Useful Information

Click on the links below for more information on the various topics:

The Permit Process

Most Bay Area projects these days require a permit, which in most cases requires a set of plans to be submitted to the city or county building department. Usually, an architect’s or engineer’s stamp is required on the plans or will at least serve to speed up the permit review process. The permit review process may include review by the planning department, building department, city engineers, and public works department. The process may also include design review.

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Plan Preparation

Thorough, professionally prepared plans expedite the plan review process. The project owner is a vital participant in the planning process -- the owner’s preferences and desires must be made known to the designer. Most Bay Area permit issuing entities (typically county, city, or town building departments) have a fairly standard minimum punch list of items which the plans must include:

  1. plot plans with building footprint(s).
  2. building floor plans, elevation views, sometimes the roof plan.
  3. cross sectional views, details.
  4. assessor’s parcel number.
  5. plan preparer’s information.
  6. engineer’s calculations (if any structural design was involved).
Some permit issuing entities require substantially more information, depending on the scope of the project. This might include:
  1. geotechnical report by a soils engineer.
  2. title 24 report.
  3. plumbing , HVAC, and electrical plan.
  4. drainage plan.
  5. site erosion control plan.
Most design professionals use design software (example: Autocad) to create their drawings. The benefits are many: easy sharing and transmittal of plan documents, ability to easily make changes, and ability to re-size drawings, to name a few. Most permit issuing entities have come to expect submitted plans to be created using design software, although a clean set of hand drawn plans is usually acceptable.

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Engineers (Structural, Civil)

It is the responsibility of the engineer to incorporate into any design those elements needed to guarantee that the structure or system shall perform within the limits set by physical reality. For example, in the case of an actual structure, the structural system must comply with the laws of gravity, resist wind, snow, and earthquake loads, and any dynamic loads if the structure moves. The structural engineer must understand the typical loads the structure will experience in its lifetime (live loads, dead loads) based on the intended use (residential, industrial, etc.). The engineer must also be familiar with those special building or design codes (usually developed by other engineers) which  govern his/her area of expertise.

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An experienced and creative architect can make vital contributions to any building project. A good architect contributes the following: knowledge of (sometimes arcane) local building and planning codes, a sense of proportion, understanding of architectural styles, complementary selection of  finish materials, and attention to building details. For example, in the case of a building, the architect may be hired to develop the basic concept and vision for the building, and the engineers bring that concept to fruition via their specialized knowledge of physical laws of structures, energy(heat, light, electricity), materials (steel, wood, concrete) , and so forth.

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Geotechnical (Soils) Engineers

The services of a geotechnical engineer will sometimes be required during planning and/or construction, depending on the type and scope of project. The other designers (most typically the structural engineer)  may need to rely on the soils engineer’s knowledge of the site geology (soil and rock types and strengths, slide tendencies, etc.). Some of the soils engineer’s knowledge comes from on-site testing (typically via drilling or digging) or from past experience in a particular locale. Since any structure ultimately rests on the local soil or rock, the geotechnical engineer’s recommendations can be vital to the success of the project.

Of course, with all design professionals, there is often a great overlap in their respective bodies of knowledge.

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As-Built Drawings and Plans

These documents are usually the first item required in any permitted construction project. The “as- builts” describe the existing condition of a particular property or site, and include such information as plot plan, building footprint, plan and elevation views of the building or structure, foundation plan. Their general purpose is to describe what exists before the construction project is to take place, important information for the designers , the permitting entity, and the contractor. An accurate set of “as- builts can spell the difference between a successful project and one beset by changes and delays.

Many building or project owners have old plans describing their property or site. These are very valuable and should be saved, as it can be expensive to start drawing a set of “as-builts” from scratch. It is becoming more and more the norm that detailed as-builts are required for any property about to undergo renovation.

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Hiring a design/build entity can have several advantages. The design/build team, working closely together, can:

  1. implement the most efficient methods of construction and types of materials during the design phase .
  2. quickly adapt to unexpected changes as the project moves forward. This includes modifying or resubmitting the plans as necessary to keep all parties apprised of changes.

Benefits of design-build (from Wikipedia)

"It is important to note that the design-build method, while not focused on saving the owner construction costs, nonetheless often saves the owner money on the overall project. The combined effects of carrying a construction loan (which typically carries a higher interest rate than permanent financing) and an earlier useful on-line date usually yields considerable overall profitability to the project.

The compression of time is only one important aspect of the implementation of this system. Other attributes include:

  • increased accountabilty by the service provider,
  • single source project delivery, and
  • a value based project feedback system

Rather than a parcelized level of responsibility of the classic design-bid-build, design-build provides an integrated solution for the owner or client. This provides refuge from the finger-pointing that has become (unfortunately) commonplace in modern construction projects and allows the owner to look to one entity with questions or concerns.

Single source
Instead of having several contractors and consultants to deal with, an owner has just one contact for the project. Design revisions, project feedback, budgeting, permitting, construction issues, and billing can all be routed through the design-build firm. This single point of contact allows maximum flexibility for the owner to insist on a particular course of action without having to readjust contracts with perhaps a dozen contractors. A quality design-builder will leverage that flexibility for the owner's benefit by continually refining the construction program to maximize the owner's value at the completion of the project.

Value-based project feedback
Typically, in order for a contractor to bid on a project, very specific details relating to the methods and materials must be given to avoid any ambiguity and to make an "apples to apples" comparison of bids. In a design-build context, the owner, the owner's other consultants, and the design/builder can work together to determine what methods and materials will maximize the owner's value. In instances where marginally more expensive materials, designs, or construction methods might yield a higher return on investment for the owner than those of lower cost, the owner is free to adjust the project's program without having to re-bid the project."

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Beckmann Engineering & Design, Beckmann Construction, 49 Chamberlain Avenue, Novato, CA 94947
415.897.5382 (Office) 415.897.3582 (Fax)