Permitting for Dummies

Permits in retrospect are one of those things that we should have been more knowledgable about. We really appreciated everyone who stepped in to help with our project from the outside, but in practice we ended up with some loose ends that we weren’t expecting late in the game.

We had a huge advantage in getting our project started. Networking.

  • First, we have a great friend, Cari Mullaney, who had a ton of great experience as a commercial interior designer. She’d previously worked on projects that far exceeded our scope and though she’s since transitioned to being a kick-ass stay-at-home-momma, she was willing to dust off her design apps and get to work. Other than the three partners, Cari has invested the most time in getting this project off the ground. We honestly cannot say “thank you” enough.
  • Second, our architect, Tony Shapiro, was phenomenal. He had a ton of experience working on TI (tenant improvement) projects like ours and his ability to foresee obstacles ahead of us was priceless. Tony is like that father-figure that has the serious talks with you sometimes, but at the end of the day, you know this dude’s in your corner (and he’s the one you want in your corner).
  • Third, we had Jon Krombein, a friend who Mark used to pastor with who was willing to do our electrical drawings pro bono. Oh, and he also found someone interested enough in the project to do the mechanical and plumbing (Thank you, Robby!). Collectively, these are known as our MEPs (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) and they are the major part of your permitting.

I suspect that we inadvertently led each of the parties to believe that someone else was handling another part of the project. Each knows their stuff and they are unbelievably qualified. Lesson #348 of owning a brewery: Ask questions until you know for sure that you get it. Ask them even if they make you seem incompetent. A little bit of loss in pride saves a surprise in the end.

We all assumed that the MEP drawings that the engineers did were sufficient for the project. They weren’t. They needed to be stamped, which means that insurance is backing them. And the insurance was held by the firms that employed these guys. And, they weren’t about to back our project for free. 

What the drawings did do was allow us to accurately bid and contract the project without a lot of risk. While you’re waiting to sign a lease, you’re potentially putting out a lot of money in planning. If that lease falls through, you’re out the money for your planning and the drawings are in effect, worthless. These guys set us up without a lot of risk and that was really valuable to us.

When you do a TI build, you need stamped drawings and you need several of them. In Washington State, you’ll need the following:

  • Building Permit (think of this as the wrapper for everything else);
  • Structural Permit (this may have been required because of the weight of our fully loaded equipment (roughly 38,000 lbs.)
  • Mechanical Permit (think HVAC or how you’re taking care of equipment heat or getting your cold room cold)
  • Electrical Permit
  • Plumbing Permit
  • Fire Permit

All of these permits set you up for your inspections. You pay a fee. The City reviews your plans and eventually issues you a permit to build. They then inspect after your contractors do their work and verify that everything was done up to code.

We found out late in the game that our drawings weren’t adequately stamped. We also learned that another firm couldn’t simply review and stamp the drawings. Their insurance is insuring “their” work on the project, and if we ran into issues, that insurance would be worthless. So, we had to have the drawings re-done, granted, with our other drawings close by. $14,000 later. Damn.