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How Weather Impacts Development Efficiency and Safety for Planning and Building Departments

December 17, 2021

In the last several years, extreme weather has taken Ontario by storm — literally. Heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, snowstorms and any number of weather events are impacting Ontarians more, with no signs of slowing down. Indeed, Journal Science revealed that extreme events are set to happen more often in the years to come. 

Obviously, physical construction is delayed when extreme weather means a construction site is not out of harm’s way. But construction is more than a physical build or tangible construction. A lot of paperwork from applications, permits or inspections needs to happen before anyone can safely set foot on a construction site. 

Planning and Building Departments Are Crucial to Safe Construction 

It is no secret that planning and building departments are important in developing communities, and many of them still rely on paper-based or on-premises systems. This means community development is not as efficient as possible even on the sunniest or clearest days.

Some departments are moving closer to an online development experience with fillable PDFs and (endless) emails, but without all parts of the process moving away from paper, it’s still out of reach. Internal and external department staff, applicants, builders, developers, third-party agencies and all parties involved in development cannot be fully remote when some travel to the government office is always needed (which leads to travel costs, avoidable time loss and preventable headaches).

Paper-based or On-premises Systems Slow Down Development Processes 

When travel is dropped from the equation for a moment, paper-based or on-premises systems still contribute to communities suffering from slow and unpredictable development processes. 

A report from the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis (CANCEA), Impacts of Streamlining Construction Approval Processes in Ontario, sheds light on the importance of speeding up development approval processes — if processes were reduced by six months, over a five-year period, 33,100 more homes could be built,80,400 more people could be housed and an extra $4.5billion could be delivered to Ontario’s economy on an annual basis. 

Some e-permitting software can speed up permit issuance by at least 50% and ensure all applications that reach planning or building departments are complete.

The less time department staff need to spend on chasing down applications on either side of development, the better, so projects move onto each step faster for more efficient builds. Moving development online also speeds up processes for builders.

“Digital permits are better than paper because online processes eliminate duplicate work,” shared Andrew Frandsen, a Project Manager with the Ontario Construction Resource Group. “Doing work once instead of twice is a big time-saver and encourages more efficient, less time-consuming ways to keep track of essential information.” 

Eliminating duplicate work is a big time-saver, so how does extreme weather fit in? 

Paperwork Behind Construction Can Be Delayed by Poor Weather Conditions 

The paperwork behind construction slows down even more when extreme weather hits. In some cases, development processes can come to a halt when it is not safe for residents or building communities to travel, including developers who live in one area and work in another. It can also cause the destruction of all files if only physical copies or on-premises copies exist. 

As Ontario experiences more extreme weather, such as tornadoes or floods in the southern part of the province, keeping residents at home when it is not safe to travel is becoming increasingly important. 

Online permitting and development software encourages communities to stay at home when weather conditions are not ideal, which encourages safety for all those involved and allows users to complete their part at any time, from anywhere.

Non-ideal Weather Conditions Can Also Impact Communities on a Larger Scale

The Town of Moosonee, a small town in northeastern Ontario with 2,750 residents that is also known as the “Gateway to the Arctic,” has no road access to the rest of the province during non-winter months. Its building department adopted online permitting software to deliver more efficient service and support two major upcoming development projects: a new hospital and a long-term care facility. 

In poor weather conditions, timely health care can be a challenge across the region since the closest hospital is across a river and can be accessed only with air or water transfers. 

“One of the main drivers of going digital with Cloudpermit was to make this hospital development project simpler and more efficient by having everything online in one digital space,” shared Bryan Nahrgang, the Town of Moosonee’s Chief Building Official. “This hospital will provide easier access to health care across the region and create a significant number of jobs in Moosonee, so we’re excited to take advantage of this software to help make this project a reality.” 

Online Permitting and Development Processes Encourage Development Efficiency and Safety During Extreme Weather  

So, how can online permitting and development processes help during bouts of extreme weather? Online permitting and development software allows: 

  • Applicants to stay at home to complete permitting or development processes with their planning or building department instead of needing to travel to the government office 
  • Builders and developers to do their part of the permit or application process from another region without needing to travel Internal and external department staff to avoid their information being susceptible to natural disasters with all information being stored online  
  • All parties involved to complete development processes remotely and efficiently  
  • Planning and building departments to easily share information with other departments in emergencies, such as working with fire departments to quickly determine who owns a property 

Clear Skies on Local Government Online Permitting and Development Software  

To learn more about how weather impacts development efficiency and safety for planning and building departments with or without online permitting and development software, consider reaching out to Cloudpermit. 

‍Originally published in the December issue of the OBOA Journal.