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Permitting rules for putting up a structure across the US

If you're wanting to erect a structure on your land in this country, that will not be used as a home or place you live in, the main factors that govern regulations and permitting are as follows:

  • the zoning of the land you plan to put the structure on

  • the duration you plan to have the structure erected for

  • the size of the structure

  • the quality of the structure

Land Zoning Considerations

The first thing you need to do before considering erecting a building structure is to determine what zoning your land is in. You should be able to find this information on your local building department website. Zoning is key, particularly if you are near, or in a residential area where there may be restrictions.

The simplest places to erect structures from a zoning point of view is on agricultural, rural and industrially zoned land, as well as on construction sites. Often there are no restrictions as long as your building is built to International Building Code standards.

Duration, Size and Quality of the Structure After Zoning considerations, the next thing you need to think about is if your building will be erected for less than 120 days, making it a temporary structure, or if it will be in use long-term, making it a permanent structure. If your structure is going to be a temporary structure, you will be exempt from many of the regulations and requirements that a permanent building needs to meet. However, if your temporary building is going to be more than 120 square-feet in size, you will have to follow the same guidelines as a permanent structure. The design and material used to make your structure are also key factors. There is no single set of rules in this country that govern regulations around building constructions and materials, each State has slightly different rules and guidelines. However, all incorporate the International Building Code (IBC) into their State-level regulations. California for example uses their own California Building Code, Florida uses the Florida Building Code, while Texas uses the Internal Building Code. Regardless, all refer to, and meet the IBC standards, with State level regulations tending to reflect the needs and characteristics of the individual State – such as wind, snow, earthquakes etc. It is vital that your structure meets the building standards of your State.

Taking Care of Complications

Life will become much more complicated if you are considering erecting a building that has not been designed and made to meet IBC standards. Regardless of whether the structure has been made in this country or imported from abroad, it must meet the safety standards of the IBC and any additional State level requirements. It is important you check this before buying any structure. The regulations go into a lot of detail regarding things like steel thickness, weld points, bolt strengths, fire resistance etc. It is not your job to know all this detail - this is the job and responsibility of the people making your structure. If your local building department have asked you to submit a permit application for your building, they will want to see all the relevant specifications, which generally take the form of a compliance document provided by the manufacturers of your structure. You should always check with manufacturers that they have and will be able to provide this document to your local building department if needed, and that they meet national and state regulations - and can prove it.

That's basically it. Permitting does not need to be complicated, and when in doubt the best place to start is with a phone call to your local Building/Planning Department. Generally, the staff in Building Departments are very helpful and willing to assist. Good luck. It's not actually that complicated - but the right partners help!

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