In January 2011, Constructech magazine profiled the City of Bend, Ore., for being an early adopter of electronic-plan technology. The city now requires all electronically designed submittal data to be submitted in an electronic media format. The story indicated the trend for municipalities and governments to move toward electronic submittals is a growing one, hinting that now is the time for owners, contractors, and municipalities to understand what this change really means within a city’s building division.

Such a statement proved to be a telling one as more and more municipalities and governments are indeed making the switch to using the technology. The latest to jump aboard this trend is the City of Chicago. The city, with a population of roughly 2.8 million, has announced it will be completely paperless with respect to construction plan submissions as of July 2, 2012.

The City of Chicago Dept. of Buildings went live with Chicago E-PLANS, using electronic plan review technology from Avolve Software Corp.,, Scottsdale, Ariz., on this past June 4. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made streamlining the permit process for homeowners, businesses, and design professionals a top priority for the city, and this construction technology is part of the overall strategy.

The challenge for the city was with reducing the time to approve building permits. Complicating matters was a change in the permitting fee structure announced by Mayor Emanuel in the Fall of 2011. Working with a local systems integrator, Avolve Software began delivering a live, hosted electronic plan solution to Chicago for testing and training in January 2012 with the system going live on the aforementioned June 4 date.

Avolve’s technology, designed for electronic plan submission, review, and workflow, allows for plans to be submitted in PDF, DWG, and DWF formats, among others. This allows for a significant amount of flexibility from those submitting the plans. The technology also keeps track of timestamps, and can detect if changes are present.

Markups are made on the file and once changes are made, the appropriate parties are notified. The system contains the intelligence to determine whether or not the appropriate file is being pulled up, thus ending any disputes when working with the most updated files.

Michael Merchant, commissioner, Dept. of Buildings, says, “The City of Chicago is committed to making the building permitting process a ‘green light’ for businesses and homeowners.”

This move goes to show how more and more major cities are making the move to the epermitting process. Construction technology is playing a major role not only in the design, build, and operate phases, but in the very early stages too—well before ground is ever broken on a project.