Commercial Review Teams: Centralizing Commercial Plan Review

One of the new Commercial Permit Team spaces.

One of the new Commercial Permit Team spaces.

This is one of the Commercial Permit Team project management boards.

This is one of the Commercial Permit Team project management boards.

One of the biggest concerns that both city staff and permit applicants share is the decentralization of the permitting review function. Even though we have a “Central Permit Office”, this space serves more as a “central drop off location.” It is a counter that people visit to turn in plans and fill out permit applications. The review function itself is actually scattered across different departments and lives in at least six different municipal buildings.

We decided to take the first steps to unify and integrate commercial building plan review process and created two different Commercial Permit Teams. Each team has its own office space, where everyone sits and works together to advance the commercial permit reviews and on-site building reviews. They have plan review tables, plan organization racks, and team meeting and collaboration spaces. Each team currently consists of:

  • 1 Building plan reviewer

  • 1 Fire and alarm plan reviewer

  • 1 Sprinkler reviewer

  • 1 Zoning reviewer

  • 1 Commercial building inspector

  • 1 Electrical inspector

  • 2 Fire inspectors

In addition to physically relocating people to new offices, the Commercial Permit Teams are also utilizing new project management techniques.

  • They are practicing agile project management and maintaining visual production boards which show permit applications:

    • In a backlog

    • Actively being reviewed

    • Awaiting a response/reply from the applicant

    • Complete

  • They have a designated project manager who can push and follow-up on projects when needed and also act as a liaison between the applicants and the Commercial Permit Teams.

  • They are collaborating and communicating to ensure that people are familiar with projects and any challenges that may be associated with them. This includes communication with the inspectors, so that they are aware of the project before they start their in-person building inspections.

  • They are employing new organization techniques like six sigma to manage plans, materials, and tools.

  • They are right-sizing the Commercial Permit Teams’ review workload to ensure that the teams have about the same man-hours of reviews to tackle.

  • They are triaging projects and working collectively as a group.

The teams officially launched the first week of September, and we anticipate that they will:

  • Increase collaboration and reduce conflicting opinions.

  • Allow the Permit Office to keep better track of the permits waiting to be issued and ensure that reviews don’t fall through the cracks.

  • Provide better customer service by consolidating review comments and needs.

  • Improve review times.

The Commercial Permit Teams are just the start. Stay tuned to learn more about all of our Permit Work over the next couple of months, and feel free to share additional ideas with us by commenting below!