In recent years, a large amount of my time has been dedicated to working with Charleston’s Board of Architectural Review (the BAR). LS3P Charleston does a ton of work in the City so we are well versed with the BAR process.
Clients that are new to Charleston, as well as seasoned local developers, often misunderstand some of the basic processes of the BAR.
And I don’t blame them!
It is a very complex system. And just when I think I’ve got the process figured out, I get thrown for another zinger.
This is the first blog in a series in which I will 'attempt' to explain some of the basic processes of the BAR.
In business, time is money. And one of the most misunderstood aspects of the BAR is the amount of time it takes. Or better yet, the number of steps involved.
It is common for people to consider the BAR only a 3 step process.
Although it is true that the biggest hurdles are the 3 major BAR meetings: Conceptual, Preliminary and Final, most projects are likely to go through more than 10 steps.
I need to explain first that my experience in Charleston has been focused on larger commercial development. Smaller developments and residential projects have a much shorter track. Still challenging, but not as many steps.
So here it goes folks......The list of major BAR steps:
With each step I list whether it is a board or staff meeting, and the recommended timing.
1. Neighborhood Meetings
Recommended during schematic design. Always meet with the neighbors adjacent to your site. This is an important step and can be very damaging if overlooked.
2. Preservation Group Meetings
Recommended during schematic design. In Charleston there is The Historic Charleston Foundation and The Preservation Society.
3. Courtesy Review with the City Architect - Staff Meeting
Recommended during schematic design and is required prior to the conceptual submittal.
4. Conceptual Review - Board Meeting
Recommended at the end of schematic design after a conceptual cost estimate. The main emphasis of this meeting is Height, Scale, Mass and Architectural Direction. This is the board’s first look at the project and based on experience, large buildings commonly get deferred or denied at this first meeting.
5. Preliminary Review - Board Meeting
Recommended at the end of design development after a DD cost estimate. This meeting takes a closer look at the quality of the materials and details. Wall sections, details and material samples are required as part of this submittal.
6. Final Review - Board Meeting
Recommended at 50% Construction Documents. This is the board's last crack at the design. It is one more look at the details with a strong emphasis on materials. If you made it through preliminary then this step is really to verify that you are doing what you previously stated.
7. Final Details to Staff - Staff Review
Recommended at 100% Construction Documents. Just when you thought you were done! At the end of the Final BAR meeting, there will be a list of details that are to be reviewed by the BAR staff. We typically provide the permit set to the BAR staff for this review.
8. Mockup Panel Review - Board Meeting
This is when it gets tricky because the reins are now in the hands of the contractor. A mockup panel design is to be approved during the final details to staff. And your contractor better do a good job! Or they will have to rebuild.
9. Signage Submittal - Board Meeting
Can be submitted whenever the signage package is ready. Usually during construction. This submittal can be handled by a local signage contractor or the architect.
10. Final Walkthrough - Staff Review
This occurs after the contractor has finished the architect's punch list. The BAR staff performs a review of the final construction and issues a list of comments to be corrected. The comments must be addressed and approved by the BAR staff before the Final Certificate of Occupancy can be issued.
We are up to 10.
But wait…there’s more!
A few more steps will likely get thrown in the mix.
Additional Courtesy Meetings with The City Architect
We heavily recommend meeting with the City Architect prior to each submittal.
What if you get deferred?
Unfortunately, the likelihood of making it through the gauntlet of meetings without a deferral or denial is small. We tell our clients to expect at least 1 deferral along the way. Most commonly at the conceptual meeting.
Each project seems to have some sort of extra item that gets tacked on during construction. On one project it was a lightning mast. On another it was a change in lighting. Any change that occurs during construction that affects the exterior of the building is required to be reviewed by the BAR staff.
Some projects require that an entire, or portion of an existing structure, be demolished. This requires a separate BAR meeting.
That is a lot of steps right?
The process can certainly seem overwhelming at times, but the important thing is that all of these steps are stretched out over a long period of time. And you take one step at a time.
As an architect or a client, it is important to be knowledgeable of the basics of the BAR process. All of these steps translate into time and a schedule can quickly go awry if one of these things is overlooked.
If you have found this post helpful, please let me know. I plan to expand on these individual steps with future blog posts. Also, if there are any items you want me to elaborate on, I'm happy to help!