The Final Review

San Jose Debuts New Digital Processing System for Permit Submittals

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The City of San Jose recently adopted an electronic plan review system to simplify and streamline their permitting process, and the Burnham team experienced it firsthand as expediter on the new construction project piloting the program: the Wingate by Wyndham Almaden Ranch.

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Since we’re constantly interfacing with municipalities, the Burnham team adapts our services to new programs that focus on making the permitting process more efficient for everyone involved. In this post, we’ll explore the new process and the benefits of San Jose’s switch to a reduced-paper system for new construction projects and beyond.

ePlan Reviews Increasing in Popularity

Cities often adopt electronic plan review systems as a way to save on review time, project costs, and paper waste by eliminating most (if not all) hard copy plan submittals. The benefits of semi-digital and fully-digital submittals include reviews by multiple departments simultaneously, - such as Miami-Dade County’s Concurrent Plans Processing - access to real-time plan review updates by project managers, and reduction in the space needed for plan storage.

In our experience, digital processing offers tangible benefits for municipalities, developers, and architects by streamlining the review process and reducing review timelines.This system has been valuable to the Wingate Hotel project by providing the design team with the flexibility to make changes to the project's plans as quickly as possible and allows for easy revisions during the pre-review process.

Project History

Almaden Ranch is one of San Jose’s newest retail planned developments and the Burnham team has been expediting the permitting process for the Wingate Hotel, a four story new construction project accompanying the development at Highway 85 & Almaden Expressway.

Burnham Nationwide joined the project team after the San Jose Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement’s (PBCE) Planning Division had completed their approval and we facilitated submittal of the new construction permit package to the PBCE’s Building Division using their new electronic submittal process.

Wingate by Wyndham a Pilot Project for the New System

The standard plan submittal at the City of San Jose requires seven sets of plans that are wet ink signed and sealed by the Architect of Record for the project, however, the City’s Electronic Plan Review service eliminates the need for multiple copies of construction documents. Instead, the City accepts a single set of plans accompanied by digital files that are routed to the required divisions for review.

Concurrent plan review facilitates faster review times by allowing multiple reviewers or departments to work on a single file of a plan set simultaneously. After initial review is complete, using an electronic system also simplies the corrections process - revisions can be completed in real-time as various municipal departments release their comments which further reduces delays between initial submittal and resubmittal of revised plans.

An additional benefit of the system is a simpler permit package - instead of gathering all the required documentation from the various parties and collating sheets into multiple plan sets, only one hard copy is required, reducing shipping costs and the time needed to prepare the package and making submittal cheaper and faster.

Burnham Nationwide uses similar systems throughout the country and we lent our experience with electronic processing to the design teams to coordinate the initial plan submittal as well as navigating the review process at the City of San Jose. As a result, the estimated review time by the Building Division was reduced from 8-12 weeks to 6-8 weeks.

Electronic Plans Streamlined Health Submittal

Though not initially part of the submittal, it was determined during the life of the project that the Santa Clara Health Department would need to approve the plans before the interior finish permit could be approved by the City.

By using existing electronic plan sets, Burnham was able to communicate directly with the health reviewer who completed a pre-review of the plans within two hours. This gave the design team the opportunity to make corrections for these initial comments before submitting hard sets for full plan review, further streamlining the separate County review and keeping the construction timeline on track.

San Jose’s New System Promising for Municipality, Future Projects

To date, the project has moved smoothly through the PBCE’s divisions and we are currently monitoring the remainder of the Health Department’s review process of the development and we anticipate a quick resolution.

Though Electronic Plan Review is not yet fully available for all projects at this time, we anticipate continuing success using this system and expect to further reduce permitting delays for our project partners in the City of San Jose. By moving to electronic plan review, the City has chosen an efficient, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly approach to the construction permitting process.

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