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What To Know About Building in California

California is a beautiful and diverse part of the US. Since we started delivering barn packages down the west coast in the late 1980s we’ve come to learn how the California mountains, coastlines, rivers, lakes, deserts and agricultural lands shape not only the landscapes and scenery, but also how they influence construction projects.

The diversity of California’s geography affects state building codes and plays a significant role in project permitting and structure design. Here we will share what we’ve learned so you know what to expect from the journey, and how you can make your project as efficient as possible

As with all things construction related, every project cost and timeline are unique no matter where you are building, but we’ve identified some common trends as we have engineered and shipped our structure kits throughout recent decades.

  1. Introduction
  2. Summary – What Are the Main Things to Know About Building in California
  3. Permitting: How to apply for and obtain building permits in CA.
    • What is needed to apply for building permits in CA.
      • Land feasibility
      • Definition of a site plan.
      • Title 24 Report
    • Where to find information about required permitting information.
    • Types of assessments and reports that may be required in your site plan.
    • List of professional services that you may need to work with to gather required land assessments and reports.
  4. Appendix
    • Detailed list of potential land assessments and reports
    • Detailed list of professional services that may be required to conduct assessments and reports on your land.
    • Useful websites to reference when planning.
      • County-specific websites
      • CA state energy codes
      • Title 24
    • California Structure Galleries
  1. Permitting timelines can be lengthy and require many assessments and reports of your land. Speak with your county office and begin any necessary land evaluations as soon as possible.
    • Your county office will be your biggest planning resource for your project. They will confirm if you can in fact build your desired structure at the desired location on your property, as well as provide information on specific assessments and reports that are necessary when applying for building permits in your area. They can also provide you with a list of professional services who can conduct any required steps.
    • Once you have confirmed that you can build on your property, we’ll work with you to outline your structure and design. We recommend you begin working with the necessary professional services as soon as possible. The goal here is to gather and account for any information that could potentially influence your structure design or halt your project before blueprint engineering begins. Once your necessary reports and assessments are complete, we’ll take care of the structural engineering of your blueprints.
  2. Barn Pros will engineer your blueprints to meet local building codes and then deliver them to you. The next step is to take your completed blueprints to an Energy Consultant, Cetertified Energy Analyst (CEA) or licensed architect (specializing in energy modeling and compliance) of your choosing to complete the necessary Title 24 energy report. Once you have this report along with your blueprints and completed site plan, you are ready to submit your building permit application.

Reference the appendix for a full list of county websites and links to the updated energy codes in full.

Submitting for and obtaining necessary building permits in your county will likely be one of the lengthiest parts of your project. Because of the geographic diversity of the state, there are often many assessments and reports of your land that need to be done before you can  submit a request for permits. We’ve found the most efficient way to line up these details is to work with your county to complete the necessary assessments while Barn Pros works to engineer your blueprints. This way there will be less down time between the permitting phase, engineering phase and start of construction.

What is Needed to Apply for Permits in California

  • Feasibility Assessment
  • Site Plan including any necessary property reports or assessments
  • Engineered Blueprints
  • Completed Title 24 Energy Report

Feasibility Assessment

The first thing we recommend is meeting with your county building department for a feasibility assessment of your land. This meeting will determine if your land can in fact host your desired structure and use case, at your desired location on your property. The county will look at your property information and proposed structure size, design, structure use and location to provide a list of necessary reports and assessments, the results of which will confirm if your land can support your project or not. The county can also provide a list of professional services you can work with to carry out these necessary evaluations and reports. This step is key and is essentially the green light for your project.

Site Plan

Once the county building department has confirmed your land can support your desired structure, the next step is to work with the necessary professional services to gather the required land assessments and reports and combine them into a site plan. At this time Barn Pros will work with you to confirm the layout, size and details of your structure and prepare to engineer your blueprints.

When your site plan contains all the needed land assessments and reports, Barn Pros will accommodate these details in your blueprints.

See the appendix for example site plan details and professional services that you may need to pursue.

Title 24 Energy Report

When you have completed all necessary land assessments and reports and Barn Pros has completed your structural blueprints, you will be ready to submit them to the Energy Consultant, Certified Energy Analyst (CEA) or architect (specializing in energy modeling and compliance) of your choosing to create your Title 24 Energy Report. This report accounts for your structure’s energy consumption and efficiency to ensure compliance with the California Energy Code. Title 24 Reports will encompass details such as:

  • The building envelope includes insulation, windows and doors, and air sealing.
  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Systems (HVAC)
  • Water heating
  • Indoor and outdoor lighting systems
  • Appliances and electrical plug loads
  • Renewable energy systems such as solar panels, solar water heating or wind turbines.
  • Certificate of Compliance
  • Installation Certificates
  • Verification Certificates

Where to Find Permitting Information

Your county building department will be your best resource for scheduling, land feasibility assessment, and gathering additional information pertaining to permitting and site planning.

Some counties offer permit expediting services that assist you in navigating the permitting process. These services can be very beneficial in saving you time and energy while ensuring you have all the documents, reports and information needed to successfully apply for building permits. Ask your county building department if they offer any services like these.

Reference the appendix to find your county website.

Types of assessments and reports that may be required in your site plan.

No two site plans will be the same thanks to California’s varied terrain. With this in mind, common assessments and reports for your site plan may include the following:

  • Property information including lot size and shape, property lines and boundaries.
  • Existing topography, vegetation, structures, utilities, and bodies of water.
  • Proposed structure information such as footprint, dimensions, setbacks, building height, floor plans and elevations.
  • Necessary site improvements including driveways and access roads, landscaping, grading, drainage, fences, and walls.
  • Utility and services connections, septic systems, and stormwater management.
  • Regulatory compliance of zoning and easements
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Fire Protection Plan
  • Septic system design
  • Air quality assessment

Reference the appendix for more details around potential land assessments and reports and contact your county building department to confirm which are needed for your specific site plan.

Professional Services You May need to Work With

  • Land surveyor
  • Civil engineer
  • Architect
  • Landscape architect
  • Environmental consultant
  • Geotechnical engineer
  • Traffic engineer
  • Utility consultant
  • Land use attorney
  • Permit expediter

Reference the appendix for more details on what these professional services do and how they apply to your site plan.

Potential Details That May Be Required in Your Site Plan

  1. Property Information
    • Property Boundaries: Accurate depiction of property lines, with dimensions and bearings.
    • Lot Size and Shape: Detailed measurements and shape of the lot.
  2. Existing Conditions
    • Topography: Contour lines to show the slope and elevation of the land.
    • Vegetation: Existing trees, shrubs, and other significant vegetation.
    • Structures: Existing buildings, fences, and other structures on the property.
    • Utilities: Location of existing utilities such as water, sewer, gas, and electric lines.
    • Water Bodies and Wetlands: Streams, rivers, ponds, coastline and wetland areas.
  3. Proposed Construction
    • Building Footprint: Outline of the proposed buildings and structures.
    • Dimensions and Setbacks: Distance of the proposed structures from property lines, roads, and other structures.
    • Building Height: Proposed height of the new buildings.
    • Floor Plans and Elevations: Detailed floor plans and elevation views of the proposed structures.
  4. Site Improvements
    • Driveways and Access Points: Location and dimensions of driveways, access roads, and parking areas.
    • Landscaping: Proposed landscaping plans, including trees, shrubs, lawns, and other plantings.
    • Grading and Drainage: Proposed grading changes and drainage systems to manage runoff.
    • Fences and Walls: Location and type of any proposed fences or retaining walls.
  5. Utilities and Services
    • New Utility Connections: Location of proposed connections to water, sewer, gas, electric, and communication lines.
    • Septic Systems: If applicable, design and location of septic systems.
    • Stormwater Management: Plans for managing stormwater runoff, including detention/retention ponds, swales, and other features.
  6. Regulatory Compliance
    • Zoning Information: Zoning classification of the property and compliance with zoning regulations.
    • Easements and Rights-of-Way: Location of any easements, rights-of-way, or other encumbrances.
    • Permits and Approvals: List of required permits and approvals from local, state, and federal agencies.
  7. Environmental Considerations
    • Environmental Impact Assessment: If required, a detailed assessment of the environmental impact of the project.
    • Erosion and Sediment Control Plan: Describes measures to prevent erosion and manage sediment during construction, such as silt fences, straw wattles, and sediment basins.
    • Noise Study: Evaluates the potential noise impact of the project on surrounding properties and recommends noise mitigation measures.
    • Air Quality Assessment: Evaluates the potential air quality impacts of the construction project and its operation, proposing measures to mitigate any adverse effects.
    • Fire Protection Plan: Details the fire safety measures, including fire-resistant materials, fire sprinklers, alarms, and emergency access routes, in compliance with the California Fire Code.
    • Wildlife and Vegetation Study: Assesses the impact of the project on local wildlife and vegetation, particularly if endangered species or sensitive habitats are present.
  8. Additional Documentation
    • Survey: A professional land survey showing existing conditions.
    • Architectural and Engineering Plans: Detailed architectural and engineering plans for the proposed structures.
    • Title Report: Current title report for the property.
    • Neighbor Notifications: Evidence of notification to adjacent property owners, if required.
    • Title 24 Energy Report
  9. Process for Approval
    • Consultation: Meet with the local planning department to understand specific requirements.
    • Preparation: Hire professionals such as land surveyors, architects, and engineers and prepare the site plan.
    • Submission: Submit the site plan along with any required applications and fees to the local planning department.
    • Review: The planning department and other relevant agencies review the plan for compliance with regulations.
    • Revisions: Make any necessary revisions based on feedback from the review.
    • Approval: Obtain all necessary permits and approvals before beginning construction.

Potential Professional Services You My Need to Work With

  1. Land Surveyor
    • Role: Conducts detailed surveys of the property to establish precise property boundaries, topography, and existing conditions.
    • Why Needed: Accurate surveys are essential for creating a reliable site plan and ensuring compliance with zoning and setback requirements.
  2. Civil Engineer
    • Role: Designs site infrastructure, including grading, drainage, stormwater management, and utility connections.
    • Why Needed: Ensures the site is properly prepared and that infrastructure meets local regulations and environmental standards.
  3. Architect
    • Role: Develops the building design, including floor plans, elevations, and architectural details.
    • Why Needed: Creates the visual and functional aspects of the structures, ensuring they meet building codes and aesthetic requirements.
  4. Landscape Architect
    • Role: Designs landscaping elements, including vegetation, hardscapes, and outdoor amenities.
    • Why Needed: Enhances the site’s appearance, provides environmental benefits, and ensures compliance with local landscaping regulations.
  5. Environmental Consultant
    • Role: Assesses environmental impacts, identifies wetlands, and advises on mitigation measures.
    • Why Needed: Ensures compliance with environmental regulations and minimizes the project’s ecological footprint.
  6. Geotechnical Engineer
    • Role: Evaluates soil conditions and provides recommendations for foundations and earthwork.
    • Why Needed: Ensures the site can support the proposed structures and that earthwork is done safely and effectively.
  7. Structural Engineer
    • Role: Designs the structural elements of the buildings, including foundations, framing, and supports.
    • Why Needed: Ensures the structural integrity and safety of the buildings.
  8. Traffic Engineer
    • Role: Analyzes traffic flow and designs access points, driveways, and parking areas.
    • Why Needed: Ensures safe and efficient access to the site and compliance with local traffic regulations.
  9. Utility Consultant
    • Role: Plans the connections to water, sewer, gas, electric, and communication services.
    • Why Needed: Ensures all utility services are properly integrated into the site plan.
  10. Land Use Attorney
    • Role: Provides legal advice on zoning, land use regulations, and permitting processes.
    • Why Needed: Helps navigate legal requirements and addresses any legal challenges or disputes.
  11. Permit Expediter
    • Role: Assists in preparing and submitting permit applications and coordinates with regulatory agencies.
    • Why Needed: Streamlines the permitting process and helps ensure timely approvals.
  12. Energy Consultant
    • Role: Ensures compliance with California’s energy efficiency standards.
    • Why Needed: Prepares Title 24 energy compliance reports and advises on energy-efficient building practices and systems.
  13. Fire Protection Engineer
    • Role: Designs fire safety systems and ensures compliance with fire codes.
    • Why Needed: Creates fire protection plans, including sprinkler systems, fire alarms, and emergency exits.
  14. Hydrologist
    • Role: Analyzes water resources and manages stormwater.
    • Why Needed: Designs stormwater management systems and assesses flood risks.
  15. Noise Consultant
    • Role: Assesses and mitigates noise impacts.
    • Why Needed: Conducts noise studies and recommends noise reduction measures.
  16. Air Quality Consultant
    • Role: Assesses and mitigates air quality impacts.
    • Why Needed: Conducts air quality assessments and recommends mitigation measures.
  17. Septic System Designer (If Applicable)
    • Role: Designs on-site wastewater treatment systems.
    • Why Needed: Prepares septic system plans and ensures compliance with health regulations.
  18. Historical/ Archaeological Consultant
    • Role: Evaluates the impact on historical and archaeological resources.
    • Why Needed: Conducts surveys and prepares reports on potential impacts to cultural resources.

Useful Websites

County Websites

Building and Energy Codes:

California Structure Galleries

Exploring existing project galleries is a great way to begin the design of our structure. Look for different siding options, stall packages and layout options in these galleries and take notes of which you prefer. You can share these with your project specialist and they can provide you with options that fit your style.

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