On a fairly regular basis we are asked something along the lines of …
My husband and I are in love with Earthships…both of us for different reasons. His being the money and mine being the environment. That being said we were wondering how hard and how long you waited for permits to build and how hard was it to find electricians and plumbers…etc to work and approve the project?
Permits are definitely a concern if you are going to build under the jurisdiction of a building authority. When I actually took the time to list all of the permits (see below) it struck me as fairly daunting. All I can really say is that we have dealt with each required permit as it occurs; some permits took additional time, they all cost something upfront and building to the permit specifications will obviously increase some costs. All of these permits are simply the reality of building in British Columbia today. To this point we have encountered nothing that has made it impossible to proceed with our project, nor do we expect to. Your best first step in building is to go in and speak with the inspectors from your local building authority.
The permits and issues that were a reality for us include:
- septic field site inspection
- Building Permit
- Plumbing Permit
- Stove (solid wood burning appliance) Permit
- Electrical Permit
Septic Field Site Inspection
If you are building a new home or upgrading an existing home in British Columbia you are required to plan for and install a septic system. All work on your septic system must be completed by a Registered Onsite Wastewater Practitioner. We were fortunate to have an existing septic system on our site that was suitable under the existing regulations for our proposed home. No allowances were made for reducing the system size due to the reduced waste flow expected from an earthship. I am not sure how hard it would be to get approval for a system outside of the regulatory framework. Although we do not expect our system to be used at all close to capacity, we felt it was easier to comply with existing regulations.
Homeowner Protection Office
As of 2007 all home builders in BC must guarantee their buildings from various defects, and pay into a provincial insurance program against the possibility of their buildings not meeting this guarantee. From the HPO website:
As of November 19, 2007, individuals wanting to be an owner builder of a new home are required to obtain an Owner Builder Authorization from the HPO and to pay a fee, prior to commencing construction of that new home. These requirements are in effect for all areas of British Columbia, regardless of whether building permits are required or not and are in keeping with amendments to the Homeowner Protection Act and Regulation. Read our information bulletin for Owner Builders.
We obtained a building permit from our local building authority. In our case our plans were also signed and sealed by an engineer.
In addition to the building permit we must also obtain a plumbing permit detailing the interior plumbing of our building. This permit is separate from the building permit, and we have not submitted for it yet. I expect this permit will be pulled sometime this year.
We built a site-constructed solid fuel heater (a wood stove) and had to get a permit for it. Any stove installation requires a permit.
Any house constructed in BC requires a separate electrical permit, and yes we have one of these too.
Sandra has itemized all of our costs on an on-going basis, and I am certain these costs are itemized in her running tally of our expenses. I do not remember what all of our costs were, and I hesitate to estimate …