The City of Portland welcomes the opportunity to work with you on your commercial new construction and addition permits and inspections. Learn more about what's required for a complete commercial new construction application. You can also research a property or schedule an appointment to discuss your project.
Step 1: Research the property and what you need for your project
You need a building permit to build a new commercial structure with three or more units. You need a permit to build a multi-family residential project with three or more units. You also need a permit to add, repair, alter, or change occupancy of existing structures.
Before you apply for a permit, research the following items:
- the zoning of the property
- the applicable codes
- existing permits on site
- occupancy of the existing building
- the permit cost
- feasibility of the project
- energy code requirements
- time a permit remains active
- what your fees will be
- what the system development charges will be for your project
Codes in effect in Portland include City Codes, such as Titles 24 and 33, as well as State building codes. Please review our Codes page for more information.
Applications must show how they meet the building code with a code summary. The building code summary is critical to convey design assumptions made for the building.
Change of use or occupancy
Projects that change the occupancy or use of the existing space can be very complex. The Change of Use or Occupancy brochure has information on this type of project.
Fire and Life Safety Summary
For very complex projects, the Fire and Life Safety Summary may be needed. The Fire Life Safety Summary form has more details about sprinklers, fire alarms, detection systems and other construction information about the building.
If your project contains space that will not be built out and ready for occupancy at the time the permit is finalized, a separate Tenant Improvement permit will be necessary to establish first occupancy of the space. Since changes between the first Shell permit and the subsequent TI permit are common, a signed Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement is required.
Seismic strengthening requirements
Portland City Code, Title 24.85 contains criteria that may trigger requirements for additional seismic strengthening when the work involves an existing building.
Step 2: Get Early Assistance
For projects with complicated building or fire code issues you may need some assistance. Customers may request a preliminary Life Safety meeting.
Land use Early Assistance requests help applicants prepare a complete project proposal, usually a land use review application. A Land Use Pre-Application Conference is required for all Type III and IV land use reviews prior to submittal of the application. They are also available but optional for lower tier Land use reviews.
Step 3: What you need for a commercial new construction or addition building permit (submittal standards)
For the review process, completed application materials are required, including:
- Building permit application
- Erosion control plan. Install erosion control measures before beginning any further ground disturbing activities. These measures must have an approved inspection.
- and/or stormwater plan
- Forms and/or reports to demonstrate compliance with the commercial energy code
- Complete a Shell Permit Acknowledgement Statement if your project includes space that defers occupancy to a future tenant improvement permit
- architectural, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing and landscape drawings
- Any additional requirements and drawing criteria listed on the Commercial Submittal Requirements page that is specific to your project
Review the drawings requirements:
- Drawings, drawn to scale where necessary to verify compliance with code.
- Drawings may be handwritten/drawn if clear and legible. Text or note shall be in print.
- Minimum drawing size: 11x17. All required information is to be clear and legible. Minimum printed text is to be 3/32” or the equivalent 12-point font.
- Cannot use professional's drawings without the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set cannot be used without their permission.
Your project may also need commercial electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits
Your project will most likely need separate electrical permits, mechanical permits and plumbing permits. Apply for these permits once the project has been approved to get a building permit.
Step 4: Apply for a building permit and submit your plans
You can submit your permit application request online using Development Hub PDX. Read step-by-step instructions for submitting a permit application request online or in person.
For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process. Large projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox.
If you need to submit paper plans, you can set up an appointment to pick up plans or drop off plans in person. Or, please call us and we will work with you.
Step 5: Plan review process and making corrections to an application (checksheet)
You can check the status of a permit review on Portland Maps permit/case search. Many people might review a single permit. The Permit Review Process webpage has more information about the groups who review permits.
A checksheet is sent to the applicant when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction has to be made to the plans. Read more about how to send us corrections and how to prepare corrected paper plans.
Step 6: Permit issuance
We'll contact you when your permit is ready, and notify you about any fees due. You'll get instructions for how to get your approved permit and pay your fees. Your permit is not issued until all fees are paid. Read more about the pre-issuance process.
Step 7: Start building and get ready for inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first.
Once your building permit is issued, erosion control measures and sometimes tree protection measures must be installed, inspected and approved prior to beginning any further ground-disturbing activities.
All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.
Step 8: Schedule a commercial inspections and get inspection results
To schedule an inspection, call the automated Requests for Inspection phone number. You will need your IVR or permit number and the three-digit code for the inspection. You must call before 6:00 a.m. or the inspection will be scheduled the following business day.
Get the results of the inspection on Portland Maps permit/case search the next day.
Read more about why work does not get approved and how to schedule a reinspection.
Small Business Empowerment Program
The Small Business Empowerment Program assists Black, Indigenous and people of color business owners and business owners with disabilities recognized by the ADA who have experienced barriers in the review process. Learn more about how we can help.
Donate reusable construction materials
The City of Portland works with the ReBuilding Center to make it easy to donate reusable building materials. Homeowners and business owners that qualify can receive materials for free to help make their properties safe. Donating building materials also helps keep waste out of landfills. Learn more about the From Excess to Access program.
Contact commercial inspectors
If you have questions before or after your inspection, you can talk to an inspector.
You can start with this list of forms (if you know what you need) and continue reading to learn more about when the forms are required.