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Frequently Asked Questions - Permits


1. Q: Do I need a building permit?
A: Anything over 108 square feet or that includes plumbing requires a building permit in incorporated jurisdictions in Canada. Local municipal by-laws may also require permits for renovations, alterations, etc.

2. Q: Will my property taxes change if I get a building permit?
A: It's complicated. Property tax assessments are carried out by each municipality on their own schedule. Construction of a new building or improvement of an existing building are only one of the factors used to calculate property tax assessments. Assessments may be carried out for individual properties or for entire developments or sub-divisions. In Ontario, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (www.mpac.on.ca/) carries out assessments under the provincial government's authority. Local authorities can choose to use the assessment information from MPAC in their updates. Check with your local municipality for their schedule and ask how they make their property tax assessment decisions.

3. Q: Are there any issues with getting insurance for a natural building? Can I use mortgage financing to fund a natural building?
A: Yes, insurance companies tend to be very conservative, and obtaining a mortgage is often directly connected to obtaining insurance. Prior precedents are very helpful here. See Ontario Straw Bale Building Coalition.

4. Q: I know I need a building permit, but where do I find a reference to bring to my builder or code official?

5. Q: How do I get a building permit?

6. Q: Can I design and build my own home? Can I use volunteer labour, or host a workshop to have it built?

7. Q: What is the cost comparison between natural and conventional buildings?

8. Q: Can I use natural materials in a renovation or upgrade of my home?

9. Q: How long does a natural building last? How much maintenance is required?

10. Q: Are natural buildings energy efficient? Can they be built air-tight? Do they meet Passive House, Living Building Challenge or LEED standards?

11. Q: Can natural buildings meet Passive House, Living Building Challenge or LEED standards?

12. Q: What are the embodied energy characteristics of natural materials?

13. Q: What, if any, advantage is there in having an engineer as part of my design team? When should a professional designer be involved?

14. Q: Are there challenges incorporating conventional electrical infrastructure into natural buildings?

15. Q: Should an owner be a general contractor? Do I need a construction management professional?

16. Q: Are there any specific site conditions that I need to worry about?

17. Q: Is there a site plan or survey required before going to permit?

18. Q: Is there a data base of permitted precedents that proponents can access? (Building Code Commission Decisions, By-Law/Municipal level, CSA test results, CCMC, CMHC)
A: In Ontario, the Building Materials Evaluation Commission, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and the Building Code Commission publish decisions from settled cases:
-Building Materials Evaluation Commission
-Minister's Rulings
-Building Code Commission Rulings