Modifying or Altering a Building’s Construction

Modifying or altering the construction documents is the process of altering the structure and content of a building. This can be done by changing the design, components, and/or materials of the building in some way to accomplish an objective and reason to use these architectural services. For instance, in order to add an attic, roof, or garage, construction documents are required to change the construction to include those additions. Similarly, in order to add a basement or workshop, basement plans and design development are required.

Construction documents for the purpose of modifying or altering the construction must comply with the building codes and should also be signed by a responsible person. If a sign is required, it should be clearly legible and available for inspection. The person who signs the document should be able to make a legally binding affirmation that the changes are being made.

Modifying or altering construction documents is not as simple as just revising the words in the construction documents. Rather, the modifications are done with a detailed plan and drawings using an architectural software and in different phases. In some cases, computerized tools are used to create the modifications. The process involves drafting changes to the building, using a computer program to create the changes, reviewing the changes, and signing the instrument. Modifications may be required if level ii alterations are needed due to changes in zoning regulations, building restrictions, or local custom requirements.


The objective of a modification is to make the building better for future use. In many cases, the purpose of a modification is to make a building comply with building codes that have been enacted to protect the public’s health and safety. Other purposes of level iii alterations and modifications include space planning, improving fire safety, making the building safer and more efficient, adding functionality, renewed spatial programming, or replacing a building with another that meets the needs and requirements better. In addition, some businesses make structural design and development changes to their facility after purchasing the property because they feel the existing structure doesn’t meet their needs and requirements. A legal expert can assist in providing advice concerning the legality of the changes.

The process begins with a notice of intent to modify. This notice of intent is sometimes referred to as an application for a change or an amendment to a construction plan. This is issued by the local governing body responsible for approving the schematic design plans. The local government serves as both the planning and the enforcement body for a specific area. Once the application has been filed with the appropriate governing authority, a meeting is scheduled to discuss the modifications and any issues that may arise during the course of the project.

Common Alterations

Modifying or altering a construction document involves more than just revising the concept design construction documents and getting the plans approved. Some of the common modifications include: replacing a floor, changing the layout of a room, changing the type of wall, adding a basement, extending the number of floors or rooms, or reconfiguring the use of a room. Each of these modifications requires written permission from the local governing body. Permission may be required based if it is a level i alteration and on whether the addition or change makes the current building legally compliant.

Because modifying or altering a building’s construction can affect the validity of a construction plan, it is often required that any legal modifications be submitted to the local zoning agency. Zoning is an important factor in determining whether a construction project is worth the expense and risks associated with it. In some cases, changes to a construction are necessary to ensure compliance with building rules or regulations. For example, many areas require certain minimum window size specifications for structures.


It is very important that when making modifications to a building that they fit with the overall style of the structure. This means that a new wing for example should not replace or add to the roof. Similarly, a basement extension shouldn’t extend into an existing bathroom. While each addition or change is going to affect the overall appearance of the building, the overriding concern is ensuring that it remains structurally sound and fits with the rest of the community. If changes aren’t carefully considered, the potential for costly remodeling or design error is high.