Commercial Building Permit Plan Review Process

The Arlington County Permit Office is CLOSED for in-person customer service. Many services are available online. Learn more.

The following steps provide an overview of the online commercial building permit submission and review process. If you need technical assistance with the system, call: 703-228-7638

Step 1

Visit ePlan review, register/log in and upload the following:

  • For commercial projects, review submission requirements.
    • If the commercial project is for an establishment that prepares, serves, or sells food, or the project includes a water recreation facility (pool, spa, or interactive fountain): then the applicant will be required to pay a health review fee upon the acceptance of the building permit documents for plan review.
  • Each plan sheet must be uploaded as an individual PDF file. The construction set should NOT be submitted as one file. Specification sheets can be uploaded as a single PDF file.
  • All documents submitted for review must be saved as searchable PDF files.
  • A 3 in. x 3 in. blank space is required at the top-right corner of each submitted document. This space is for Arlington County’s approval stamp, which is applied at permit issuance.
  • Plan sheets must be 11 in. x 17 in. minimum size and 1/8 in. minimum scale. If a Land Disturbing Activity (LDA) or Civil Engineering Plan (CEP) is required, copies of the civil sets must be uploaded with the building permit. If you are unsure whether your project requires an LDA or CEP, contact the Department of Environmental Services (DES). Be aware that LDAs and CEPs are separate permits and processes.
  • Follow standard file naming conventions:
  • Unless the permit holder is the contractor licensed in Virginia for the scope of work on the permit OR the permit holder is the property owner and present for all steps of the permitting process, the party that applies for and/or picks up the permit will need to have a Permit Authorization Affidavit.
Step 2

Your application, construction documents and required forms will be reviewed for completeness (approximately two business days). If incomplete, you will be contacted by email about what is missing.

If the application is complete, you may be contacted about a filing fee, if required. The fee will not be refunded, even if a permit is not issued. For more information, view Fee Schedules. If a filing fee is not required, your application and supporting documents will be sent to the necessary departments for review.

Step 3

The necessary departments will review your application, supporting documents and required forms for compliance with the applicable regulations. Review times begin after a permit is processed and any fees are paid.

ePlan Review

The following tables describe approximate processing / review times for each type of commercial building permits.

Disclaimer: Approximate review times do not include process in / out time, typically 2 business days.

Express Criteria

Commercial express reviews are intended to be accomplished in a short amount of time. Alterations that require an extensive review because of the complexity of the design or special exception may be classified as a route-through review even though it meets the following criteria:

  • The project is an interior alteration in an existing commercial building
  • There are no site changes, such as changes to parking, windows, doors, exterior vents, etc.
  • The project does not have a change of use per the Building Code or the Zoning Ordinance
  • The project is Business (B) or Mercantile (M, retail) use per the Virginia Construction Code; this means that apartments and other multi-family buildings do not qualify for walk-thru or express review
  • The space is not located on the 1st floor, top floor, penthouse, roof top, or below the 1st floor
  • The project does not include trailers or cranes
  • No structural modifications are being made to the building
  • The project work area is only on one floor of the building
  • The scope of work does not include a commercial kitchen, food handling, or interactive water feature, such as pool, spa, hot tub, or splash pad
  • If the project is located on a property with a site plan, depending on the scope of work and the condition of the site plan, the project may not qualify for express

While the review is ongoing, applicants can learn more by entering their permit number and selecting View Comments. However, this information is incomplete prior to the comment letter, which the applicant will receive once all reviews are complete.

View Permit Revisions to learn how to respond to comments as well as revise your plans to address comments. Be aware that revisions to the building permit may also require revisions to other permits and approvals to ensure coordination.

If the building permit is approved while other associated permits are still pending, the building permit will not move on to the next step until the other permits are approved.

Step 4

The application will proceed once all of the required reviews have been approved. You will be contacted to confirm fees and contractor information (approximately two business days).

Step 5

The applicant will receive an email with the permit balance. Once payment is received, the applicant will be provided a digital copy of the permit and placard. Once the permit has been obtained and posted, construction work can begin.

The applicant will receive access to the approved plan set (approximately one business day). This set will be available in the ePlan Review portal.

The placard and permit must be posted at the project site, in adherence with the following guidelines:

  • The approved plan set must also be available on-site prior to any scheduled inspections
  • Minimum sheet size of 11 in. x 17 in.
    • Supporting documentation (ex: project specifications, structural calculations, etc.) may be printed on 8.5 in. x 11 in. pages.
  • Plans should be legible and of an easily-readable scale
  • Other than site plan drawings, no drawing should be printed at a scale smaller than 1/8 in. = 1 ft.
  • Supporting documentation
Step 6

Most building permits require additional Trade Permits (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, etc.) in order to complete the project. Applications for mechanical, plumbing, and electrical permits are submitted separately and issued based on the work shown on building permit construction documents. Applications for permits can be submitted via email or in person.

Depending on the scope of the project, a fixture count may be required prior to permit issuance. Fixture counts typically take 10 business days to complete. Contact us to determine whether one is required.

If the scope of work includes Fire Protection Systems, separate permits and plans will be required.

Step 7

Construction work cannot begin until permits have been approved and posted. Throughout the project, the applicant or contractor must schedule required Building and Trade Inspections. Be aware that other permits or approvals may require additional inspections specific to those permits.

If there are changes to the plans after the permit has been issued, this will require revisions to the approved plan set.

Step 8

Depending on your project, a Certificate of Occupancy (CO) may be required prior to occupancy and use of the building or space. A CO requires a separate application, process and fees. The application process for a CO must begin at least two weeks before occupancy begins, and the process can take longer depending on the scope of work.

See Also

Scheduling Inspections

Once your permits have been approved, you must schedule inspections to ensure the safety and proper progress of the project.

Fees

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.