Building Departments

Find building departments, planning, permits, zoning, and inspections. Building Departments provide information on certificates of occupancy (CO), building codes, construction codes, inspections, safety, violations, permits, community planning, zoning laws, regulations, ordinances, maps, and land use.

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About Building Departments

What is a Building Department?

A Building Department ensures the construction of safe buildings, primarily through the development and enforcement of building codes. Building codes establish standards for the construction of buildings and address virtually all aspects of construction, including design requirements, building materials, parking, resistance to natural disasters, and trades such as electric and plumbing. State and local governments share the responsibility of ensuring safe building construction, and both run Building Departments.

Building Departments at the state level are primarily involved in establishing the state's building code. A review board is usually responsible for adopting the building code, though in some cases separate boards are established for each trade. The state Building Department provides training and certification of building inspectors who implement the code at the county and local level. In many states, the Building Department is responsible for inspecting and issuing licenses for all elevators and escalators. A state Building Department may also conduct inspections of state owned buildings and facilities.

Building Departments at the county and local levels are responsible for implementing and enforcing the building code, as well as any locally adopted standards and regulations related to building construction. Building Departments enforce the building code by reviewing design plans in advance of construction and inspecting buildings during and after construction to verify code compliance. Before a building may be occupied, it must be issued a permit by the department's building inspector. For small scale building projects, the building inspector may only inspect the building after the project has been completed.

The Building Department may also inspect buildings following a fire or other damage in order to determine whether the structure is safe to occupy. In cases where severe damage or neglect has made a building unsafe for occupancy, the Building Department has the power to condemn the building.

In many locations, the local Building Department is fully or partially responsible for enforcing other local rules and regulations, such as property maintenance codes or zoning regulations.

County and local Building Departments and their staff are typically certified or licensed by the state.