From Planning to Move-in: Building Process Overview

Beginning a building project can be an intimidating process, whether you’re a do-it-yourself novice or an experienced contractor. Building Arlington has streamlined the process, from planning to project completion and maintenance, for anyone who wants to build in Arlington County.

While every project will have its own details and timeline, we’ve outlined the basic workflow that guides planning, permitting, inspecting, occupation, and maintaining. During the process, some things you can do yourself, while others may require our assistance or approval.

Plan your project

ISD filesMany building projects revolve around adding, finishing, or renovating. Learn about the most popular projects here, with new ones being added frequently. Regardless of your project, get started with these steps:

1. What’s Your Zone?

All property in the Arlington County is assigned to a particular zone, and each zone has specific regulations that apply to it. Check the Zoning Map to determine what zone your project falls in. You can also access Arlington County’s Interactive Mapping Center for more maps and details about your project’s location. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, give us a call or come to our office. If you decide to come to the office, bring a scaled plat with you. This will help us determine what you can do on your property.

2. What Projects Does Your Zone Allow?    

Once you have determined your zone, check the Zoning Ordinance to determine if your project is allowed (called “by-right”) or if your project requires additional approval from the County Board or Board of Zoning Appeals (called “special exception.”) Most projects, whether by-right or special exception, will require one or a series of permits and inspections, outlined below. However, if your project qualifies as a special exception, you will need to apply for approval and a public hearing as an initial step.

3.      What Documents Are Required?

Most construction projects require permits. Determine if your project requires a permit here. All permits require an application, and some applications require construction drawings and a plat. We refer to these as construction documents. To ensure that staff has sufficient information and to reduce delays in reviewing your project, minimum submittal requirements have been established to facilitate this process. Use the Residential Permit Submission Requirements and the Commercial Permit Submission Requirements to get started, and please note that some projects may involve additional requirements.

As of March 1, 2012 all new projects must follow the 2009 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. We understand that these building codes and regulations are complex and we’re here to help. You may want to set up a Code Consultation. We’ll help you understand what your construction drawings need to include, so your project is safe and the review process is streamlined.

4. How Much Will the Permits Cost?

All permits have fees associated with them. Visit the fee schedule to help you budget, and please make note of that Zoning permits have 5% Automation Enhancement Fee, and Inspection Services permits have a 22% surcharge.

Next: Permitting