What Does a Permit Technician Do?

Community Development – Permit Technicians

HISTORY: Permit techs have been an integral part of building departments for a number of years, but their role is sometimes misunderstood. Formal Permit Tech Committees began as early as 1995 in Washington State, but didn’t affiliate with the International Code Council until its formation in the late 1990’s. The Idaho Permit Technician Committee or “IPT” became official in 2013 when they elected their Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer and Bi-laws. The IPT was formed within the Idaho Association of Building Officials or IDABO. Since the formation of the Idaho Permit Technician Committee in 2013 - 56 Permit Techs have become certified statewide! Certification requires knowledge in International Building Code, Legal Aspects, Zoning & Site Development, Plans and Documents and successfully passing a two-hour exam administered by the International Code Council or “ICC”.

Permit Tech

The Washington State Association of Permit Technicians. 1998

FUNCTION: Permit technicians function in a wide range of roles within both County and City Building Departments. Some of the smaller building departments within Idaho have only two staff members. The person who stays in the office usually fills the role as permit tech, planner, clerical, customer service and “other duties as assigned” whereas the other staff member acts as the building official, inspector and plans examiner etc. In a larger jurisdiction, permit technicians may have a more defined role.

HOW DOES KOOTENAI COUNTY DO IT? In Kootenai County, permit technicians process all permits that come through the department. In 2016 there were a total of 2,164 permits processed. Most applications are also reviewed by others both inside and outside the department such as planning & zoning, fire districts, highway districts and health districts. Permit tech’s, by the nature of their job deal with multiple personalities, and situations every day. People such as contractors, homeowners, appraisers, realtors, financial companies and investors call or come into the office with a wide range of questions. In today’s market, new buyers want to know that the house they are purchasing had permits and was built to code. In order to lend, finance, refinance, purchase or insure a property, most banks require proof that the proper permits were obtained.

WHY ARE THERE BUILDING CODES? Building codes were created for life safety. Not only so occupants of the structure can escape in the case of a fire or other emergency, but also so rescue personnel can safely enter without fear of collapse. Often codes are updated when we learn better ways to build through a tragedy or when building materials, technology, & products progress in the industry. 

WHAT IS THE PROCESS? To summarize the process, when someone wants to build a structure in Kootenai County that requires a building permit, they submit an application, site plan and construction documents. The planning and building departments review simultaneously the submittal for code and ordinance compliance. We do our best to assist applicants through the process as quickly and smoothly as possible. I especially enjoy working with homeowners with their first build. It’s exciting to be a part of seeing their dreams come true!

HOW MANY DO WE DO? Last year Kootenai County processed more permits than in any other given year. To compare, the City of Boise - the largest entity within the State with 5 full time permit techs - processed 2797 residential permits. That amounts to about 559 permits per permit tech. In comparison, Kootenai County processed approximately 1423 residential permits – that’s 711 per permit tech! This does not include other permits such as Commercial, Manufacture Setting, Mechanical, and Site Disturbance. Already this year we are off to a running start! 

Our job is never boring – we help people daily between walk-ins, phone calls & email etc. with a wide range of questions about parcels of property they are interested in developing, purchasing, splitting, adding structures to, remodeling, and doing research on historical records, etc. 

Permit techs network through IDABO (Idaho Association of Building Officials), ICC (International Code Council), NICE (North Idaho Code Enforcers), IPT (Idaho Permit Tech Committee). When difficult or unfamiliar situation arises they can network with other permit techs to help find solutions. This is especially useful in a small entity where they have no one else to ask! 

Permit Tech

Permit Tech

Idaho Association of Building Official’s Photo Gallery

EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Training opportunities such as the annual Idaho Association of Building officials educational institute are available to help permit technicians gain the knowledge needed to pass their certification exams. This also gives them the opportunity to network with others in the industry such as building inspectors, plans examiners, engineers, architects and contractors and to earn continuing education required to maintain their certifications.

MEETINGS: The permit tech committee meets once a month through telephone conferencing. We discuss items in Legislature that affect our industry, upcoming training opportunities, website updates, and our mentoring program. 

Works cited

  • Permit tech article by Steve Burger, C.B.O.  and Director of Building Safety Services for Bureau Veritas, a national code consulting company - from Building Safety Journal March 2008.
  • IDABO photo gallery.
  • City of Boise website