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Downtown Houston Office Build-Out: What Permits Do You Need?

September 18, 2017 / by Tommy Twardowski

If you’re planning for an office move and/or build out in Houston, there’s no doubt that you’re anxious to get into your new space and get to work. You’re also unquestionably juggling many things, such as working with contractors and designers to identify exactly how your new space will be configured, helping employees plan for the move, and researching and scheduling downtown Houston office furniture installers to deliver and install your office furniture and equipment when your space is ready.

There’s another important task that you want to make sure you and your contractor are following through on: Identifying and securing all of the permits required in downtown Houston for office build outs. If city officials stop by to make sure you have the necessary permits (and you can be certain they will) and you lack any required permits, your job could come to a screeching halt. And knowing what permits you'll be expected to have can save you both time and money. 

Because the general contractor is responsible for pulling most of the permits required for an office build out or remodel, make sure you've chosen a reputable contractor! Here are the permits the city of Houston requires for a commercial build out.

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Fire Code Permit

The Houston Fire Marshal Office issues fire code permits. At the time a fire marshal stops by to inspect your site, the ceilings in your office must be accessible (ie: they cannot be closed off.) The fire marshal will inspect all doorways to ensure they comply with specifications designed to ensure that all employees will be able to quickly exit the building in case of fire. For example, the city of Houston requires a specific clearance for all office doorways.

Walkways also are subject to clearance specifications. Walkways in lower-traffic areas equipped with workstations must provide at least 36 inches of clearance (42 inches is preferable.) Main (high-traffic) walkways must provide at least 4 or 5 feet of clearance (the actual number depends on the building’s floor plan and occupancy number. These requirements ensure that people have plenty of room to quickly enter or exit offices and the building if a fire breaks out.

Electrical Permit

Your office needs electricity, and your contractor needs to pull an electrical permit before an electrician can legally rewire your space. Once the electrical work is complete, an inspector must examine all regular wall outlets and outlets installed on cubicles. The inspector will also make sure that there is no open or exposed wiring. You won’t be allowed to move in until your site passes this electrical inspection.

Move-in and Parking Permits

While the aforementioned permits are your contractor’s responsibility, usually you as the tenant are responsible for securing a move-in permit from your landlord or building manager. Individual buildings have their own rules and restrictions governing moves. Some specify that moves can only take place after business hours, others have rules governing elevator use, etc. The sooner you get the move-in permit, the more time you’ll have to coordinate logistics with your downtown Houston office movers.

Additionally, talk to your building manager to find out if you need to secure parking permits for your downtown Houston furniture installers, staff, or any vendors who’ll be onsite. The city of Houston may require tenants of offices located downtown or in the Houston Medical Center to secure parking permits or even police escorts to avoid traffic gridlock and access problems for emergency vehicles.

While your first inclination may be to view permitting requirements as bureaucratic red tape, just remember that permit requirements exist for a very good reason: They could literally prevent catastrophes and save lives. 

What You Should Expect During Your Next Office Build-Out

And, if you have any questions about your downtown Houston office installation or move, you can contact us at Houston Installation Services for help. 

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Topics: Office Relocation, Office Move, Facility Managers

About The Author

Tommy Twardowski

Tommy Twardowski

Tommy began his career in the office furniture installation business in 1978 and started his full-time career in 1981 with Houston Installation Services. Starting as a furniture installer, he developed a passion for the process of installation and learned to install all major manufacturers’ lines.