Commercial Building Permits

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Permit Process

Why is a permit required?

Building code permits help protect public safety, health and general welfare. The plan review and inspection process helps the permit holder to verify compliance with the current minimum requirements including but not limited to:

  • Adequate light and ventilation
  • Basic sanitation
  • Energy conservation
  • Fire and life safety, such as exiting in case of emergencies
  • Structural strength and stability

When is a commercial building permit required?

A commercial building permit is generally required when changes or alterations are made to a commercial and/or multi-family building or when any new construction is undertaken. Multi-family is defined as three or more dwelling units, (with the exception of zero-lot line townhomes) and is subject to review under the International Building Code (IBC).

Electrical, mechanical and plumbing work also require permits and inspections, if the work is part of a remodel, tenant improvement or new construction then it is included in your building permit. Single trade permits not related to a building permit can be purchased by the property owner or a licensed contractor through ePermits.

All projects, whether they need a permit or not, must comply with the adopted building codes and regulations, accessibility requirements and the Vancouver Municipal Code (VMC).

Many projects require a commercial building permit. The scopes of work listed below are typical commercial projects and not a comprehensive list. If you’re not sure if a permit is required please contact our Permit Center at ePlans@cityofvancouver.us or 360-487-7833.

When is a commercial permit required?

  • Additions, alterations and remodels to existing structures
  • Change of use and/or occupancy
  • Racking
  • New construction
  • Parking lot

When is a commercial permit not required?

  • Creating new surfaces such as: painting, carpeting, countertops and similar finish work
  • Ordinary maintenance repairs

Work exempt from permit still needs to meet building code requirements as well as municipal code requirements (setbacks, height, etc.).

Commercial Building Permit Process

1. Submit for Permit

Email your completed application (do not send plans) to eplans@cityofvancouver.us.

When your application is processed you will receive an email with the fees and application number.

​Please visit our ePlans Getting Started page for step-by-step instructions.

2. Plan Review

Depending on your proposed project, plans will be reviewed by various disciplines. Types of reviews include planning and zoning, structural and fire. The assigned reviewers check to see that your proposal is in compliance with the specific code or regulation. If the reviewer needs additional information or has identified corrections you will receive an email from ePlans identifying items required (see step 2a.)

3. Revise Plans

Once you receive an email from ePlans letting you know that revisions are required you will respond to the reviewers comments and upload revisions and/or additional information in ePlans.

Please visit our ePlans Applicant Resubmit page for step-by-step instructions.

Complete and timely responses will speed up the re-review of the project.
If the revisions are complete, the reviewer will sign off and the project will move on in the process (see step 3). If the reviewer needs additional information or has identified additional corrections they will request this information from you in writing in another comment letter (return to steps 2 and 2a).

4. Plans Approved, Permit Issued

When all required reviews are approved, your permit will be in pre-issue status and you will be notified of your final fee total. After the balance is paid the plans submitter will receive an email notice letting them know that the approved plans and permit are available for download in ePlans. 

5. Inspections

When you pick up your permit, you will receive an inspection card listing all of the inspections you will need during construction. Inspections can be scheduled online or by calling 360-487-7890. When all of your inspections are approved, you will receive a final inspection and your project is complete.

Things to Consider

The permit process differs for each permit type and may also vary depending on how complex your project is. Below are general guidelines to follow when applying for a permit. You can submit most applications electronically using ePlans.

Research

Always check the jurisdiction of the property online to determine whether it is inside City limits.

Are there any site constraints on your project?

Plans

  • Clearly drawn plans accurately describing all of your proposed work will be required
  • Determine which permit forms are required based on your proposed commercial project

When is an architect required?

An architect is required for the following:

  • New construction of all non-residential buildings and structures over 4,000 square feet
  • New construction of all residential buildings containing more than 4 dwelling units (including townhouses or row-houses)
  • Tenant improvements or remodels in spaces more than 4,000 square feet
  • If the remodel or tenant improvement involves an area less than 4,000 square feet and is in a building that is 4,000 square feet or larger, then an architect must be involved if there are structural changes or life safety changes (as in exits, fire alarms or fire sprinklers affected, or other life safety items such as change-of-use or occupancy).

The total square feet of a building includes the total of all levels and all outdoor covered areas like porches, drive-thru canopies, etc.

The practice of architecture is defined in and regulated through RCW 18.08. This link is helpful in understanding the roles and responsibilities of architects, engineers and other design professionals.

When is engineering required?

An engineer is required for the design of structural work which does not conform to the prescriptive requirements of the currently adopted IBC. When the structure of an engineered building is modified an engineer is normally required to design this work. The city’s permit document requirements closely follow the State requirements regulating the engineering profession.

For Engineering definitions please visit: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=18.43.020

Under state law and the building code the Building official has the authority to make the final determination on what documents will be accepted for building permit application.

When are are separate fire protection permits required?

Fire alarms, fire sprinklers and other fire protection systems require separate permits. Fire Protection Contractor information.

Backflow and Cross-Connection Prevention

Many commercial uses require backflow or cross-connection prevention. State and local laws require that you install and maintain a backflow prevention device on your service line and have it inspected yearly by a certified tester. Backflow and Cross-Connection Prevention.

Grease Trap

Restaurants or commercial kitchens, including coffee kiosks, that discharge food grease to the sewer system require a grease trap or interceptor. For additional information contact the City Grease Trap program staff. For properties located:

Addressing

Multi-family building address designations, (e.g. Building A, Building B), are determined by emergency service regulations. For additional information regarding addressing contact Bryan Monroe at bryan.monroe@cityofvancouver.us

Grading

Grading permits are required for nearly all projects that include the disturbing or moving of more than 10 cubic yards of earth or vegetation.

Other Agencies

Submittal Requirements

The following items will need to be submitted when applying for a commercial building permit:

  • Completed and signed application (property owner signature is required)
  • Fees associated with the application
  • Clearly drawn plans accurately describing all of your proposed work. Submit electronically using ePlans)
  • Energy code forms
  • Licensed contractor information (if available)

Codes, Design Requirements, Setbacks

Development in the City of Vancouver requires conformance with all adopted building codes, all land use regulations, and the City’s design and construction standards.

Septic Systems and Wells

These programs are managed by Clark County Public Health.

Fees

The cost of your permit is based on several factors. Specifically, permit fees for new construction and additions are established on the calculated value determined by the gross square footage, type of construction and use of the building.

Submittal Checklist

Commercial Building Permit Checklists

Please select the COM submittal checklist or supplemental form(s) that best fits your project from the list below. Checklists have been updated to provide ePlans requirements.

Codes

Building Codes and Regulations

The City of Vancouver adopted Codes 

  • Anticipated adoption date of the 2021 Washington State Energy Code is March 15, 2024.
  • Effective Friday, March 15, 2024, the 2021 I-Codes will be in effect
    • Currently, 2018 I-Codes with Washington Amendments, effective 02/01/2021
  • Effective Monday, April 1, 2024, the 2023 NEC, National Electrical Code will be in effect
    • Currently, 2020 NEC, National Electrical Code, effective 10/29/2020
  • 2018 International Building Code (IBC) w/ WAC 51-50
  • 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) w/ WAC 51-51
  • 2018 International Existing Building Code w/ WAC 51-50-480000
  • 2018 International Mechanical Code w/ WAC 51-52
  • 2018 Uniform Plumbing Code w/ WAC 51-56
  • 2018 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code
  • 2018 Washington State Energy Codes WAC 51-11
  • 2018 International Fuel Gas Code w/ WAC 51-52-21000
  • 2018 International Fire Code w/ WAC 51-54A
  • ICC/ANSI A117.1-2009 Accessibility w/ WAC 51-50-1101.2
  • Vancouver Municipal Code Title 17
  • Washington State Water Conservation Code
  • ASCE/SEI 7-16 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures

The Washington State Building Code is comprised of the model code editions listed with the Washington State Amendments, which may be downloaded from the Washington State Building Code Council (https://sbcc.wa.gov/)

Links

Energy Codes

Energy Code Forms and Information

The 2018 Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) is currently in effect as of February 1, 2021.

Anticipated adoption of the 2021 Washington State Energy Code is now March 15, 2024. On September 15, 2023, the State Building Code Council agreed on another delay.

Commercial

2018 Washington State Energy Code (WSEC) Commercial Provisions

Note that Commercial Provisions apply to all commercial occupancies, Group R-2 and R-3 occupancies greater than 3 stories above grade, and Group R-1 (all building heights). Further, compliance with the Energy Code is required throughout WA State for all new construction, additions, and retrofits.

The WSEC is significantly more stringent than the IECC and requires additional efficiency design elements for compliance.

The online compliance documentation webtool printout should be submitted with your building, electrical, or mechanical permit to show compliance with the code provisions that apply to the project and the design measures taken to comply with these provisions. Please note that the COMcheck is not permitted due to the Washington Amendments.

Residential

2018 WSEC Residential Provisions

New to the Energy Code? There are many resources available through the WSU Energy Program.

Residential codes encourage a more efficient use of energy through leak and blower door testing, duct sealing, higher insulation values, indoor and outdoor lighting fixture efficacy requirements, and compliance of all space-conditioning systems, which includes air handlers, outdoor condensing units of a split system air conditioner or heat pump, cooling or heating coil or furnace exchanger.

Forms may also be downloaded from the WSU Energy Program.

New construction and additions require the following forms:

  • Prescriptive Worksheet
  • Glazing Schedule
  • Heating System Sizing Worksheet

Remodels and alterations require the Alterations (Remodel) Worksheet.

Duct Testing: This applies to all Single Family, Mechanical or Residential permits where a furnace or air conditioner is added or replaced. Duct testing is required and test affidavit must be submitted to the City, (see forms below), prior to final approval.

Please email completed test affidavits to inspections@cityofvancouver.us or fax to 360-487-7801.