How to Obtain a Building Permit

How to Obtain a Building Permit

Obtaining a building permit can be a long and strenuous process, but by being prepared and knowing what is needed, this task can be made much faster and simpler.

Draw a detailed plan of the greenhouse

The drawing should include the location on the property, the dimensions of the greenhouse, and the distances from the property lines of the site. Bring an instruction manual that shows how the greenhouse is assembled and a brochure or photo of what the greenhouse will look like.

Visit your local or county government

Depending on what state you are located within, you will either visit your local or county government. Bring a notepad with you. The building department may require one or more of the following:

  • Zoning approval
  • Site plan approval
  • Variances from abutting neighbors if the greenhouse encroaches past required setbacks
  • Sealed engineering plans – these are a set of stamped plans certifying the greenhouse for snow and wind loads according to the requirements of the International Building Code. If these are required, you must get these requirements from the building department.
  • Electrical plans showing equipment location, power requirements, and operation manuals on the equipment
  • Plumbing diagram
  • Architectural drawings of the complete project
  • Flame rating information for certain components within the greenhouse, such as polycarbonate or shade curtains
  • Structural calculations or reaction information for the sealed plans

Fully complete all applications

Remember to keep copies of everything for future references

Submit all applications and all necessary items as required

Remember to ask for a timeline of when to expect an approval.


You should file your application significantly in advance of your scheduled starting date. Obtaining a building permit can take months to complete, and sometimes longer than a year. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this process. Some municipalities hire outside firms to review “unconventional” building permit applications. These outside firms will pick apart every aspect of your application. Be prepared as much as possible, and if the application is denied be sure to ask for all requests from them in writing.

For larger projects, you may want to consider hiring an engineering firm, lawyer, or Permit-Package Preparation Company. Although these firms are expensive, they will save you a great deal of money and aggravation in the long run.

And lastly, no matter how aggravated and frustrated you become when dealing with your building department, keep your cool, remain calm and try to be rational with them with explanations or questions.