We are in our 11th year of making Architecture with our own license in the City of Chicago. As you can imagine, the rules and regulations can be hard-to-find, confusing and daunting, especially to the uninitiated. While we won't give away any classified information like the the secret handshake or the best place to have a cold beer after a long meeting in Zoning, we can answer a few questions that we encounter regularly:
1) If I am just doing interior renovations to turn a 2 Flat into a Single Family home, do I really need a building permit?
Yes, there are two parts to a building permit: Zoning and Buildings. If you change the occupancy, the City requires a set of stamped Architectural drawings from a licensed Architect or Engineer for Zoning approval. Of course, since you have removed a wall or two and the two front hallway doors to accomplish that, the City requires you to submit a set of drawings to Buildings as well.
2) My designer says that the contractor will get the permits. Is that correct?
Does your designer understand the building code? The City's energy code has some fantastic requirements that will save you money and help the environment. (Imagine summer nights in the City of Chicago without the heat island effect!) The City's prerequisites need to be considered from the start. Also, most 2 flats are what Zoning calls non-conforming. The City requires an administrative adjustment to get Zoning Approval. This is at least a 4 or 5 week process at the start of the Building Permit process. There are many things that need to worked out by a licensed professional from a design's inception and then included in the drawings. The law requires that a licensed Architect (or Engineer) to make these judgments.
3) I would like to open up the space but my designer isn't familiar with structural engineering and says the contractor will make the decisions. Is that plausible?
Customarily, the contractor's role is to execute the approved plans made by an Architect or Engineer.
Of course we think that an experienced Architect can add a lot of value to your project. We are one after all! This example shows how can help you successfully navigate the City's requirements for this 2 flat to single-family conversion. It's a lot! And we can do far more than keep you from getting one of those giant orange stickers that scream "STOP WORK!". (Orange is never a good color on a building!) We can help save you energy, money and create a beautiful home to live in.
Our designs are integrated. Color, material, enclosure and structural engineering work together functionally and aesthetically. (Our position on the color orange remains constant.) A licensed professional who does Integrated Design can get it right in the first place saving time and money. (Active House, an Integrated way of designing, is a perfect fit for us. Please see our upcoming lecture at the Chicago Green Technology Center.)
We love answering questions. Please send us an email or call us!