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Zoning Regulations

Zoning Regulations

So You’ve Decided to Build a Custom Home

Your designer (us) is talking about the different scenarios and what you can and cannot do with the land that you own. It’s confusing and frustrating to discover that you cannot build whatever you want on your own property. This is primarily because of zoning regulations and building codes…. But what does that all mean and why do these things even exist?


Zoning regulations determine what you can build. This can mean how large of a building you can have, what uses your building can have and how tall it can be. These are things that can sometimes change depending on how much money you have to spend, but more on that in a minute. These regulations exist to protect the integrity of your neighbourhood and to keep the value of your home stable.


For example, if you bought your home in a residential area with nice new homes and a school and green space the value of your home depends slightly on it existing in this area with minimal traffic and little noise pollution.


Without zoning regulations, someone could then take an existing residential lot that has a single family home and build a high rise with a shopping centre on that lot. This removes any green space, increases traffic and negatively impacts the value of the homes surrounding this space. With zoning regulations however, a lot that is zoned for a single family home can only have so many things on it which means no one can build something that will detract from the neighbourhood’s value.

Building Codes

Building codes on the other hand determine what materials you can use, how you can build things and minimum and maximum measurements for every part of the building. This is to ensure that the house is safe to live in and around. Unlike zoning, building codes cannot be varied or relaxed.

Now getting back to your house though, because likely you don’t want to build a high rise on your property. How can you determine what you can build and how much it is going to cost you. If you read this previous article What will it cost to design and build a 3000 sq.ft. house? – DOS Design Group you know that how much it is going to cost largely depends on how much money you have. In order to build anything you have to apply for permits. Which permit you apply for depends on which set of rules your build meets and how much money you have to spend on the build.


permitsThe most economically friendly permits are outright permits. This is mostly single family homes that meet all zoning requirements as they currently exist. However if you want your home to have a second suite or if you want more FSR you can apply for a conditional permit. A conditional permit costs more money, has more rules and requires more work BUT it allows for you to have more building on your property which makes your house worth more money in the long run. FSR is Floor space ratio or the amount of structure that can be built in proportion to your lot and any relaxations that are written in the zoning laws. Relaxations are things that zoning has identified as an available relaxation to the zoning regulations. Relaxations still have limitations but there are less rules than outright or conditional zoning permits.

For example, we designed a deck on one property that’s backyard was a cliff. The cliff continued down to a train track and highway and had resulted in many people falling down the cliff and getting injured. The combination of the deck and the house was more than the allowed 35% of the property but because of the extreme state of the lot the zoning allowed for a relaxation to the maximum building depth.


So what happens if what you want to build isn’t allowed based on the existing zoning regulations or any of the relaxations? Then we would apply for a variance. Variances are when you want something different than what is currently allowed. They require that you explain why you should be granted special accommodations to build something that you currently are not legally able to build. The previous example of the house with the cliff is one example where we could have applied for a variance if the relaxation had been denied.

DOS Design Group Delivers

So how does DOS help you with these regulations? Our company specializes in variances, relaxations and conditional applications for the City of Vancouver. Since each month we complete a large number of projects that require these types of applications, we are well versed in current regulations which makes DOS uniquely qualified to handle your needs.

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