What Are Entitlements in Construction?

March 9, 2024

A construction career can be an exciting and fulfilling experience. From erecting bricklayers scaffolding to solving logistical problems and working with specialist machinery, it’s rare for any day in the construction industry to be exactly the same. This variety means you’re always learning new skills and developing your expertise in the sector.

But one thing that’s often overlooked is the lengthy process of obtaining construction entitlements before shovels even hit the ground. The term ‘entitlement’ refers to a broad range of permits and approval types, and the number and type will vary depending on the specifics of your project.

Essentially, entitlements are property-specific permissions that grant you the vested right to develop your land. They also allow local governments to conduct a higher level of review to ensure that development projects fall within the goals, policies, and objectives of a city’s general plan.

Some common types of entitlements that civil engineers and developers seek include zoning, landscape design, variances, and exceptions. A zoning permit allows you to build a structure that falls within a city’s regulations, while a variance or exception lets you deviate from those rules when strict compliance would be unduly difficult or costly.

But more than anything, entitlements are about listening to and responding to the community’s needs. Few construction projects go unnoticed, so engaging with the locals early on and communicating effectively throughout the process is key to winning their support. This includes listening to their concerns, mitigating any negative impacts (e.g. traffic, noise, loss of open space), and educating them on the ways in which your project will improve their local environment.

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