The City of Chicago has strict requirements related to the building process for construction permits and approvals. If you have not been to the city, Chicago Architecture is one of the most impressive due to its multi-cultural mix and influence from big names in the Architectural World. This article provides a summary of key points that MEP Engineering firms and other Chicago construction professionals should follow. The article provides an insight on design and approvals, cover important aspects related to construction bidding and related to the construction process.
Design and Approvals at Chicago Department of Buildings
The design and approval process of construction permits falls within the Chicago Department of Buildings authority. The process is a regulated one following the standards and requirements established by the Chicago Building Code. The permits process has changed over the years and while the City is working on streamlining the permitting process, the process is a length one. On average, the time it takes an MEP Engineering firm to obtain a cry permit for a construction project is close to 60 days. Some Chicago construction projects receive the permit following an 80 day process, so it is all depending on the complexity of the construction project.
The city requires that almost all commercial projects need a permit before starting construction and it will start with the design and approval process. The Standard Plan Review process is dedicated to small and medium size construction projects and remodeling projects. The process requires submission of construction drawings prepared by a registered Chicago Architect. The online system facilities A/E firms with the approval process, so by filling some information and uploading the drawings, the process gests started. This process is only authorized for architects and structural engineers holding a valid State of Illinois license. MEP engineering firms can apply for this permit only if they are in compliance with the process requirements.
Chicago construction projects might apply for one of the following permits process:
- The Easy Permit (EP) process, which has been updated
- The Self-Certification (SC) process
- The Developer Services (DS) process, which has some updated information and process
- The Direct Developer Services (DDS) process, which is a new process
- The Green Permit (GP) process
- The Standard Plan review (SPR) process
The permit submittal checklist requires you to submit the following documents:
- Plat of Survey
- Site Plan
- Construction drawings
- Project address
- Chicago Building Code certification by an authorized Chicago engineer
- Local or applicable Ordinance making sure the Chicago Architecture is not being altered
- MEP engineering firms are required to submit natural light and ventilation schedule, single line diagrams, emergency and power lighting and plumbing schedule
- Structural review and solid boring information
- Others as applicable
The Chicago construction process is a process unique in nature because of certain market and environmental conditions. A typical bidding process starts when a solicitation is issued and contractors are invited to bid. The weather in Chicago plays an important factor in the construction process and it is almost a seasonal process. Chicago engineers take advantage of the winter months to work on bids and proposals so construction can start during the spring. MEP engineering firms play an important role during the bidding process due to heating and HVAC requirements and their design could represent at least 40% of the project budget. The bidding process in Chicago architecture requires knowledge of lock market conditions and understanding of local union requirements. The city of Chicago is one where labor union is very well represented and can derail your proposal if those costs are not considered.
The following items are essential to a solid bid proposal in Chicago:
- Union labor costs
- Mobilization and permit fees
- Commuting and transportation costs for your crews
- Transportation permits, logistics and traffic controls
- Road restoration
- Access limitation in the City
- Zoning and local ordinance requirements for working extended hours or during weekends
- Concrete curing times and concrete additives
- Temperatures might limit your ability to finish concrete, drywall and painting
- Heaters and warm up stations for your crews
- Wind can really play tricks on you, so be ready to plan for strong winds
- MEP engineering firms need to specify the right freezing resistant equipment and fixtures
- Insurance requirements and local taxes are high and account for more than 5% of the construction cost
- Landfills are not easily accessible, so it is recommended to implement a material reclaiming process
- Cut and fill is also expensive due to distance to quarries and hauling areas
- Chicago has water everywhere, so plan for a 4 inch or even 6 inch pump for dewatering purposes
- Security is a must to prevent material and equipment from being stolen
Building in Chicago
We covered certain critical aspects in our previous sections, but when it is time to build in Chicago, there other few things that you should know. As stated before permits are required and must always be visible. Chicago engineers know that permits are enforced and if not available your job will be shut down. The city of Chicago is severely congested at all times, so planning for deliveries at certain hours of the day is a must. The building season or the peak season starts during spring and will last until November, just before the Thanksgiving break, although it is not rare to see construction in December, but be careful holiday moratoriums will be in place.
Ground heaters will be required during the first few months of the year, if you are excavating and the city will facilitate the process during the design to provide good information related to underground utilities. As in many other regions, call before digging is important to prevent issues or accidents during construction. Chicago construction professionals know that getting skilled crews is difficult and can be a challenging situation form your project.General Building and Chicago architecture is mostly composed of wood framing and structural steel, for buildings and glass façades. The construction industry is pushing hard on becoming greener so make sure your MEP engineering firm works towards obtaining LEED® points. BIM is used throughout many projects helping during the design and collaboration process, saving time and money in your project. Many construction companies will offer BIM as added value to their projects and for the building owners. In Chicago, being a metro area, you can find many options for construction and design that are local and many of them are MWBE certified, increasing the opportunities for getting hired on federal funded projects.