We receive requests for condo renovations frequently. In many cases, prospective clients either are contemplating a condo purchase or they own a condo and are looking to make some design changes.
In most cases, the design portion is the easy part. The design team is able to quickly draft the existing space and provide meaningful ideas to make each condo layout better.
It is in the sign-offs with the "authorities" where condo projects are tricky.
As architects, we always recommend obtaining City building permits when executing nearly all types of construction - except for rear garden sheds or other works that a municipality has deemed a permit is not required. When tackling a condo renovation, it is in an owners best interest to apply for a building permit prior to the start of construction.
Additionally for condos, owners must also contend with the condominium board and the property management team as additional authorities - both of which may not have any real expertise in design or construction. While many (or most) condo boards and property management companies seek to do what is best for the residents and overall building, this extra hurdle of approvals is difficult if those parties are misinformed.
One such example is the simple task of replacing the flooring in a condo suite. This should be a straightforward case of removing the existing floors and replacing it with a new flooring product - and replacing a floor does not require a building permit.
However, in our experience when requesting for an approval from the condo board or property manager, the general response is that the building's rules would state that a floor must maintain an "Impact Insulation Class" (IIC) rating of 70 or 71. We have often been asked to provide a product specification for a particular flooring finish that would meet this rating.
This is a problem. The IIC rating of a floor is based on its entire floor assembly combined. Asking for an IIC rating for a new hardwood floor product is like asking for the fuel economy rating of your all season tires. It does not make sense.
This is one example where a seemingly simple task can be riddled with red tape.
Our advice is for condo owners to discuss their renovation ideas with the condo board and property management team at the earliest moment in time. They would then effectively become part of the design process and may even assist with engineering drawings and the building's maintenance history. Inclusion is a good strategy when various parties must grant approval for a project.
In terms of design, the only real physical limits are based on what surrounds your suite. If there is a unit above and below your unit, then most likely the plumbing is lined up accordingly. Assuming you are in a concrete building, this would mean items like floor drains and toilets are cast into the floor and relocating such items would be at great cost and difficulty.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to message firstname.lastname@example.org