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Why does this Tenant Improvement Cost So Much?

    I'm often asked questions like this in the early phases of a tenant improvement. The client has many questions during early phases of an office relocation, and they normally would prefer to pin down the cost question quickly, so they can make a decision whether to move forward.
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DesignLine Architects, LLC
470 E. Canyon Creek Court ,
Gilbert, AZ 85295
Phone: 4807103861

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Phoenix Building Permit Shortcuts – “Permit By Inspector (PBI)”

Depending on your remodel’s complexity, you may qualify for a very QUICK building permit process.

Phoenix Tenant Improvement

The City of Phoenix has “cut the red tape” for obtaining building permits.  If you’re planning a minor Commercial or Residential remodel, there is a special program in place at the City of Phoenix that will greatly REDUCE the Permit and Plan Review approval process.  Not all construction projects will qualify for what is called a “Permit By Inspector” option, so call 602-262-7811 to review your projects scope of work.

City of Phoenix Building Permits

If you meet the following criteria and have a form of payment with you, you may be eligible for an Permit By Inspector (PBI) Permit.  The building permit may be processed while you wait, depending on the complexity of the project.   Plan check and building permit fees vary depending upon the type of work being done and the valuation.

Minor Commercial Tenant Improvement Permit

1.  The City of Phoenix’s PBI program – created for minor commercial tenant improvements – allows customers to obtain plan review and building permit approval at the job site.  Inspection staff will review plans on site and determine when you can begin construction.


Permit by Inspector (PBI)

The Permit By Inspector (PBI) process is designed to expedite the plan review process by sending plans to the field inspectors for review after a short preliminary office review.   The inspectors perform the plan review and compare the plans with the existing conditions.  After the review is complete, the inspectors issue the building permit and give approval at the job site for construction to begin.  Customers follow the standard inspection request and approval process as construction progresses through completion of the project.


  • – Less than 5,000 square feet of improvements.
  • – No increase in square footage.
  • – No change of use or occupancy.
  • – Interior space only.
  • – Have a contractor selected
  • – Not all construction projects will qualify for what is called a “Permit By Inspection” option, so call 602-495-0150 or 602-262-7811 to review your projects scope of work.


  • – Require any site or civil approvals
  • – Require reviews from Pollution Control
  • – Be an adult use, restaurant, medical or dental office, beauty salon, school, hazardous use or change of use/occupancy
  • – Include a paint spray booth
  • – Involve any unauthorized deferred submittals or be part of a larger project
  • – Include structural alterations
  • – Involve work that requires special inspections or observation
  • – Be a project registered with AFP program
  • – Include work completed without a permit

Minor Home Interior Remodels

2.  The City of Phoenix PBI program – created for minor home interior remodels – allows customers to obtain plan review and building permit approval at the job site.  Inspection staff will review plans on site and determine when you can begin construction.

Phoenix Building Permits














  • – Conventionally framed wood or masonry structures using structural elements as specified in the International Residential Code.
  • – Single-story structures.
  • – Gable or flat roof systems.
  • – Additions to existing structures of 1,000 square feet, or less.
  • – Remodels to existing spaces that do not exceed 2,000 square feet and in which structural components are not removed or altered.
  • – Detached accessory structures of 1,000 square feet, or less.

Non-Eligible Projects

  • – Projects that require review by other disciplines or departments (such as hillside, grading and drainage or floodplain).
  • – Structures that require an engineered design (lateral and/or vertical analysis).
  • – Structures with walls greater than 10 feet in height.
  • – Multi-story additions and multi-story accessory structures.
  • – Projects including the installation or alteration of a 400 amp or greater electric service.

Projects other than those described may be considered for the PBI process. Contact Development Services for more information, 602-262-7811.

City of Phoenix Building Permits

Planning and Development Department
200 W. Washington Street, second floor
Phoenix, AZ 85003
PHONE: 602-262-7811
TTY: 602-534-2737
FAX: 602-534-0846

For more Building Permit specific details related to cities that you live or work, click on one of the following links: Phoenix, Tempe, Gilbert, Chandler, Mesa, Scottsdale.

About the Author

A Phoenix architect will help you avoid many common mistakes that are made with construction projects. No matter what kind of space you need today, we’ll make sure it’s designed for your needs in the future.  This will give you future function built into today’s home addition.  .  To discuss your Phoenix building permit needs, contact Doug Rusk at 480-710-3861 or email us at

Architect in Phoenix

Architect in Phoenix
Doug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona

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Tenant Improvement in Phoenix


For the Business Owner with Growing Pains

Are you a small business owner who loves working from your home, but has recently found your kitchen table too small for meetings?  Maybe your current leased offices are just getting too small for your new hires and new equipment, but you’re just not sure it’s the right time to relocate?  It might make sense to consider a tenant improvement on an existing or new office space.

With the recent market challenges many businesses are relocating their office for several reasons:

–  Reduce overhead costs with a lower lease payment. With office rents plunging, there’s never been a better time to be a tenant. Many tenants are finding that nearly everything is on the table — from rental rates to lease terms to the size of the security deposit.  And you don’t necessarily have to go through the expense and headache of relocating to get a deal.  To strengthen your hand at the lease negotiation table, let your landlord see that you’re shopping around.  And even if there are several years left on your lease, it can’t hurt to ask for an early renewal in this market.
–  Enhance worker creativity and communication with a larger space that has more natural light.  And redesigning the “flow” of the office might create a more flexible work environment that may mean removing or reconfiguring the layout of some office walls.
–  Find a new location.  Some businesses will benefit from better customer visibility, and others who don’t rely on foot traffic, will benefit from a more convenient, low-cost, utilitarian location.


Phoenix Tenant Improvement Ideas for a Growing Business

Successful business is about change.  If you are business owner who’s having growing pains, you’re not alone.  Here are a few tenant improvement ideas that might make sense:

1. Reinvent your present office by hiring a registered Architect to help you make the best use of your space. With just a little creative thought your office layout could be more efficient.
2. If your current office is running out of space, move to a building with a bigger office. Starting fresh in a new building will allow the design of your new office to anticipate every need and want.
3. Just when you think you’ve got the space you want, your business will change again. Progress is cyclical.  Finding an office with some flexible space could make sense for the future.
4. Convert an unused room in your home into a storage facility, warehouse or a second office for employees.
5. Utilize business centers. These temporary offices provide a traditional office space for you to work in, and usually come with amenities like internet access, videoconferencing, conference space, office equipment like copiers, and even receptionists.

About the Author.  Tenant Improvement in Phoenix. Tenant Improvement in Phoenix.

DESIGNLine Architects works with small and medium sized companies that have changing needs – a point in their development where the use of a building often starts to become a big factor.  We are trained to design space around a specific use, making sure that everything fits.  Many of our clients have limited resources and we have learned how to do a lot with very little.  To set up a Tenant Improvement Design appointment contact Doug Rusk at 480-710-3861 or email us at

Doug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona

Tenant Improvement in Phoenix.

Tenant Improvement in Phoenix. Tenant Improvement in Phoenix.

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BEFORE you begin your “Scottsdale Home Remodel”

Home Remodeling Scottsdale



BEFORE you begin your Scottsdale home remodel project, there are a few important steps to take now, that will prevent surprises later – surprises that might significantly affect your project budget and time schedule.  The detailed steps below will give you an idea of the some of the upfront research needed BEFORE starting your home remodel in Scottsdale. Working with an expert such as an Architect will help you navigate this important process.

1. Read your CC&R’s –

Home remodeling is about change, and major changes to an existing Scottsdale home may be subject to rules and restrictions set by state and local building authorities as well as the legal rights of your neighbors.  Review your Codes, Covenants and Regulations (CC&R’s) you agreed to comply with when you moved into your neighborhood.

2. Scottsdale, AZ Development Standards –

Every Scottsdale home Parcel has Zoning Ordinance and Building Setback requirements and restrictions , including distances that buildings/ structures must be “set back” from the property line.  Setback requirements for your home will vary depending upon the zoning district (i.e. R1-190, R1-7, etc).  Submit a Setback Request to the City of Scottsdale to determine the development standards for your property.  This will help you determine where you can build on the lot, the lot coverage restrictions (if applicable) and wall/fence restrictions.  Looking for the APN# of your parcel? Go to and select GIS Maps.

3. Fire Sprinklers

If you are improving or adding 25% or more of the existing structure (under roof area), then fire sprinklers must be installed through out the entire Scottsdale home, including enclosed, non-heated storage, garage, etc.  Here’s a link to Scottsdale’s Fire Sprinkler worksheet.  For approximate sprinkler installation costs figure between $1.50 – $3.00 per square foot under roof, depending on complexity.

4. Building Code

If you are improving or adding 50% or more of the existing structure (under roof area), then  the entire structure must be brought up to all current Building Code standards.  For work that is less than 50%, only the new work you are completing on your home must comply with current codes.

New-Home-Remodel-Architect-Designer-Tempe5. Will you need a Building Permit?

There are four types of Scottsdale building permits:

Building Permit

  • – Required for all construction work including patio covers, room additions, carports and garage enclosures, walls/fences, retaining walls, and accessory buildings (storage buildings less than 200 square feet only requires a site plan). Permits will expire if work is not commenced within 180 days of the permit being issued to you, or if the work is not inspected by the city for a period of more than 180 days.

Electrical Permit

  • – Required to install, alter, reconstruct or repair electrical wiring on any building, structure, swimming pool, or mechanical equipment.

Plumbing Permit

  • – Required to install, alter, reconstruct, or repair any plumbing system, gas system, lawn sprinkler supply, water heater replacement.

Mechanical Permit

  • – Required to install, alter, reconstruct or repair any furnace, refrigeration or other air conditioning equipment or system, except portable or window units.

New-Home-Remodel-Architect-Designer-Chandler6. You may NOT need a Building Permit

While most home improvement projects in Scottsdale require a permit (which helps ensure safety standards), there are some projects that do NOT require a residential building permit:

  • – Detached, non-habitable structures smaller than 200 square feet in floor area (a site plan is required);
  • – Patio slabs or sidewalks/drives (not over 30 inches above grade);
  •  – Repair existing landscape irrigation piping (a permit is required to connect a new irrigation system to your waterline);
  • – Walls, three feet or less (except retaining walls);
  • – Low-voltage landscape accent lighting;
  • – Minor repairs or replacement of non-structural items such as glass, doors, hardware, kitchen cabinets, carpeting, flooring or trim work (not affecting a pool enclosure or garage);
  • – Paint (interior/exterior); repair drywall, plasterboard, paneling or stucco (insulated stucco systems require a permit);
  • – Repair or replace existing evaporative coolers or air conditioning units without increasing the unit size or capacity;
  • – Repair or replace existing plumbing fixtures in the same location;
  • – Re-shingle or retile a roof when the same material is used.

7. Scottsdale Permit Fees

For a fee schedule, refer to and select “Fees” Or you can contact the One Stop Shop at (480) 312-2500.

8.  Home Improvement Forms & Guides

Looking for plan submittal information for major or minor remodels built in Scottsdale, AZ, then click here.

About the Author

A Scottsdale architect will help you avoid many common mistakes that are made with construction projects. No matter what kind of space you need today, we’ll make sure it’s designed for your needs in the future.  This will give you future function built into today’s home addition.  To set up an appointment contact Doug Rusk at 480-710-3861 or email us at

Architect in Phoenix
Doug Rusk, Architect
DesignLine Architects, LLC
Gilbert, Arizona

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Tenant Improvement Construction Costs and Design

by Doug Rusk
Principal of DESIGNLine Architects, LLC

Commercial Office Remodel

We’d like to share four “design tips” with anyone who is thinking about venturing into a Tenant Improvement for their commercial office or retail space.

1.  A Tenant Improvement Renovation is Much Like a Home Renovation.

tenant-improvement-Architect-TempeIn many ways your business is your home.  It’s where you and you staff spend most of your waking hours.  As you work with your Architect consider in detail each room; who will use them and how they’ll function.

– In the same way that the kitchen and the family room want to be interconnected, you want to customize your commercial space so it better fits the interactions of your staff and the functions they perform.

– The operations manager of a popular Wine Bar and Bistro, for example, noted recently how productivity improved after the layout was reworked for their wine retail area. The new layout greatly improved the customer flow in the Bistro area for both the customers and staff.

2.  The Branding of Your Firm Should be Emphasized in Your Tenant Improvement Design.

If you run a business, you own a brand. Whether done consciously or not, you have positioned your brand in the market and have an opportunity to emphasize that brand in your Tenant Improvement.

– The appearance of your lobby room, the signage and detail around the entry, and even your bathrooms should mirror the core values and the culture of you, your staff and your business.

– If you’re planning a remodel of your Dentist office, for example, then you might want to create a casual, comfortable social atmosphere, because that’s the primary market you’re targeting.

– On the other hand you may instead want to create more of a formal, professional, no nonsense atmosphere, because it meets your clients needs  and the key attributes and benefits they desire.

– So, as you work with your Architect to draw up plans, take time to define your brand. Look at what you stand-for personally and as a business, and what differentiates you from competitors.  Just going through the process of defining your brand can help you make distinctive design decisions that not only improve flow and function, but may inevitably help your business grow.

3.  Generic Construction Costs for a Typical Tenant Improvement

There is no such thing as a “typical” tenant improvement.  Each project has a different set of requirements that are determined by many varying tenant-improvement-Architect-Chandlerfactors.  This graph illustrates some approximate construction costs based on historical data that you can use as a reference point when considering a standard office improvement.  These figures are general and will most likely change based on your project’s scope and special requirements.

Again, we hope the estimated, ball park numbers to the right will help you come to terms with a realistic budget.

4. Determine Cost Estimate Early

– If you talk to the right Architect, they will help you identify your budget and design goals, and offer a low cost conceptual design package that will be complete enough to allow a qualified General Contractor to develop a +/- 20% cost estimate for your project.  Our goal is to provide a low cost option for you to confirm your budget, before moving forward.

– And when the final drawings and specifications are completed and the project is bid to the subcontractors, very accurate costs are locked in, assuming no design changes.

Phoenix Architecture Firms

Doug Rusk is the principal of DESIGNLine Architects located in Gilbert, Arizona.  DESIGNLine Architects specializes in office tenant improvements and residential design.  We will ensure your Office Tenant Improvement will look more attractive and welcoming to your customers, while also increasing efficiency for you and your staff.

Phoenix ArchitectDoug Rusk, Architect
DESIGNLine Architects

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