4 Steps Toward Faster Building Plan Reviews – Part 1

by | Jul 27, 2017

4 Steps Toward Faster Building Plan Reviews – Part 1

When building permit applications come streaming in due to construction booms, big projects, code changes, and other factors, the mounds of work can be too much for municipal staff to tackle. To add to the mess, unclear submittal requirements and misunderstandings between understaffed building departments and permit applicants can lengthen the process. And as the applications pile up, departments get buried under the pressures that accompany inevitable plan review delays.

Imagine if you could trade out building plan review backlogs, customer complaints, and vacant lots for faster plan review turnarounds, consistent service, and a thriving community.

During our 25 years partnering with communities large and small across the nation, SAFEbuilt has picked up a few tricks of the trade—proven techniques that help municipalities stand out to developers, keep residents happy, avoid budget shortfalls, and enhance their communities.
By taking intentional steps to make your department more efficient, you can achieve the 5-day residential plan review turnarounds (and 10-day commercial turnarounds) that we’ve been able to deliver in our 500+ partner communities around the country.

So, what’s holding you back? Get started on the first two steps today.

Step 1: Streamline plan reviews

The first big step toward faster building plan reviews is actually a handful of small steps, all of which lead to a better, smarter process for your municipality. In order to make your department more efficient and keep up with development, it’s important to implement these must-have approaches to plan reviews:

  • Standardized submittal forms – Ensure clear, consistent application forms and requirements for permit applicants to avoid misunderstandings and confusion early on.
  • Clear submittal checklists – Provide a submittal checklist to applicants indicating all of the items needed to submit a complete plan.
  • Pre-screening process – Train intake staff to pre-screen proposed submittals for minimum submittal requirements, catching any red flags right away.
  • Minimum set standards – Require that projects be designed to minimum set standards, ensuring approval can be completed within two reviews.
  • Internal process outlines – Measure work performance against a set timeframe for each step of the process.
  • Team assignment lists – Keep close tabs on the workloads of individual team members to maintain flexibility and progress.
  • Detailed revision letters – Provide a revision letter to applicants to communicate any issues in a clear and concise manner, identifying specific problems and their locations within the plan, as well as how changes to the plans should be made.

To ramp up the efficiency of your plan review process even further, think about leveraging electronic plan review (EPR). Eliminating the need to print plans, mail them, and wait for review and return, EPR offers a cost-effective option that can help communities like yours boost their bottom line, improve customer service, and get caught up fast.

Step 2: Implement proactive performance goals and metrics

The second step toward a timelier building plan review process might seem commonsense, but it’s one that can easily slip through the cracks in the midst of the craziness and chaos that comes during busy plan review seasons. Taking the time upfront to establish proactive performance goals and metrics is critical to gauging your department’s progress so it can improve over time.

As you think about the kinds of performance metrics you should implement within your department, be sure to include:

  • Weekly metrics and goals
  • Detailed reporting schedules
  • Routine reports to track and summarize activities

Once you’ve outlined realistic goals and decided on reasonable performance metrics for your department, make a point to consistently share those metrics with your team, and use your measurements to identify opportunities for improvement. This will give you the confidence you need to know your building department is operating at maximum effectiveness, no matter the workload or season.


Maybe you’re buried under piles of permit applications. Maybe you’re fed up with complaints from citizens, elected officials, and developers. Or perhaps you’re keeping up with demand but just need some time and headspace back. Regardless of your specific challenges or needs, take solace in the fact that there is a step-by-step way to achieving a 5-day plan review turnaround.

You have the first two steps at your fingertips. By streamlining plan reviews and implementing proactive performance goals and metrics, you can be well on your way to faster building plan review turnarounds and a better community. But don’t stop there…Take the next two steps to keep your community on the rise.


Stabilize Budgets

Protect your dollars and guarantee revenue.

Improve Customer Service

Eliminate backlogs and keep development projects on track.

Elevate Development

Streamline complex community development processes.

Stand Out

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Plan review
Project support

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Violation mitigation

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