (Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs)
  • Primary permit issuance agency for structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, green building, energy & zoning
  • DDOT (District Department of Transportation)
  • Reviews building projects affecting public spaces like roadways, sidewalks, trees, public parking & public space
  • DOEE (Department of Energy & Environment)
  • Reviews building plans with environmental components like stormwater management, lead-based paint, water quality, air quality, asbestos abatement & hazardous material
  • DOH (Department of Health)
  • Regulates building quality & safety for healthcare & food establishment facilities including hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, outpatient rehab facilities, restaurants, grocery stores, wholesale markets, hotels & swimming pools
  • DC Water
  • Reviews construction projects touching DC’s water & sewer systems, ensuring that the projects meet design criteria, handling capacity of change, performing inspection for assuring work quality & assessing inspection fees & work orders for every project
  • Office of Planning
  • Reviews construction projects in historic districts, onsite of historic landmarks & use of public space and directs the historic preservation of review board to oversee & designate historic properties

A unique aspect to consider in Washington DC is the association of the US Commission of Fine Arts (CFA), which oversees both the public and the private projects involving alterations to external architectural features, elevation, look, color and texture of the materials of construction visible from public spaces. The CFA works along with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) & the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for ensuring the preservation of historic character in all Federal & District of Columbia government projects and 2 designated neighborhoods – Georgetown Historic District & Shipstead-Luce Area. A project with external adjustments meeting these criteria needs to get reviewed by the CFA, HPO, and the HPRB.

Experienced permit expediting companies like Tejjy Inc. can help navigate the process, defining a realistic schedule for the construction project, leveraging relationships with relevant agencies. To know more about the DC permitting process, call 202-465-4830 or write at [email protected] for faster construction permit approval in Washington DC.

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