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Preventing Lengthy Warehouse Building Permit Delays

March 15, 2023
Building permit problems can delay new warehouse construction or distribution center retrofits by weeks or months. Working with a rack supplier with integrated building permit services can fast-track the project.

The Problem

According to a material handling permit expeditor servicing the Western United States, in the material handling equipment industry, permits are required but not limited to storage racks, pallet racks, rack picking systems, conveyor systems, and mezzanine/storage platforms used in warehouses and home improvement centers.

While the permit process usually takes from three to six weeks from beginning to end, it can take as long as 16 weeks. Each city, county, and state have its own ordinances that must be met, and some cities require full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before issuing a permit.

A few common layout errors to avoid include "dead-end" aisles, rack systems blocking doorways, and a lack of aisle space.

At a minimum, a simple rack permit in a state such as California requires detailed drawings of the storage rack base plates, columns/post attachments, and the anchors used. In California, this requirement applies even to equipment from 5.11 to 8 feet tall, though there are exceptions.

A regular rack permit is required in all U.S. states when storage rack equipment exceeds 8' in height, per International Building Code standards. Structural calculations by a civil or structural engineer, registered in the state where the work is done, is then required along with component detail drawings. Project drawings showing a complete floor plan, along with cross-sectional views plus connection details of the project, and a facility site plan are typically necessary for submittal.

Permit fees include a plan check submittal fee, a permit issuance fee, and a fire department approval fee. These fees are usually required, along with a state-licensed contractor installer.

An error in any of these steps, of course, translates into costly permit and operational delays.

Fire codes can be a particular problem. Building departments will not release the storage rack permit until you provide them with Fire Department High Pile Storage (HPS) approval. Most rack permit delays are due to poor HPS approval planning.

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Even if a facility has a building permit, there will still be a fire permit inspection. This can involve sprinklers, vents, firewalls, access to exits, and hydrants. A facility’s needs can be especially complicated if there are pick systems or elevated work areas. If the facility manager misses any of these local requirements, the fire marshal may not allow building occupancy.

The Solution

The key is to start the permit process as soon as possible and get it right the first time. That way, facility managers won't have to wait on pins and needles for a municipal building or fire department to get back to them—with requests for more documentation that can require re-submission two, three, four or more times.

To help facility managers avoid permit delays and keep operation plans on track, some suppliers of warehouse rack storage systems, such as Steel King Industries, prevent permit headaches by providing comprehensive building permit services. For instance, the company offers a calculation package for the permit process and deals with all national, regional, or local agents necessary to handle permitting. It accomplishes this with in-house professional engineering staff and a network of permit specialists.

“With seismic codes enforced nationally but with variations by locale, facility managers need a company that understands the permit process with the resources to stay on top of it," says Steel King project coordinator Anne Russell.

Steel King, a major designer, and manufacturer of warehouse storage racks, pallet racks, and material handling/safety products, has helped plan warehouses since 1970. It is a licensed fabricator in Los Angeles County, which has some of the strictest seismic codes in the nation.

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) publishes a racking design specification and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) each publish a steel design specification. The racking system must be compliant with these specifications along with local building and fire codes.

A good way to expedite the permit process is to work with a reputable storage rack manufacturer such as Steel King, which can supply or coordinate the engineering and layout details in a turnkey permit package.

For more info on easing the permit burden, call Steel King at (800) 826-0203 or visit www.steelking.com.

About the Author

Del Williams

Del Williams is a technical writer based in Torrance, California. He writes about health, business, technology, and educational issues and has an M.A. in English from C.S.U. Dominguez Hills.