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By Matthew Hichens, A.I.A., Licensed Architect
March 8, 2022

A typical building project can be broken down into three simple phases: the design and documentation phase, the building permit and pricing phase, and the construction phase.  Today, we’ll focus on the “Building Permit and Pricing Phase.” 

Even though the building permit acquisition process and final contractor pricing happens after you and your Architect have completed the Design and Documentation Phase, much of this process needs to be determined BEFORE you start designing with your Architect.  Here’s why…and the variables you’ll need to consider:

  1. Before you purchase land for your barndo, make sure you know which agency is the “authority having jurisdiction” (AHJ) over the rules and regulations of what can be built on that property.  Depending on where you’re building your Barndo, the AHJ could be the city/municipality, the county, or even the state.  (The more rural your site is, the more likely the building codes would be governed by the county or state.)  Before you go any further, make sure you contact the AHJ and confirm you are allowed to build your Barndo on that specific property…and get that answer in writing.
  2. Before you hire your General Contractor, make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured….and get a copy of their current Certificate of Insurance.  If you deal with a General Contractor that is not insured, you are at risk for a multitude of potential problems.
  3. Before construction begins, please make your General Contractor obtain a building permit from the AHJ and make sure your Architect prepares the construction drawings based on the AHJ’s current code requirements. Contrary to what you might hear, the building codes are in place to make sure your barndo is properly constructed and in accordance with well established building guidelines.  If your General Contractor and/or Architect say you don’t need a Building Permit, find a new team.
  4. Before the design is started, a good Architect and General Contractor should be asking you to confirm your construction budget.  With respect to contractor pricing, DON’T wait until the design and documentation phase is complete to start talking about the construction cost.  At the end of each meeting, you should ask your Architect and General Contractor if you are still on budget.

To recap, there’s a lot to confirm before you start the fun part…designing your barndo.  But, if you get these issues resolved up front, the permit process should be straight-forward, and there should be no surprises with a project coming in over your budget.  Ask the permit and budget questions early and often to make sure you are on track!

Once the General Contractor has the Building Permit in hand, it’s time to start building!