Vancouver reveals two digital tools to speed up permitting

The tools are expected to reduce manual review time and provide confidence that applications are compliant.

Key Takeaways:

  • Research shows the city’s average approval timeline for developments is 15.2 months.
  • The tools will help applicants determine if their applications are complete and compliant.
  • They also can identify potential costs, map out timelines, and determine project feasibility before submission.
  • The city is also implementing changes to make regulations simpler.

The Whole Story:

Vancouver is partnering with an Australian technology firm that specializes in artificial intelligence to help speed up building permitting. 

Officials announced that they are launching a Project Requirements Exploration Tool (PRET) and eComply. These two new digital tools are expected to reduce staff manual review time and provide residents and businesses with confidence that their application is compliant and complete. 

PRET will allow applicants to explore and understand regulations and requirements for locations throughout Vancouver. Applicants can identify potential costs, map out timelines, and determine project feasibility – all before they pursue a potential application. 

eComply is an online design compliance check tool, developed by Archistar. eComply will allow applicants to upload their designs and drawings, check if they meet city regulations, and receive a compliance report. 

According to the city, Vancouver is the first municipality in North America to partner with Archistar to improve its permitting process. The first iteration of PRET is slated to launch later this summer, while eComply’s initial component will be available early next year.

“Embracing technology for permitting will have a huge impact for Vancouver’s residents and businesses,” said Mayor Ken Sim. “Applicants will receive feedback on any items that are incomplete, missing or not permitted so they can resolve it before they submit their application.”  

The complexity of some applications can result in multiple rounds of manual review between staff and applicants. The interactive PRET and eComply will help to reduce this complexity. 

“Our partnership with the City of Vancouver will help Vancouver residents and businesses to assess land potential at the click of a button,” said Ben Coorey, Archistar chief executive. “Anyone will be able to instantly pre-check their plans for compliance, ultimately making the approval process faster, easier, and cheaper.”

Vancouver officials offer a sneak peek at new digital tools designed to speed up permitting. – City of Vancouver

In addition to the tools, Vancouver is also looking to make its regulations simpler.
“On average, more than 70% of the processing time for laneway and low-density homes remains outside of the city with applicants,” said Andrea Law, general manager, development, buildings and licensing. “To help applicants, we continue to simplify policies and guidelines so the application process is less complex.”
Here are some of the actions the city is taking:

  • Exploring options to simplify and align existing regulations across all low-density (RS) zones by removing 17 design and administrative requirements so housing can be built faster.
  • Streamlining engineering review requirements in all development permit (DP) applications, including removing 20 per cent of conditions and moving an additional 25 per cent to risk-based review.
    Proposing shifting rainwater management requirements from the DP application process to the plumbing permit for new complex buildings in Vancouver so that applicants begin work on their projects sooner.
  • Providing in-person permitting info sessions at the Development and Building Services Centre for applicants to meet with staff about their specific project.
  • Creating supports to help applicants quickly pay and resolve deficiencies so their application can be processed.

“Feedback from some members of late have noted improvements on permit processing with one member citing a turnaround for comments from city of Vancouver in less than 16 days,” said Ron Rapp, CEO of the Homebuilders Association Vancouver. “With the recent announcements
from the Province the need to develop effective and positive working relationships between the City and our members is more important than ever.”

While staff prepare to launch PRET and eComply, applicants are encouraged to book an appointment with the Services Centre to address any questions or concerns before submitting their application. Future info sessions for those interested in learning more about commercial and residential renovations, laneway homes, secondary suites, and multiplexes will be available in early fall.

Vancouver has been criticized for its long permitting process. According to the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA), the city’s average approval timeline for developments is 15.2 months.

A recent study showed Vancouver was roughly in the middle of the pack for its approvals process. – CHBA


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