Will You Need a Permit to Build Your Modular Office?

As a general rule, modular offices constructed from panelized wall systems don’t require permits in order to be erected within an existing facility. This is because they’re often classified as a type of company equipment, rather than a permanent structure. As equipment, rather than a building, modular offices fall under a completely different set of construction rules, which means you may not have to wait on permitting to get your project started. 

However, this can completely change depending on the location and the application of your modular office. Different counties have different rules pertaining to modular office permits, so depending on where you are, you may need to get a permit from your local government. 

Since modular office permit requirements vary from place to place, it’s always best to check with your local officials prior to starting construction. This way, you can be confident that you’re following all the correct requirements and procedures. 

Securing Permits for Panelized or Modular Wall Systems 

The process for securing permits varies from state to state, but there are a number of items that are typically required to secure a permit for a modular wall system or panelized wall system. The most commonly requested items from building officials are:

  • Stamped drawings from a structural engineer.
  • Product specifications. In most cases, the main focus is typically on understanding the wall panel’s composition and its fire characteristics.
  • Modular wiring specifications, if your project includes these upgraded materials.
  • Wiring schematic, if your project includes a modular wiring system.
  • IECC documentation, showing compliance to the International Energy Conservation Code.
  • Samples of the proposed wall system, including any modular electric components.
  • Architectural drawings, sealed by a local architect showing compliance to Life Safety Requirements (ADA, egress, access to fire exits, emergency lighting, etc). Most municipalities will want the architect to be registered in the state where the wall system will be installed.

Not all of these items will be required by every state. In many cases, the stamped drawings and product specifications are all that is needed.

If you are pulling permits for your modular office or modular wall system, we strongly suggest you meet with the appropriate building officials early on in the process. Bring product samples in case they are not familiar with panelized or modular wall systems. The officials will let you know what they need from you (and the manufacturer) to secure the permit.

Meeting With Building Officials for Modular Office Permits: Know Your Terminology

When meeting with a building official or submitting formal paperwork as you work to obtain the right permits for your modular office or modular wall system, there are a few terms that should be avoided and some terms that will help move the process along quickly.

Some terms to avoid in the permitting process:

  • Modular. While we often use this as a descriptive marketing term, and while it may be how you know your new office, to a building official, the word “modular” refers to a trailer. Trailers fall into a different review category in the building codes. To make sure your building official has a clear understanding of your project, use “panelized” instead.
  • Pre-Manufactured. In a similar situation, to a building official, the term “pre-manufactured” usually refers to a mobile home, which falls into a different review category.
  • Pre-Engineered. This term may imply a closed, more complex construction method that requires a third-party agency to visit the manufacturer’s factory to review the assembly of components. 

Some terms and phrases to use in the permitting process:

  • Panelized Wall System. Let the building official know that you are working with a “panelized” wall system that has been engineered for the specific physical address.
  • Open Construction. This means that all of the building components are easily inspected at the jobsite. Nothing is concealed or hidden during the manufacturing process. This is as opposed to Closed Construction where components (like electrical wiring) are hidden and cannot be inspected at the jobsite. When your building official understands your office will be constructed using open construction methods, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about, and can help facilitate a swift permitting process. 
  • Wall Panels. Inform the official that the panels for your new office are solid and that the edges of each panel are open for easy inspection either prior to or during the installation. 

Involve Building Officials Early On in Your Modular Office Construction Process

When pulling permits, it’s always best to involve the building official as early as possible. 

When scheduling the installation of your office system, be sure to include time to allow the inspector to visit the site to view the components and see the install process. You don’t want to wait until the building is complete to schedule the inspection. If your building official wants to see a panel edge or see the electrical components, it’s easiest for them to do so during the installation. 

Obtaining a permit is your (or your contractor’s) responsibility. However, manufacturers will often assist you in gathering the documentation necessary for the permit application you’re submitting. If you have questions about your specific application, talk to the team at Starrco. We’ll help you get your project started quickly and efficiently.