Expediting Permits with DCRA’s New Velocity Program

Q&A with Senior Principal Matthew Jacobs on New Plan Review Service


GHT Chartered recently served as the MEP Engineer on one of the first tenant interiors fit-out project to go through the Velocity program, a new permit expediting service offered by the Department of Columbia’s Regulatory and Consumer Affairs (DCRA). We sat down with the project’s Senior Principal Matthew Jacobs to get his feedback on this new service offering which tackles a major DC commercial real estate problem – permit delays.

What is the Velocity program?
“Developed by DCRA, the Velocity program is an optional paid service which offers clients the opportunity to receive permit approvals for their project in one business day. Projects which meet the program requirements are accelerated through the permit process; plans are reviewed during two (2) in-person meetings, scheduled two weeks apart. The meetings require the involvement of the entire project team, from the client to the CM to the engineers who stamp the drawings. Permit comments are issued on the spot and in the days immediately following the meeting. Two weeks later, the entire team meets again to ensure all outstanding and any new permit comments have been resolved. In-house staff should be available to immediately make drawing revisions for any new issues broached during the meeting, plus remaining issues; drawings are then completed and uploaded to the DCRA permitting module during the meeting. The end result is a two-week turnaround time for permits that used to take six to twelve weeks to obtain. This new service is extremely attractive to clients planning fast-paced interior renovations in the District.”

Is the Velocity program right for my project?
“Our project was a great candidate for Velocity because the client’s design required complex changes to the building structure – i.e. a new addition to the building which dictated ASHRAE 90.1 code compliance and energy modeling. From the MEP engineer’s perspective, this process was both beneficial and seamless, as our team was able to sit face-to-face with reviewers and collaboratively work through issues, resulting in almost no turnaround time for drawing changes which brought the design into compliance. With delays in DC permitting expected to continue due to a high volume of projects under review, this program is a great fit for any client who needs to get their project permitted quickly and has the budget available to pay the additional costs.”

Which brings me to my next question…what will all this cost me?
“The Velocity program definitely requires a time investment for both the project team and DCRA staff – we recommend discussing this as a permit strategy early in design, so that all parties are aware of the commitment going into that first Velocity meeting.”

The fees for services are based on the total project square footage, as detailed below:

Projects 50,000-SF total work area or less = $50,000.00 / day

Projects 50,001-99,999-SF total work area = $50,000.00 / day, plus $0.50 per each SF > 50,000

Projects 100,000-SF or more = $75,000.00 / day

*adapted from the Velocity program overview, provided by DCRA*

What else should I know about Velocity?
“The second meeting with the Velocity reviewers was a big day for us, as the MEP engineer – lasting several hours, we had to have staff ready in our office to pick up additional changes, plus our two registered Professional Engineers on-site with plan reviewers, who checked the finished documents and stamped them as they were submitted. It’s critical that you understand what the reviewer is requesting; accurately communicate that to in-office staff, then confirm the revisions met their expectations. Like a project’s design, this process needs to be carefully orchestrated and managed from start to finish to ensure success.”

Any final thoughts?
“We’re excited to see where this program takes us next – as one of the leading MEP engineer in the DC region, we know firsthand how permit delays can force even the best projects to veer off-track. With one of the first Velocity program’s projects under our belts, we’re in a prime position to help other project owners fast-track their projects. We’re also looking forward to working collaboratively with DCRA to see the District’s built environment continue to transform.”

Thank you, Matt for your time! For more information on DCRA Permitting Services, visit: https://dcra.dc.gov/velocity-program.

Matt Jacobs, PE, LEED AP is a Senior Principal and Electrical Section head in GHT’s Interiors Studio. With over 30 years of experience in tenant interiors and commercial headquarters spaces, Matt brings unrivaled customer care and attention to detail on every project he leads. In addition to office environments, Matt’s expansive portfolio includes network operations centers, data centers, medical suites, commercial kitchens, office studios and SCIF spaces. Matt is a Professional Engineer registered in six states and the District of Columbia. He can be reached at mjacobs@ghtltd.com.