The City of Burnaby may soon have an alternate building permit review option for developers that would reduce City staff involvement and, ideally, speed up approvals.

Proposed is the implementation of a Certified Professionals (CP) Program, to be offered to housing developers, allowing qualified private sector professionals hired by the developer to review building designs and construction against BC Building Code regulations, acting as a representative for the developer and a single point of contact between the City of Burnaby and the project team as it relates to the building permit.

The City says it would be a "supplement" to City staff that creates "an alternative workflow that reduces the time a City building official needs for building permit application review," freeing up City staff for other tasks in the process. The program would be an optional route, and applicants can still choose the traditional City-only approach.

The CP Program would only be available to what are called "complex building types" under the BC Building Code, which are defined as most buildings over three storeys.

The City also notes that the third-party professional "only performs tasks which are currently performed by the City's plan-checkers and building inspectors, as the program is only applicable to Building Code matters." Reviews from City departments such as the Planning, Engineering, Electrical, Fire, and Plumbing departments would remain as is.

Once the CP submits a building permit application, City staff would rely on the certified review and issue the building permit, with the possibility of spot checks and reviews if deemed necessary.

During the construction phase, the CP would then perform site checks to ensure further compliance with the BC Building Code.

Once construction is completed, the CP would facilitate the final walkthrough with the City's inspectors in order to acquire an occupancy certificate.

Following in the steps of Vancouver, Surrey, and more

The BC Certified Professional Program manual defines a certified professional as "an architect or professional engineer registered to practice in British Columbia who has taken and passed the certified professional course and been recognized as a CP by either the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, or Engineers and Geoscientists BC, and has been accepted by the [authority having jurisdiction] as qualified as a CP."

The CP Program was originally developed by the City of Vancouver in 1978 as a response to builders becoming increasingly dependent on City staff for complete verification, and has since been implemented in Surrey, Abbotsford, and West Vancouver, among other municipalities.

"The program was intended to give appropriate responsibility and authority for ensuring BC Building Code compliance, and the underlying responsibility for ensuring public health and safety in and around around buildings, to registered architects and professional engineers." the City of Burnaby says.

The City of Vancouver's CP Program remains available to builders, and largely takes the same form as what Burnaby is hoping to implement.

"I can tell you that Cressey always takes advantage of the CP Program in Vancouver," says Executive Vice President of Cressey Development Group Hani Lammam. "I suspect every major developer does the same."

Lammam adds that Cressey will often use the CP Program when working in small municipalities as a way to help the municipality through the review process, and notes that even municipalities like Vancouver and Burnaby may not be well-equipped, as projects are becoming increasingly complex and the sheer volume of applications is only getting larger.

READ: Burnaby To Launch Municipal Housing Corporation Before 2024

Aside from the BC CP Program manual -- to which municipalities are generally expected to adhere -- municipal governments looking to implement a CP Program must also develop their own set of municipality-specific policies and procedures. The City of Burnaby has already done so, and the full manual can be viewed here.

To implement Burnaby's CP Program, City staff will present the necessary Burnaby Building Bylaw amendments to City Council on Monday, June 19. If approved, the amendments and CP Program would come into effect on September 1, 2023.