Application for a Commercial Building Permit

Your dream is to open a retail store or business and you are not sure where to start. Important first thoughts would be, "What was the previous use of the building?", "What is the current zoning?", or even "What are the parking requirements?". Answers to these and other questions should be taken into account before you make your application. Even simply moving a wall can have a big impact on your planned project.

When do I need a building permit?

Building permits are required for the construction of:

  • any detached building over 107.64 ft2 / 10 m2
  • any alterations or additions or demolition
  • any construction that will result in a change of layout or use of a portion of the building
  • any addition, alteration, relocation, or removal of water supply and drain waste vent piping
  • any addition or relocation of sprinkler heads

How long will I have to wait for my permit?

What does a building permit cost?

The main portion of the permit fee is based on the value of construction.

How long does it take before I can get my permit?

Please be advised that due to current volumes of permit applications received, target application processing times are not being met. Staff continue to work diligently and are processing applications as quickly as possible. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but appreciate your patience during this time.

Below are our ideal estimates for complete permits (i.e. everything is in order, all needed paperwork is included, nothing is missing). Incomplete permits most often increase wait times.

  • Tenant improvement and smaller commercial permit applications without a development permit or off-site works and services have an 8 week processing time.
  • Large commercial permits, which often include a development permit or off-site works and services, vary from one project to the next. Arrange a pre-application meeting with our Planning and Building representatives to discuss your project. During this meeting, we can give an estimate on processing time. Contact: 250-755-4429.

How long is a building permit active?

The application remains active for 12 months from application date. Once a permit is issued, it remains active for 2 years, subject to the first inspection being made within 6 months from permit issue date and the construction not being suspended for more than 12 months.

All permits expire 2 years after the date of permit issuance.

It is possible to renew a permit for an additional 2 years (note a permit can be renewed only once). Again, construction must not be suspended for more than 12 months (i.e. the process does not begin again).

When do I require an Architect?

The BC Building Code specifies that where the building area exceeds 600 m2, or 3 storeys in height, or contains an assembly (restaurant, theatre, gym, club, church) or institutional occupancy (hospital, care facility), supervision by a registered professional (Architect or Engineer) is required.

Note, with a recent Supreme Court ruling, there are now discrepancies between the Architects Act and the Building Code. Contact AIBC (Architectural Institute of BC) if you need assistance to determine if an architect is required for your project.

  • AIBC Lead Practice Advisor and Regulator Liaison - 604-305-2699
  • AIBC website

When do I need an Engineer for changes to an existing building's sprinkler system?

When you are adding more than 8 sprinkler heads or relocating more than 20 heads. Adding pendant heads to existing uprights when a concealed space is created by the addition of a t-bar ceiling does not count as new heads. If you are adding less than 8 heads or relocating more than 20 heads, a qualified sprinkler installer is sufficient.

If the changes are being made in the original sprinkler system's design area, revised hydraulic calculations are required.

When is Public Health approval required?

Drawings submitted for building permit must be first approved by Public Health when they include a restaurant, beverage service, food store, baker, food processing, water bottling, tattoo and piercing services, spa services, slaughter house, day care, a group home, a community care facility, public swimming pool or hut tub in apartment buildings, recreation centres or care facilities.

The Island Health inspectors can be reached at 250-755-6215.

What do Building Inspections and Planning & Design review in applications for business licences?

Planning & Design reviews your business licence application for parking and permitted use. The use is relative to the site (i.e. is your use permitted in that particular zone).

Building Inspections reviews the building for conformance with the Building Code for the proposed occupancy.

Changing the occupancy of an existing building triggers BC Building Code requirements regarding seismic stability (ability to withstand earthquake), fire separation between suites, building construction (combustible vs. non-combustible), handicap access and fire alarm. Renovations may also trigger building bylaw requirements for fire sprinklers. Occupancies are classified as follows:

  • A2 - Assembly, schools, recreation facilities, clubs, daycare and restaurants subject to number of occupants.
  • E - Retail, shops, stores and supermarkets.
  • D - Service, offices, banks and hair salons, A2 occupancies with an occupant load of 30 or less.
  • F2 - Medium-Hazard Industrial; warehousing, storage, factories

Very rarely is a building entirely unsuitable for occupancy, but these requirements may create expenses that the building owner or tenant need to consider.

Commercial/Multi-Family/Industrial/Public Permits:

Outside of Nanaimo city limits?

Building Permits for residents not living within the boundaries of Nanaimo city proper are issued by the Regional District of Nanaimo:

Gas permits and electrical permits

Gas and Electrical Permits are issued by Technical Safety BC.

Technical Safety BC 40 1100 Princess Royal Avenue, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 5R5

Septic tanks

Private septic systems are administered by VIHA through Sewerage System Regulations, which direct that an authorized person must carry out maintenance, installation and site assessments.

Registered Practitioners

ASTTBC Onsite Wastewater Registration Program

Oil burner inquiries

Permits and inspections of oil burning appliances/tanks are administered through Nanaimo Fire Rescue.

General Fire Information 666 Fitzwilliam Street, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 3B5

Contact Us

Building Inspections Section 250-755-4429

Last updated: December 14, 2023

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