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Solutions Offered to Warehouse Building Permit Dilemmas

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Whether it's for new warehouse construction or a distribution center overhaul, the last thing a facility manager needs to hear is that opening will be delayed by weeks or months due to building permit delays.

Bringing in your warehouse storage rack supplier early in the process can help you avoid being blindsided by building permit delays, and help keep your operation plans on track. Some suppliers of warehouse rack storage systems, such as Steel King for instance, can help prevent permit headaches by providing comprehensive building permit services.

"In the material handling equipment industry, permits are required but not limited to storage rack, pallet rack, rack picking systems, conveyor systems and mezzanine/storage platforms used in warehouses and home improvement centers," says Tony Landeros, President of Permit Services of California, a material handling permit expeditor servicing the Western United States.

"While the permit process usually takes from 3 to 6 weeks from beginning to end, it can take as long as 16 weeks," cautions Landeros. "Each city, county and state has their own ordinances that must be met, and some cities require full compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) before issuing a permit."

The key, according to Landeros, is to start the permit process as soon as possible and get it right the first time. That way, you won't have to wait on pins and needles for a municipal Building or Fire Department to get back to you-- with requests for more documentation that can require re-submission two, three, four or more times.

A few common layout errors to avoid include "dead end" aisles, rack systems blocking doorways, and a lack of aisle space, says Landeros.

At a minimum, a simple rack permit in a state such as California requires detail drawings of the storage rack base plates, columns/post attachments and the anchors used. In California, this requirement applies even to equipment from 5'-11" to 8'-0" tall, though there are exceptions.

A regular rack permit is required in all U.S. states when storage rack equipment exceeds 8' in height, per International Building Code standards. Structural calculations by a civil or structural engineer, registered in the state where the work is done, is then required along with component detail drawings. Project drawings showing a complete floor plan, along with cross sectional views plus connection details of the project, and a facility site plan are typically necessary for submittal. Permit fees include a plan check submittal fee, permit issuance fee, and a Fire Department approval fee. These fees are usually required, along with a state licensed contractor-installer.

An error in any of these steps, of course, translates into costly permit and operational delays.

To help facility managers avoid permit delays and keep operation plans on track, some suppliers of warehouse rack storage systems such as Steel King ( prevent permit headaches by providing comprehensive building permit services. For instance, the company offers a calculation package for the permit process, and deals with all national, regional or local agents necessary to handle permitting. It accomplishes this with in-house professional engineering staff and a network of permit specialists.

“With seismic codes enforced nationally but with variations by locale, you need a company that understands the permit process with the resources to stay on top of it," says Steel King project coordinator Logan Lechleightner. Steel King, a major designer and manufacturer of warehouse storage rack, pallet rack and material handling/safety products, has helped plan warehouses since 1970. It is a licensed fabricator in Los Angeles County, which has some of the strictest seismic codes in the nation.

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) publishes a racking design specification and the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) each publish a steel design specification. Your racking system must be in compliance with these specifications along with your local building and fire codes.

Fire codes can be a particular problem. "Building departments will not release the storage rack permit until you provide them with Fire Department High Pile Storage (HPS) approval," adds Landeros. "Most rack permit delays are due to poor HPS approval planning."

Even if you have a building permit, there will still be a fire permit inspection. This can involve sprinklers, vents, firewalls, access to exits, and hydrants. Your needs can be especially complicated if there are pick systems or elevated works areas. If you miss on any of these local requirements, the fire marshal may not let you occupy the building.

"A good way to expedite the permit process is to work with a reputable storage rack manufacturer such as Steel King, which can supply or coordinate the engineering and layout details in a turnkey permit package," says Landeros.

For more info on easing the permit burden, contact Donald Heemstra at Steel King, 2700 Chamber St., Stevens Point, WI 54481; call 800/826-0203; email: or visit the website

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