Permitting in Chile
Following the recent addition of Latin America to our international insights map, we interviewed Office Head, Matías Menichetti, about his experience of permitting in Chile.
Q: How does permitting in Chile compare with the rest of Latin America?
A: In Latin America, construction permits are split into two categories depending on whether work is being carried out on the interior of a building or if significant structural work is required that affects the outer shell. Each country operates slightly differently but they all share this same principal.
Approval times are much shorter when dealing with interior projects as these don’t require a full construction permit. In Mexico, permits can be approved in as little as one week but in Peru and Chile, this can take anywhere up to 15 weeks. This is why it’s important to hire a permitting consultant (known locally as an Independent Architecture Reviewer), as they can help to reduce approval times by up to 50%.
Q: In your experience, do you feel that Chile is more or less bureaucratic than the rest of Latin America.
A: When it comes to permitting, Chile is one of the most bureaucratic countries in Latin America. There is a lot of paperwork involved and unlike other markets where you can submit applications electronically – in Chile, all permits, plans and documents must be printed, signed and issued in hard copy to the assigned municipal reviewer (even during the pandemic).
Pre-pandemic, the usual way to contact these reviewers was to call their office or visit them in person. Now, all communications are via email and this, paired with a lack of resources, slows down the process even more.
Q: Can you recall a particularly challenging permitting situation in Chile?
A: One of my first projects at Hyphen was an ice cream store in Santiago, and this involved modifying the design of the building’s façade. The challenge that we faced was that the building was owned by numerous landlords and every single one of them were required to agree to the new design. In the end, a committee was formed and once this happened, we were able to progress with the project.
Making any kind of changes to the exterior of a building can slow a project down significantly and it’s interesting to note that each municipality in Chile has its own specific rules regarding signage. As this is linked to advertising, it requires an entirely different kind of permit, so although this might not be at the top of your list of priorities on a project, it’s important to allow plenty of time for signage to be approved.