Why Work with a Licensed Architect?

July 21, 2010    SBIF

A licensed architect can bring order and creative design to your construction project. Larger renovations require drawings prepared and sealed by an Illinois licensed architect. A seasoned architect can make your project run smoothly; he or she is the essential link between contractors, engineers, the Department of Buildings, and the SBIF Team. The architect can design your building to reflect your aesthetics and branding, save energy, and make your operations more efficient.


1) PROGRAMMING: Programming sets the project design criteria, including room function, sizes and optimal locations; lighting requirements; ceiling heights; structural loading; etc.
2) SCHEMATIC DESIGN: The architect uses the program to create a basic design scheme. Schematic design lacks detail.
3) DESIGN DEVELOPMENT: The architect refines and fixes the design, and creates documents that can be used to set a construction budget.
4) CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS: Documents upon which the construction contract will be based, and which the contractor will use to build the project.
5) BID AND NEGOTIATION: The project is put out to bid; the architect helps qualify and select a general contractor.
6) CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION: Review of construction, contractor pay applications, and interpretation of construction documents.


43Chicago has several building permit programs. The STANDARD REVIEW PROCESS requires that a licensed architect prepare and seal plans that are reviewed by the Building Department for 3-8 weeks; the architect then addresses review comments at an open plan review, which may add a week or two to the process. The ARCHITECTS’ SELF CERTIFICATION PROCESS allows the architect to certify that the permit documents meet Chicago Code, allowing the permit to be issued much faster. Architects must be prequalified by the City. The EASY PERMIT PROCESS does not require an architect’s seal; the program does not allow for walls to be demolished or built, or for new plumbing to be installed. Chicago usually issues EPP permits within a few days.

Standard Review and Architects’ Self-Certification require Zoning review prior to permit intake. Zoning review can be arbitrary and time consuming. Building code violations might also delay your permit. A Self-Certified architect can save you significant time, but not all projects can be self-certified. The Building Department website has a list of current self-certified architects.

The contractor must have Chicago Commercial contractor’s licenses. A contractor might spend 3-7 weeks to get a Chicago license.

45If you have questions about design, construction, or permitting, feel free to call or write to Joel Berman. Phone: 773.275.5968.

Joel Berman, ALA, LEED-AP, is the founder and President of Joel Berman Architecture & Design , Ltd. (, a full service boutique architectural practice specializing in environmentally conscious inner city commercial design. Joel’s current SBIF projects include conversion of a Chicago fire station into a video production studio and historic preservation of a 1920’s original White Castle building. Joel is a Chicago Self-Certified Architect, allowing him to get some building permits much faster.