Authorities Having Jurisdiction

Dear Reader,

On October 7th, I attended an AIA Tampa Bay Panel Discussion, where 3 panelists from the Tampa, Hillsborough, and St. Pete regions came together to discuss how contenders in the real estate industry can streamline the permitting process. The topic of the day was AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). As an engineer, I know that when going through processes to fulfill land developments, new construction, additions, or renovations, you must pull permits with the Authorities Having Jurisdiction. Construction Documents prepared by a Licensed Professional Engineer are used to apply for these necessary permits for the General Contractor. General Contractors apply these plans to achieve the project you wish, prior to any sought after construction you want to have conducted. Broadly speaking, the Construction Documents are reviewed by certain jurisdictions who have authority over portions of a development project. Whether it’s through the civil zoning, planning, or building permitting process, communications with the Department of transportation (FDOT), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the water district, you name it; permitting is a huge aspect of any real estate development. Each step in the pre-construction process is crucial in creating a successful project.

As engineers, we work with many jurisdictions during the pre-design and design phase to get the plans permit-able. Coordinating with these jurisdictions is a process that takes expertise in the navigation of code as well as patience in collaboration with large government run departments. To put it into perspective, some jurisdictions are 2 months out from scheduling a pre-application meeting! To steer smoothly through the choppy waters of pre-construction and permitting, engineers must knock out the order of operations in an organized manner. Not every project is the same and may require different processes. In these instances, talent and dedication goes a long way! This is what we strive for here at Advanced Engineering Consultants. We know what it takes to get projects out at an expedited rate, and we know the criteria that makes up a successful real estate development.

There is a saying people in the engineering field refer to all the time: always measure twice to cut once. This statement also applies to permitting. Detailed plans thrive to smooth this process over for a sooner, revolutionary ribbon cutting. Regardless of how amazing and stunning the Construction Documents are, you will still be receiving comments from the staff of these jurisdictions. Rome wasn’t built over night, but an investment of time on Engineering the project has high value. The benefits of this investment keep on rolling with crews in line, understanding what to do with clear direction, leading to a higher quality product.

Since Florida continues to surpass other states’ regulations and standard procedures in the engineering field, higher quality construction documents with more detail on line items have become more and more essential in the permitting process. If you are coming to Florida from another state for the first time, be prepared to see more processes than you’re used to. Welcome to the Florida way!

I’m sure I could go on and on about satisfactory construction plans and how you can benefit from them. I’m always seeking out more and more knowledge about the field of engineering and its processes, which is why I attended the AIA Tampa Bay event (even though I was partially there for the free food). The panelists that spoke reinforced how important authorities having jurisdiction are. The panelists answered a bunch of questions design professionals submitted prior to the event. Below are some of my notes I took while listening to their inquiries:

My Notes:

  • Project Management Hillsborough County Building Official
    • Superpower: all the wisdom in this room to make wise dissuasion
    • Smoother process
      • Manager of Permitting
      • Executive Manager of Planning Review
      • Permitting sufficiency checklist guidelines for new construction Hillsborough County
      • Florida is one of the most regulated states in the nation
      • Double check plans prior to submitting and look over permit sufficiency checklist guidelines
    • Provide electronic plan submittal
      • Smoother streamline process at Hills Gov Hub to always see status of your project
      • Uses Acela E-permitting
    • Accelerated Service
      • Used to have a fast pass service, but still stabilizing since COVID. Are looking into a fast pass service for permitting on smaller projects to walk out with permits or lists of items to be worked on. Will be able to have this service in the future.
    • Private provider plan review
      • Loves FL Statute 553, private providers
      • Site
        • Most private providers don’t typically provide zoning, storm water, transportation, utilities, natural resources due to insurance and qualifications
        • Initiate site review as soon as possible for site design, federal, state, and local laws to deal with
        • Could take months to review due to the amount of review needed
      • Fire review is fairly straight forward at local level
      • May have debates on life safety issues
      • Should take advantage for pre-application preliminary review services to provide better plans for review of the local municipalities.
      • Municipal service support for inspections
      • Likes to work with private providers because they don’t have the staff needed for the number of plans being submitted for review
    • Improvement
      • Would love to provide more services and communication such as texting inspection requests and notifications
      • Would like to provide chat services for code questions such as “how high would this railing have to be” 
  • City of Tampa Official
    • Superpower is cloning because he has so much work
    • Smoother Process
      • Missing documents is the biggest kickbacks, such as missing MEP drawings. Seems to be the biggest
      • Building permits cannot be started till Rezoning PDs or variances are approved first
    • Benefits of Acela E-permitting
      • Allows for submittal of plans during pandemic shut down and during hours outside of business hours
      • Internal review helps with coordination
      • Most issues have been signed and sealed credentials not being used correctly
      • Professionals get notifications on approval and denials
    • Fast Pass
      • Provides interior alterations and smaller projects provides a walk in and walk out permit or list of deficiencies. Prime rally pool enclosures
      • for a plan review meeting
    • Private providers
      • Water street and larger projects used private providers for their building review
      • Smaller review services are still getting used to the process to the older larger private provider firms.
    • Improvement
      • Design Professional should be more involved with the design process as construction administration services to ensure construction was done to the plans
  • St. Pete Official
    • Super power of speed
    • Smoother process
    • St. Pete is hiring needs more staff for plan review
      • Horror story: an engineer put on the plans specs that a GC didn’t follow. Engineer was from up north and GC and inspections where to code however didn’t meet the plan so had to be cut out and replaced
      • Code summery for life safety and fire review is very important
      • MEP coordination is where most commercial projects fall apart
    • Aval software was 5 years old and has been updated
      • Pushing more for electrical submittal for anything over 10 sheets
      • Have 6 staff members for E-plan help
    • Accelerated plan review
      • 1 hour appointment review, could walk away with a permit
      • 3-day review for renovations
    • Private Providers
      • Inspection services are very helpful
    • Improvement
      • Biggest complaint is consistency between projects. This is tough because 5 different experience people will have 5 different opinions
  • How can architects smooth the review process smoother
    1. Electrical Permitting
    2. Accelerated services
    3. Private providers and fire
    4. Lot of changes made in the last couple of years, how can plan review and inspection get better

If you, or someone you know needs Civil Engineering Consulting Services, we offer everything from civil, structural and MEP drawings to forensic investigations and site inspections. We are Advanced Engineering Consultants, and we take pride in our work. We make sure the permits are clear before any other action in the design and construction process is carried out.

I hope this blog helps you understand what AHJ means and how important it is in developing real estate projects. Make sure you consult civil engineers, structural engineers, and mechanical engineers before you conduct a development project.


Alex Hoffman of Advanced Engineering Consultants LLC

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