When cities receive thousands of permit requests a year, they are often bogged down in what seems like an endless pile of paperwork. Bellevue, Wash., developed a system to digitally streamline the permit application process with the permit review process, thus reducing the paper stream.

Bellevue launched permit review software in October to review mechanical, plumbing and electrical permit requests, and with a series of features, the city’s permit technicians can make revisions known as markups and other changes to applications.

Permit requests submitted to Bellevue can be done through the website MyBuildingPermit.com, which also accepts permit requests for 12 other Washington jurisdictions, according to the website.

When a permit request is made within Bellevue’s jurisdiction, the city’s permit technicians receive an email notification about it and can access the information on the city’s permit dashboard. From there, the technicians prescreen the information to ensure that the customer has completed the application process, according to Lionel Forde, a systems specialist with Bellevue.

“It triggers our permit tracking system to generate the permit record,” Forde said. “Once that generation is done, the jurisdiction immediately invoices the customer for the submittal fees.”

To make markups during the permit review process, the city launched Bluebeam PDF Revu eXtreme software by Pasadena, Calif.-based Bluebeam Software to 13 workstations at a total cost of $3,500. The software can evaluate PDF drawings that are submitted with the permit applications. According to Bluebeam, the software allows the user to access tools that replicate pen and paper, so that permit reviewers can add comments and request revisions to the electronic plans.

Each reviewer who looks at a set of permit plans can develop custom tool sets. Forde said although the software has a different set of tools that the multiple users access to do their markups, the software is flexible enough to complete all of the reviews.

The software also assists with comparing documents. For example, if there is a request for a revision, the users can compare an existing version of a document with a revised version, he said. After all markups have been made and all reviews have been completed to a set of plans for a permit application, the tracking system automatically sends an email to the permit technicians that the permit is ready to be issued. The techs can then invoice the customers for the permit issuance fee, Forde said.

Although Bellevue currently only has the review software available for three types of permits, the city will eventually roll out the software to review all permit types, which is estimated at 13,000 permit applications annually, according to Bluebeam. Transportation, utilities and building permits are just a few examples of other permits that will be added to the second phase of the software rollout.

Forde said the new process will reduce the amount of paper used, which in turn will create cost savings for the city. Customers who submit permit requests will also see personal cost savings since they don’t need to provide multiple paper forms and copies anymore for the application process.

“There are paper applications that customers are required to send in seven to eight copies of plan sets with their application and each revision would require the same number of copies,” Forde said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.