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Obtaining A Building Permit

The increase in home centers and the growing awareness of building codes are contributing to the need for safer structures and the resulting increase in the demand for building permits for material handling products.

A building permit is an official document issued by a building department authorizing the performance of a specified activity. The building code states:

“No building or structure regulated by this code shall be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless separate permits for each building or structure have first been obtained from the building official.”

The process for obtaining permits for storage racks or for other material handling systems generally has two main segments: the actual building permit and the high pile (fire) permit. All structures require a building permit, but a high pile permit is only required in storage racks if product is stored on a shelf that exceeds 12 feet in height. However, fire department review and sprinklers may be required in mezzanine floors, drive-in racks, pallet flow and push back racks, as well as any other product in which the flow of the overhead sprinkler is interrupted from reaching the ground level.

Required Information
The following list reflects the kind of information required for both building and fire permits:

  • Project’s name and address
  • Property owner’s name and address
  • Valuation of turnkey projects
  • Plan check and permit fees (based on the valuation)
  • Installer’s information (to include numbers for state and city licenses and for Workers Compensation)
  • Site plan/plot plan (building location with respect to adjacent streets)
  • Building occupancy (intended use of building)
  • Commodities letter (a detailed description of the products stored)
  • Location and description of hazardous materials in the building (if any)
  • Specifics regarding fire sprinklers, smoke vents, draft curtains and hose rack.

Material Handling Permits
Unless specifically excluded from the code, the building official can ask for engineering and, hence, permitting, of any equipment. Although only storage racks and book stacks (library-type shelving) are mentioned in the building codes, building officials have been asking for review of mezzanines, shelving, conveyor supports, carousels, vertical lifts, etc.

There are ways to reduce the stress and headache of the permit process. Be sure to know the code requirements for the specific geographic location. Realize that the building department may take as long as six weeks to issue permits (and that’s provided there are no problems or setbacks!). Know that almost any material handling equipment may be subject to permitting. Don’t be afraid to ask for a professional’s help, until you learn the ropes.

Be Prepared
The key elements to a successful permit review are knowing what the entire project will entail and identifying all of the critical design elements as early on as possible. If you gather the information in a timely manner and emphasize accuracy, preparing a neat, organized submittal package, it will make for a far more pleasant permitting process.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Sal Fateen Meet the Author
Sal Fateen is president of Seizmic Engineering in Pomona, California.

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