Building permit for renovation or new build - When must a permit be applied for?

The planning application is an important step for the successful implementation of the building project. It is important to clarify beforehand which official measures must be taken and which documents must be submitted. In particular where listed buildings are concerned, the stipulations for the renovation of historic structure of the building must also be taken into account. Yet the question also arises whether an application for a building permit is necessary in the first place?

Many refurbishments and repairs do not require building permits. If the measures are, however, more extensive, accompanied by a change of use, changing the statics, or affect the fire safety, generally speaking an application for a building permit must be submitted. Examples could be:

  • Heat pump with geothermal probe
  • Removal or relocation of load-bearing walls
  • Changes in use (e.g. conversion of a commercially used building to dwellings)
  • Change of the building shell (facade material, window shapes, etc.)

For refurbishments (in particular, also for new builds), certain constructional constraints are placed by the building regulations and zoning ordinances, the cantonal planning and building laws, as well as the regulations on land use planning for environmental protection. On sloping sites, it is also always worth having a look at the hazard map, which shows underground running waters, which also require specific minimum spaces.

If a building is listed or it is in the register of objects to be protected (Land register of the limitations of property rights imposed by public law, see cantonal geo-portals of the land registry offices), a curator of monuments should be consulted at an early stage. A preservation order may, among other things, specify the colour of the house facade or the roof, and which materials are to be used.
In the case of complex building projects, it is recommended to make a construction application with the building authority beforehand, to establish if the project can be considered for approval on the part of the community.

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