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“Do you think the City (of Philadelphia) will require a stamped permit drawing for this project?” Aaahhh… the question I get asked with ever increasing frequency these days. The short answer to that question always seems to be, “yes.”

Back in the day, before the adoption of the ICC, an electrical contractor could often navigate the L&I waters by showing a plan reviewer a set of architectural prints that illustrated the scope of work and showed a ceiling plan. Most jobs (like tenant fit-out projects) that didn’t involve any electrical infrastructure work would be granted an electrical permit on the spot, without the requirement for signed and sealed electrical engineering documents.

Since the ICC, Philadelphia’s L&I department, like most plan reviewers, have been taking a harder look at projects in their jurisdiction. A few years ago, L&I published guidelines that outlined when engineering documents would be required for electrical permits. This guideline provided an objective measure (notably, the 150kVA rule) to the designing and contracting community regarding the need for signed and sealed documents.

However, in my experience providing electrical permit documents to the contracting community, L&I operates on a much more subjective basis. I have had projects that fell well below the 150kVA rule that required sealed documents. It seems that any project that shows a “change in load” requires a new panelboard schedule and load calculation which must be sealed by an engineer. However, I have heard from other contractors that they have successfully obtained permits on similar projects without stamped drawings.

At the end of the day, a contractor would be wise to err on the side of caution and provide stamped engineering plans with his permit application. Many jobs do not have the luxury of time to attempt to obtain a permit, have the application be rejected, and then resubmit with stamped plans. L&I could do us all a favor by reforming and publishing “hard and fast” guidelines for permit submission and take the subjectivity out of the hands of the individual plan reviewer. With the number of projects being rejected and resubmitted and the number of projects requiring expedited review, a clear guideline could potentially streamline the permit process. Until then, however, plan on spending many hours at City Hall to get that electrical permit.