The Plus Side of Third-Party Plan Reviews

by | Jul 27, 2017

The Plus Side of Third-Party Plan Reviews
Get caught up and stay caught up, no matter what

With economic ups and downs, ebbs and flows in development activity, budgetary limitations, and staffing difficulties, it’s no wonder municipalities across the country often struggle with ways to efficiently process building permit applications.

The challenge becomes most pronounced during those crazy construction bursts that often follow development lulls. Building departments suddenly face floods of permit applications, but they don’t have the additional staff or resources they need to keep up. The results? Building plan review backlogs that lead to permit delays, vacant lots, angry calls, and missed opportunities for ongoing development and revenue.

So, what’s the solution?

Without a doubt, building plan review backlogs are a burden to building departments and communities in general. The good news? Municipalities can ensure efficient, consistent service, the right kind of development, budget stability, and communities on the rise by taking four proven steps toward faster plan reviews:

  1. Streamlining plan reviews
  2. Implementing proactive performance goals and metrics
  3. Encouraging rock-solid communication
  4. Getting flexible, experienced staffing

Yet even with these steps in mind, one obvious question remains. How do municipalities like yours actually apply these strategies? That’s where you get to look at the options and decide what’s right for your community:

  1. Do it gradually on your own (using some of our tips)
  2. Do it quickly with some help (aka third-party plan review)

The beauty of the third-party solution

Whether your municipality is facing a shortage in your staff, dealing with a fluctuating workload, or needing additional technical expertise on a large or complex project, a third-party building plan review firm can offer the services you need to get caught up, even if it’s just for a temporary window of time.

With large networks of ICC-certified plans examiners, third-party community development firms can lighten the building plan review load, helping your department reach life-safety and code compliance standards in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Send one, send all (or some number in between)

One of the many benefits of working with a third-party firm is that you can send out as few or as many plan reviews as it takes for your department to get caught up. Maybe you need your staff to focus on incoming permit applications and other tasks while you send all of your delayed plan reviews to third-party examiners.

Or maybe you have a six-week backlog and want to be back to full speed in the next three months. So, you’ve calculated that your department needs to complete 25 plan reviews a day to make that happen. You might have enough staff and resources to do half that many, but need some help doing the rest. Working with a third-party reviewer, your department can choose to handle 12 a day and let the third-party expert take on the remainder until you’ve put your backlog behind you.

Be prepared for the unpredictable

As we’ve already discussed, economic shifts and changing community needs can throw building departments for a loop as workloads consistently fluctuate. Don’t let influxes in permit applications that come with busy construction seasons, big projects, and other changes catch you off guard. Your department can get the flexible ongoing support it needs to avoid building plan review backlogs altogether.

When you leverage the resources of third-party plan review companies, you can:

  • Keep up with development, managing ups and downs in construction activity
  • Secure projects by guaranteeing a timely process for developers
  • Better serve your customers with the ability to be responsive
  • Attract new development as time goes on
  • Minimize internal and external strife
  • Reduce budget risk by using only when needed

And as your needs evolve over time, you can choose the level of support to best help your department and your community, including:

  • Speedy supplemental plan reviews when permit applications pour in
  • Large/complex project plan reviews that don’t compromise quality or increase the headcount in your department
  • Electronic plan reviews that help streamline the process and save money (for applicants and building departments alike)

Is third-party plan review the right fit for you?

While third-party plan review does offer a smorgasbord of opportunities and benefits for many communities, it’s admittedly not the best option for:

  • Municipalities without enough plan review work for their one examiner
  • Municipalities with only simple and straightforward development

However, for a great many communities of all shapes and sizes, third-party plan review is a match made in community development heaven. Situations in which this option does make sense include:

  • Municipalities who have started implementing process efficiencies.
  • Municipalities paying overtime for plan review.
  • Municipalities receiving complaints about plan review turnarounds.
  • Municipalities who value best practices.
  • Municipalities with complex and varied development—unusual projects, large facilities, unusual conditions, etc.


Building plan review backlogs are an unfortunate trend among communities across the nation. But for municipalities that are fed up with the burdens and geared up for change, there’s a step-by-step process for obliterating those backlogs and achieving 5-day/10-day plan review turnarounds. And by turning to a third-party plan review expert like SAFEbuilt, building departments can get caught up and stay caught up, delivering uncommonly exceptional service no matter what comes their way.


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

Embrace the progressive “P3” (public/private partnership) model.


Building Department


Building inspections
Plan review
Project support

Planning & Zoning


Code Enforcement

Code enforcement
Rental inspections
Violation mitigation

Automation Software

Permit automation
Mobile inspection apps
Developer portals



Partnering with communities on the rise to help them become the best versions of themselves.

Enhancing Communities. Improving lives.

Contact us: 866.977.4111