A common misconception in modular buildings is that you can bypass the process of applying for and obtaining building permits and inspections. This is untrue. Modular construction is construction and, even though you are utilizing alternate construction methods, your project still needs to follow the traditional permit process. Additionally, modular buildings need to be built to meet appropriate federal and state building codes.
Building Permits for Modular Construction
Construction or building permits are required for new construction or major renovations. Each region of the country is different and, depending on your project type, different approvals, variances, and/or permits are required. For example, in some areas, local approval is enough, but in other areas county approval is necessary.
Don’t be fooled into thinking a modular construction timeline can omit the permit process. A modular building cannot simply show up on-site without approval from local authorities.
Typical construction permits fall into these categories:
Foundation & Building Permit – necessary for projects that enlarge, repair, change, add to, or demolish a structure; including new construction and additions to existing structures.
Mechanical Permit – required when installing or replacing a whole heating/cooling system; installing, altering or repairing gas piping between meter and appliances; or installing appliances that are required to be vented (bath fans, dryer exhaust, kitchen range).
Electrical Permit – should be obtained when installing, repairing, or altering electrical or communication wiring and equipment.
Plumbing Permit – necessary for plumbing in all new building installations.
Other permits that your modular project could require:
Road Opening Permit – necessary for any construction, repair, maintenance, or alteration of drainage, sewer, water pipe, conduit etc., that is on, above, or underneath any county road or right-of-way.
Water/Sewer Taps – required when adding a new connection to the public water supply or sewer.
Fire Suppression Permit – necessary for new installations or alterations of sprinkler systems, fire alarms, smoke control systems, fire protection hoods and ducts, etc.
Meeting Building Codes at an Accelerated Pace
In addition to going through the permit process, modular buildings must also meet the appropriate commercial building codes and undergo the same building inspections. Just as with traditional construction, in the modular construction process architectural or factory drawings are approved for federal and state codes. The alternative construction methods used in modular building, however, allow for the subsequent inspection process to be much more streamlined.
In traditional, on-site construction, as each step of the open-construction process is completed (foundation, framing, electric, plumbing, etc.), an inspector must visit the site to approve the work.
During an off-site, modular construction project, specialized inspections are also completed at each step of the process, as the individual module moves down the assembly line. This unique quality control strategy allows for imperfections to be caught and corrected without affecting the other areas of the project, which saves time and keeps costs down. When the project is ready to be assembled on-site, each module will carry with it proof of compliance and additional inspection is not needed.
If you have additional questions on the modular construction process, building permit, or building inspections, reach out to an experienced modular building consultant in your area.
Read More About the Modular Building Process:
10 Step Guide to the Custom Modular Building Process