Commercial Building Permit

Building permits are required to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents. Failure to obtain the required permit is a violation of the law. Make sure you determine whether your project is considered Residential or Commercial before proceeding.

Learn more about the Commercial Building Permit Review Process

Submission Requirements

Commercial building permit applications must be submitted online via  Permit Arlington. Expand the bulleted items below to view the requirements for several common commercial projects.

New Construction

Addition to an Existing Building

Interior Alterations

Interior Alterations – Express

  • Architectural drawings to include Code Analysis (see bottom of page for an example), scaled and dimensioned floor plans, elevations, sections and details, as appropriate; room/door/window schedules, and partition schedules with fire ratings and test numbers, as appropriate. Provide key plan of floor showing renovation space and egress to the identified floor exits. Indicate new and existing work (clouds are not an acceptable method to indicate new work).
  • Electrical drawings to include riser diagram, panel / light schedules and power / light plans. Indicate new and existing work.
  • Mechanical drawings to show the location of all existing supply and return registers (if the system and ductwork are existing, indicate as such) and complete duct layout with all main and branch sizes, register sizes and Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) at each register (if ductwork is new). Provide equipment schedule for new equipment.
  • Plumbing drawings to include riser diagrams, schedules and layouts. Indicate new and existing work.
  • View a list of all permits and requirements.
  • Plans must clearly indicate existing work and work to be modified.
  • Accessibility Compliance
  • Any alterations or additions to existing structures require the applicant to complete the Asbestos Inspection and Awareness Form.
  • Submit a garage plan, if applicable.
  • Use the Seal Chart and Notes for quick reference in order to determine accordance with §54.1-402 of the Code of Virginia if an architect’s or engineer’s (A/E) seal is required on documents for proposed construction.


Requirements for All Trailers

Additional Requirements for Non-Construction Trailers 

  • Non-construction trailers might provide space for uses such as schools, offices and sales.

  • If the trailer will be Use Group E, Educational, then the plans must be signed and sealed by a registered design professional.
  • Site plan indicating the location of the trailer(s). Site plan must include property lines and the proximity to other structures; fire separation distance and fire rating must comply with VCC Table 602.
  • If you are combining the trailer with new or existing trailers, the building area calculations must show compliance with VCC Chapter 5.
  • If there is a restroom, it must be permanent. Plans must provide information on the waste connection and water service.
  • If the trailer does not have a restroom, the plans must include:
    • The distance to the nearest accessible toilet facilities
    • The accessible route to the nearest accessible toilet facilities
    • Fixture calculations (based on the Virginia Plumbing Code section 403) to indicate that the toilet facilities can serve the additional occupant load based on VCC Table 1004.1.2
  • Trailers must comply with the accessibility requirements of VCC Chapter 11 and ANSI A116.1-2009; plans must include the accessible route and ramp details in compliance with VCC section 1010 and ANSI A116.1-2009 section 405. 

Fences and Retaining Walls

Retaining walls that are part of a larger project, such as a new commercial building, can be included within the building permit and should be included in the description of work on the application.

Retaining walls that are not included with the building permit application and submission or are not part of a larger project should be submitted as a Fence or Retaining Wall Permit, it should not be submitted as a building permit. 


Any signage should be submitted as a sign permit. it should not be submitted as a building permit.  

Maximum Occupant Loan Sign for Assembly Rooms or Space

The capacity of assembly occupancies is established by the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. Seating may also be limited by the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance. As part of the building permit process, the maximum occupant load of assembly rooms and spaces will be reviewed by the Inspection Services Division (ISD) and seating will be reviewed by Zoning during the plan review process. If there are not renovations or a change of use and there is not an existing approved maximum occupant load sign, a building permit must be applied for the maximum occupant load to be reviewed. The following must be provided for each assembly room or space as part of the building permit plan review:

  • Complete a Maximum Occupant Load Sign form(PDF, 76KB)  for each assembly occupancy room or space with an occupant load of 50 or more, or any restaurants, cafes, or similar uses with indoor or outdoor seating regardless of occupant load. VCC 1004.9 Restaurants typically only requires one sign, while other occupancies such as an office with multiple conference rooms with an occupant load of 50 or more will require multiple signs.  
  • When a venue has more than one set-up a separate maximum occupant load sign must be provided for each configuration and each configuration must have the following
  • Previous and proposed use of the space or previous type of business must be described
  • Provide room numbers or suite number, if applicable 
  • Square footage (area) including dimensions of the space and all rooms in the space
  • Seating layout with the number of seats shown and tabulated. 
  • All objects and furniture, including tables, booths, shelving, cabinets, bar, etc. Show their size and location
  • All doors in the exit serving the space and in the exit path, including exterior doors. Show their size, location, direction of door swing, and hardware
  • Restrooms serving the space including the layout of all toilets, urinals and lavatories in each restroom. 
  • Any other spaces that use the same restrooms and exit pathways. 
  • Show all exit signs. 
  • Corridor width along the exit path
  • Stair width in the exit path
  • State on the plans whether the entire building is protected with fire sprinklers
  • Key plan if the space is a suite in larger building 
  • See an example plan


Sample Code Analysis

This sheet is not intended to represent minimum submission requirements for any plan. Any oversight or misinterpretation of this table does not alleviate compliance with code requirements throughout the review and inspection process.

  Existing Building  Proposed Alteration  Unacceptable 
IBC Use Group  Bank 
Construction Type  IIIB  IIIB  Wood 
Number of Stories Above Grade 
High Rise (Yes/No)  No  No  No 
Covered Mall (Yes/No)  No  No 
Fully Sprinklered (Yes/No)  Yes  Yes 
Fully Monitored (Yes/No)  No  Yes 
Floor Area of Renovation  5000  1200  See plans 


Fee Schedules provide the range of fees charged for each type of application or activity related to land development in Arlington. Fees cover permitting, plan review, enforcement, inspection, service delivery, performance agreements and conditions. There are separate fee schedules for Inspection Services Division (ISD), Zoning and the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Some permits involve fees from more than one schedule.