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The Steps Involved in Submitting Building Plans for Approval

My experience in the field of architecture started when I was a young Health Inspector working at the Department of Environmental Health Services. While employed at DEHS, one of the areas I was privilege to be deployed in was the Building Control Section. Working in this area gave me the unique opportunity to participate in the processing of building permit applications on behalf of the Health Department for persons wishing to build. It was there that I learnt about Building Codes and what all is required when submitting construction documents building permit applications. Not only did I process building permit applications, but I also performed Occupancy Inspections to determine if permission would be given by the Health Department to ensure that the premises was fit for human habitation.

This line of work encouraged me to procure my Associate of Arts Degree in Architecture and I even had the thought of one day becoming the Department's Building Control Officer. Throughout the years I have helped family, friends, and associates with advice on the steps involved in the building permit process and even business and shop license approval processes. While the thought existed, it was not meant to be since I went on to become a Hotel Inspector within the Hotel Licensing Department at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Thereafter I left government altogether and became a private Home Inspector. Now, I am licensed a Real Estate Agent through the Bahamas Real Estate Association; and I am also a Property Manager.

With all the experience I have gathered over the years I want to share a bit of information to help you along the way especially if you choose to purchase a piece of property from a 1OakBahamas agent like me, so that you can build your dream home from the ground up. The following is the process when submitting your construction documents to the Ministry of Works to obtain approval for your building project:


After your architect has completed the construction documents based on what it is that you would have communicated to them and in accordance with the Bahamas Building Code, an application form is to be completed and bear the signature of your architect. You or your architect must submit three (3) sets of completed drawings to the Ministry of Public Works, or four (4) if the project is on a family island.

The basic requirements for construction documents or building plans that are submitted to the Ministry of Public Works are:

  1. Location Plan

  2. Site Plan

  3. Architectural Drawings

  4. Structural Drawings

  5. M&E Drawings (Mechanical & Electrical)

Boundary Considerations for the placement of structures on a vacant lot are as follows:

25 feet from the road, 10 feet from the sides and 15 feet from the rear. The remaining space is your development area.

Once the drawings pass the screening process which includes subdivision approval and civil design (roads) then they will be sent to the Department of Physical Planning for zoning approval. If the drawings are not approved then the application will be queried and placed on hold until additional information is provided. This deferral process will be consistent through all aspects of the plan approval stage process.

Thereafter, the plans are then submitted to the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS) for Health Department approval. The assessment done by the Department varies since the requirements differ for homes, rental dwellings, commercial buildings or other category types. Some considerations that the Health Department employ for new homes or rental dwelling construction are:

  1. Placement of the septic tank on the property and other boundary considerations for wells, drain fields, etc.

  2. The size of the septic tank and soak away system based on the number of bathrooms in the building.

  3. Provision of a garbage storage booth for rental dwellings and construction of garbage booths.

  4. Provision of laundry facilities (washing machines or laundry trays) for rental dwellings.

  5. Placement and ventilation of rooms through natural ventilation (windows). Natural ventilation for ALL rooms must be equivalent to 1/8 of the floor space.

  6. Bathrooms may be ventilated by mechanical means (exhaust fan) and the mechanical ventilation must be indicated on the architectural floor plan and the electrical plan. All ventilation pipes must vent through the roof as this can also lead to moisture build up and the presence of mold amongst other issues.

  7. Bedrooms must be to the proper dimensions base on the group category the structure falls in as outlined in the Bahamas Building Code.

  8. Proximity of buildings to each other if multiple buildings are on the same property

Once the plans leave the Health Department they go back to Ministry of Works where they undergo examination for Mechanical, Electrical, Structural, and Volatile Substances and other checks. At this stage items such as plumbing and electrical floor plans and riser diagrams are assessed. Life safety considerations are assessed especially for two storied buildings including means of egress from the upper level of the structure.

Provided that your construction documents successfully pass these various stages then your construction documents will be approved, stamped and a final fee will be assessed. After the balance calculated the difference must be paid before the plans are issued to you. Thereafter, the plans will be signed off by the Buildings Control Officer or Deputy Building Controls Officer.

Call Dominic Bain at (242) 359-081 to find your dream lot so that you may proceed with the building of your dream home.

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