Making Building Permitting Easier
Effective building regulation begins with creating a unified set of guidelines that describe what is expected of builders. Over 159 economies now have a full set of building standards in building codes and legislation that govern all areas of the construction process. However, simply setting rules is insufficient. Pending legislation can lead to not just confusion about how to proceed but also to corruption, disagreements, and unnecessary delays. The first step in achieving clarity, consistency, and transparency is to lay out a clear list of papers and preapprovals required before a construction permit application can be submitted and provide applicants with information on the required fees and how they are computed.
When rules are adopted, economies must also ensure that they are followed in practice. A national building code was ratified in Nepal in 1994. However, it was never implemented or followed in practice. As a result, construction in a country prone to large earthquakes continued with little regard for safety. Nepal has established a system that automatically checks for conformity with the National Building Code two decades later. Local authorities may interpret the rules differently. Thus implementation must be consistent across the country. In Colombia, a national law was passed in 2016 that established stricter construction standards and measures to improve building safety and quality oversight. On the other hand, the rules for implementation differ significantly amongst cities. According to the 2017 subnational Doing Business research on Colombia, an entrepreneur in Bogotá takes 13 procedures and 132 days on average to complete all building permit formalities. In contrast, an entrepreneur in Cali takes 18 courses and 315 days on average.1
It is not enough to make building regulations available if the requirements for getting a building permit are not clearly stated in the rules (or on a website or in a pamphlet). To avoid situations where the permit-issuing authority can impose additional arbitrary requirements, applicants must have a list of the documents and preapprovals required before applying for a permit. Applicants must also understand the fees that must be paid and how they are determined.
In addition to appropriate legislation, an effective inspection system is essential for public safety. There is no way to ensure that buildings meet proper safety standards without one, which increases the risk of structural defects. Indeed, having technical specialists analyze the planned plans before they are built can help lessen the chance of structural breakdowns later on.
Building codes must be adaptable to keep up with economic and technological change, especially in light of growing environmental concerns. Overly specific requirements make it difficult to maintain regulations up to date. Some building regulations, for example, stipulate which materials can be used in construction projects; however, while this protects building safety, it is only successful if codes are updated regularly to reflect new developments in the materials industry. This is not the situation in the transition economies of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where such regulations are prevalent. On the other hand, New Zealand took an effective approach: performance-oriented building codes define technical requirements and targets but do not dictate how they are met, allowing for innovation and flexibility in construction methods.
Building inspectors must be certified and possess the requisite technical qualifications to meet building safety regulations. Therefore, individuals who evaluate and approve building designs must have technical expertise in architecture or engineering to determine whether the plans meet the required safety requirements.
Improving transparency and making regulations more accessible
Ensuring open access to relevant legislation can be an important strategy for improving accountability in the private and public sectors, especially in light of the widespread corruption and abusive activities found in opaque business contexts. According to a case study published in the 2013 edition of Doing Business, economies with more access to regulatory information have more effective regulatory processes and lower regulatory compliance costs. 2 It is increasingly more vital and much easier to transmit knowledge rapidly and widely in today’s digital age.
Doing Business looks at whether building laws are freely available online or via the relevant permit-issuing body and if they are issued through an official gazette or must be purchased to determine transparency. One hundred seventy-nine economies have made all or parts of their building laws public through various channels—172 have published them online—making it easier to comprehend the varied requirements of the construction approval process and comply with applicable legislation.
The ease with which regulations can be accessed differs by the economy. The available papers can range from copies of building codes to streamlined checklists of paperwork and approvals that must be obtained before a building permit can be applied for. Some economies compile all essential construction permit paperwork into a single website, providing visitors focused and thorough information. The United Kingdom, for example, has an online portal where all regulations, as well as good practices and recommendations on how to acquire clearance for a building project, can be quickly accessed. It is also critical that published papers be updated systematically and timely to communicate regulation changes and notify professionals of new standards and rules.
Assuring that quality control and safety procedures are in place in the building
The permitting construction system relies heavily on quality control. The building quality control index assesses both quality control and safety mechanisms by measuring quality control before, during, and after construction. It also evaluates insurance and liability policies, as well as professional certificates. Indeed, in addition to a good regulatory framework, a well-functioning inspection, and monitoring system is essential for public safety. There is no way to ensure that buildings meet proper safety requirements without an inspection system, which increases the risk of structural flaws.
Having technical specialists analyze the planned plans before they are built can help lessen the danger of structural failure later on. Regular inspections during construction to detect possible defects—which may be easily repaired early—mitigate this risk even further. On the other hand, some flaws are only noticed after the building has been occupied, and at that point, repairing errors can be both costly and time-consuming. As a result, the responsible party must be held liable for an appropriate period, not just by contract but also by law. Furthermore, all parties engaged in the design, monitoring, and construction of the structure should be compelled to obtain insurance to cover the costs of any hidden flaws. Too far, more than 131 countries have enacted legislation to protect building owners from hidden defects, but only 29 of them require that parties involved in the construction of the building take insurance to pay such costs.
Furthermore, individuals who review and approve building plans must have a technical background in architecture or engineering to verify whether the plans comply with the necessary safety standards and other prescribed regulations to avoid the delayed discovery of structural defects and ensure compliance with applicable building regulations. Professionals who perform inspections during construction and after the project is completed must be certified by regulatory authorities and possess the technical credentials required to monitor construction activity.
Using risk categories to evaluate projects
Not all construction projects face the same social, cultural, economic, or environmental hazards. A two-story commercial warehouse is not comparable to the construction of a hospital or skyscraper. As a result, it’s critical to develop strict yet differentiated structure permitting processes that handle buildings differently depending on their level of risk and location. The building’s usage, location, and scale are the major characteristics used to classify a construction project’s potential threat worldwide. A risk-differentiated approach is being used by several economies monitored by Doing Business, and 22 have introduced risk-based inspections.
Simple, low-risk structures require less documentation and can be approved more quickly, saving time for entrepreneurs and authorities by allowing them to channel their efforts and resources better. In May 2017, Rwanda implemented a risk-based inspections system that provides precise recommendations on inspections by building type about projected risks and construction complexity. This method has expedited and simplified the procedures for obtaining construction permits for less complicated structures.
Inspections are another area where risk differentiation should be used, and the private sector should be encouraged to participate more. The Department for Communities and Local Government in the United Kingdom collaborated with the business sector to create a risk assessment tool for building inspectors. At important stages of construction, high-risk projects like hotels and movie theatres would receive at least as many inspections as low-risk projects. In most situations, additional inspections would be required to comply with safety rules. Since 2008, risk assessment has improved the inspection system, reducing the construction permitting process by eight procedures and 49 days, as measured by Doing Business. 3
To improve cooperation and efficiency, one-stop shops are being used.
Building permits frequently necessitate technical review by several entities. Establishing one-stop shops is an efficient method to streamline this procedure. Construction licenses can now be obtained from a single source in 28 economies worldwide. On the other hand, one-stop shops rely on effective coordination among all parties involved, which frequently necessitates overarching legislation that ensures information sharing and sets oversight mechanisms. Tanzania’s one-stop-shop has become more efficient thanks to enhanced intra-agency collaboration, which has cut the time it takes to complete construction permitting procedures by 52 days.
One-stop shops reduce processing times and promote efficiency, allowing agencies to handle more permit applications and improve customer satisfaction. Côte d’Ivoire was one of the top ten economies globally, with the most complicated construction regulations in 2006. Rules at the time needed 24 separate procedures and an average of 623 days to complete the construction permit process. Côte d’Ivoire modernized its permitting construction system in 2017, creating a one-stop shop for permits, streamlining procedures, and lowering compliance costs for businesses. As a result, the number of courses required in Côte d’Ivoire has been decreased by four, and the processing time for applications has been reduced to 162 days. There are many contractors who are shooting for political change so that things like building permitting get easier.
Effective building regulation begins with creating a unified set of guidelines that describe what is expected of builders. Over 159 economies now have a full set of building standards in building codes and legislation that govern all areas of the construction process. However, simply setting rules is insufficient. Pending legislation can lead to not just…