Plan Review for School, Essential Services Construction Projects
DSA reviews plans for public K–12 schools, community colleges and certain other state funded building projects to ensure that plans, specifications, and construction comply with California's building codes (Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations). DSA's plan review is comprised of four disciplines:
DSA provides access compliance services to ensure that public schools and state-funded construction projects meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. More information is located on the Accessibility Plan Review webpage.
Fire and Life Safety
DSA's Fire and Life Safety program addresses the safety of occupants in buildings, as well as property protection related to fire-resistive building materials, fire alarms, fire suppression equipment, safe occupant egress, and firefighting equipment access. More information is located on the Fire and Life Safety Plan Review webpage.
One of DSA's primary roles is the structural safety review of public schools and state essential services buildings to ensure that the facilities meet the high standards set in the Field Act and Essential Services Building Seismic Safety Act to withstand earthquakes. More information is located on the Structural Safety Plan Review webpage.
DSA reviews projects for compliance with applicable California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) requirements for sustainability, and the Energy Code. More information is located on the Sustainability Plan Review webpage.
To continue learning about DSA plan review and oversight, visit the following pages:
- Construction Project Submittal for School, Essential Services Construction Projects
- Construction Oversight for School, Essential Services Construction Projects
- Project Certification for School, Essential Services Construction Projects
Information on how to complete your project is on the Certify Construction Projects for School, Essential Services Facilities webpage.
How do I communicate with DSA regarding a specific project?
DSA identifies each project with a file and application number. To expedite processing, all correspondence to DSA must include the file and application number in the upper right hand corner of the document. The file number identifies the County and the school district where the project is located and the application number identifies the DSA Regional Office and the project number assigned to the project.
The File Number consists of two parts:
- The County number (two digits identifying one of California's 58 Counties),
- Followed by a school district number. The school district number may be one, two or three digits. High School districts numbers are preceded by the letter 'H' and Community College district numbers are preceded by the letter 'C'. DSA uses the file number to quickly route documents to appropriate staff for processing.
Example File Numbers
34-53 indicates that the project is in Sacramento County (County 34) and that it is in the Sacramento City School District (school district 53),
19-H10 indicates a project in Los Angeles County for the El Monte Union High School District.
The Application Number also consists of two parts.
1.Two digits, which identify the DSA Regional Office where the project was submitted,
- 01 Oakland
- 02 Sacramento
- 03 Los Angeles
- 04 San Diego
See the California DSA Regions Map to find the geographic regions served by each regional office.
2.Followed by a six digit "project number" which is number assigned sequentially by the DSA Regional Office to identify each project submitted to that office.
Example Application Numbers:
- 02-100627 indicates the 627th project submitted to the Sacramento Regional Office,
- 01-101234 indicates the 1,234th project submitted to the Oakland Regional Office,
- 03-101234 indicates the 1,234th project submitted to the Los Angeles Regional Office. Note that this application number differs from the preceding only in the two digit "Regional Office Identifier."
I have a minor construction project; does it require DSA review?
In general all construction projects on school sites require review and approval by DSA. Title 24, Part 1 describes types of projects that do and do not require DSA review and approval in Sections 4-306, 4-308, 4-309, 4-310 and 4-314.
See the About Us webpage for further DSA Jurisdiction information.
The following is a list of common structures that do not require DSA approval (See IR A-10 and IR A-22 for details):
- One-story buildings not over 250 square feet in floor area when used exclusively as accessory facilities to athletic fields (equipment storage, toilets, snack bars, ticket booths, etc.).
- Greenhouses, barns, and storage sheds used exclusively for plants or animals and not used for classroom instruction (small groups of pupils or teachers may enter these structures for short periods of time).
- Light poles or flagpoles less than 35 feet tall.
- Antenna towers less than 35 feet tall or less than 25 feet above a building roofline.
- Retaining walls less than 4 feet above the top of foundations and not supporting a surcharge.
- Concrete or masonry fences less than 6 feet above adjacent grade.
- Ball walls or yard walls less than 6 feet above adjacent grade.
- Signs, scoreboards or solid-clad fences less than 8 feet above adjacent grade.
- Bleachers and grandstands with five rows of seats or less.
- Playground equipment, open-mesh fences and baseball backstops.
- 'Temporary-use' buildings on community college sites used for less than three years.
- 'Trailer Coaches' that conform to the requirements of Part 2 (commencing with section 18000) of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code, not greater than 16 feet in width and used for special education purposes for no more than 12 pupils at a time (or 20 pupils for driver training purposes).
Where do I submit my project for plan review?
DSA has Regional Offices in Oakland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego (see Contact webpage).
How many buildings may be included in the scope of a single application?
Any number of buildings may be included in a single application. In general all buildings must be on the same site and built under the same contract. Districts may also submit projects "incrementally" so that initial increments of the project can be submitted and reviewed while the design of subsequent increments is proceeding.
How many different sites may be included in the scope of a single application?
Projects submitted to DSA for review shall be limited in scope to construction on a single site only. Applications for multiple “various” sites will not be accepted. Please refer to: DSA Bulletin BU 13-02: Project Definition Limited to Construction on a Single Site, effective July 1, 2013.
How many different construction contracts may be included in a single application?
Although DSA does not limit the number of contracts that may be executed under a single application number, it should be noted that multi-prime projects are generally more difficult to administer and to inspect than traditional single-prime projects (where a general contractor is responsible for all subcontractors). Additional inspection time should be allocated and additional construction review by the design professional should be anticipated to deal with an increased number of change orders. These costs are in addition to any construction management costs. (It should also be noted that construction management costs are considered a part of the construction cost for the purpose of DSA fee calculations. See IR A-23 and IR A-24.)
Can a single construction contract include work that is included in a DSA application as well as work that is not?
While DSA rules allow this to occur, it is a confusing situation for all parties, especially the contractor and the inspector. For example, when changes are necessary, the changes that apply to the DSA application work must be processed through DSA for approval. However, when the work is not a part of the DSA application, it would not require DSA approval. It may not always be clear whether a particular issue is a part of the DSA portion of the contract or not. It is recommended that separate contracts be written in this situation if possible.
How long will it take to review my project?
Project review time depends on the size of the project and the number of projects pending review at DSA. For other project, you may contact the DSA Regional Office for a detailed estimate.
Projects involving only pre-approved relocatable buildings may be reviewed "over-the-counter." An appointment is required so call early. The plan review process is generally competed within a day.
How do I schedule an "Over the Counter" appointment for a relocatable project?
Simply call the regional office with jurisdiction for the project site and schedule an appointment. See DSA Policy PL 07-02 for information on OTC and setting up an appointment with a Regional Office.
How can I obtain plans for an existing school building?
DSA maintains records for all school construction projects in California since 1933. If you know the file and/or application number for the project, call the business section supervisor at the DSA regional office with jurisdiction over the area where the project is located. Ask that the plans for the project be retrieved from archives. If you cannot find the application number for the project, DSA can assist you if you provide the name of the school, the school district, the county and city where the project is located, the date of construction, and a description of the scope of the project.
Please allow at least two weeks for retrieval (in an emergency, plans may be retrieved more quickly). Plans may be viewed at the DSA regional office or you may contract with a local blueprinting company to have the drawings picked up, photocopied, and returned to DSA. Record plans are released only to local, recognized blueprint companies.
How can I track the progress of my project through the plan review process?
Go to Project Tracking to obtain project status information. You will need your project's application number. You can see the anticipated start date for your project, the plan reviewer's name(s), the approval date and other useful information. If more detailed information is required, please call the plan review supervisor at your DSA Regional Office.
How do I schedule a "back-check" appointment?
Call the structural plan reviewer who reviewed your project. The reviewer's name and phone number are marked on the first page of your marked-up check set.
Be sure to make all corrections and coordinate all drawings and all specifications before the back-check meeting. Your reproducible drawings will be stamped by DSA at the conclusion of the meeting. Bring all drawings and specifications with all required signatures. Don't forget to bring all marked-up check sets and any additional calculations or substantiating data that may be required to address the plan review comments.
What do I do if I need to change the DSA approved drawings before a construction contract has been awarded?
All changes to DSA approved documents must be approved by DSA. Prior to the award of a construction contract, changes are implemented by means of Revision; or, if the project is out to bid, by means of addenda. All addenda must be written, and signed, by the architect (or engineer) in general responsible charge of the project. The architect (or engineer) then submits signed addenda to DSA for review and approval.
What do I do if I need to change the DSA approved drawings during construction?
Changes to DSA approved documents are subject to approval by DSA. After a contract has been awarded, changes are typically made by change order. Change orders must be written, and signed, by the architect (or engineer) in general responsible charge of the project. They must also be signed by the school district. The architect (or engineer) then submits them to DSA for review and approval.
To facilitate changes during construction, DSA will review preliminary change orders (including Construction Change Directives, Architects Supplemental Instructions, Field Orders and other similar documents). DSA will transmit stamped copies of acceptable preliminary change orders back to the architect on an expedited basis. This allows changes to be quickly approved on a same-day basis under ideal circumstances.
How do I identify construction cost or contract changes?
Project construction costs are estimated by the school district/client prior to their submission of the projects application package to DSA─which includes the form DSA 1: Application for Approval of Plans and Specifications, plans and specifications, structural design calculations, site data and application fee. This fee supports DSA plan review and field oversight activities and is calculated based on this estimated construction cost. In the event that the estimated construction cost changes, DSA must be advised and adjustments may be required as follows:
- An increase in construction cost of 30% or more, prior to DSA project approval, requires recalculation of the DSA application fee and this additional fee must be collected prior to DSA proceeding with plan review work.
- An increase in actual construction cost by more than 5% above the estimated construction cost is referred to as a “further fee” and must be collected prior to DSA’s issuance of final certification of the project.
- A decrease in construction cost in excess of 30% of the estimated construction cost will justify the client claiming a refund of overpaid fees within six months from the date of billing.
DSA fee corrections are typically reconciled at the completion of construction with the school district/client submitting their final verified report (via form DSA 168: Statement of Final Actual Project Cost) during the final stages of project certification. This form serves as documentation of the final actual project cost and is used to determine if any further fee or overpaid fee adjustments are appropriate. Itemization of separate contract costs is not required.
The DSA 1: Application for Approval of Plans and Specifications is required to start the plan review process. Please see the Introduction to DSA Project Submittal and Review section of the DSA website for descriptions of how to submit an application form, what to expect during the plan review process, checklists for a complete submittal, etc.
Letter that DSA issues upon completion of the plan review process to inform the school district that code requirements pertaining to the design and review of documents have been completed. The Education Code requires that this letter be issued prior to entering into any construction contract and/or prior to the start of any construction.
Approved Drawings and Specifications
Drawings and specifications bearing a DSA identification stamp with initials and date filled-in by the DSA plan reviewer. Note that only the signature page of the specification manual is stamped, initialed, and dated. Pages may only be added, deleted, or modified by DSA approved addenda or change order.
Face-to-face meeting held, at DSA Regional Office, after all corrections have been made to drawings and specifications. This meeting is scheduled between the DSA plan reviewer and the project architect. The DSA plan reviewers verify that all corrections have been made (minor changes are often required and may be made to the drawings during the back check meeting). The DSA plan reviewers add their initials to the identification stamp on each drawing and the signature page of the specification manual(s).
A set of drawings and specifications that have been reviewed by DSA and marked-up to indicate where corrections or clarifications are required. Upon completion of plan review, three marked up "Check Sets" are returned to the architect for correction: one for structural, one for accessibility, and one for fire/life safety. After all corrections are made, the architect brings corrected drawings and all three check sets in to the DSA regional office for "back check."
Delegation of Responsibility
The individual in general responsible charge of a project may delegate responsibility for a portion of the project to another architect or engineer. The most common portions of a project delegated to consultants are structural, mechanical, and electrical work. Other portions of a project may be delegated; however, the scope of each portion would have to be carefully defined.
Note that the individual in general responsible charge of the project retains responsibility for the entire project. The responsibilities of the individual in general responsible charge, and of the individuals to whom responsibility has been delegated, are defined in Section 4-316 and 4-341 of Title 24, Part 1.
Note that when design responsibility for a portion of the work has been delegated, the construction observation responsibility for that portion of work must also be delegated to the same individual.
Common delegations shall be shown on form DSA 1. Other delegations, not listed on the DSA-1, shall be reported on the form DSA 1-DEL and submitted with the Application form. A separate form must be completed for each individual to whom a portion of the work is to be delegated.
Documents Required List
A list of all documents required to be submitted to DSA for a project. The list is created during plan review and updated during construction. Upon completion of the project, the Documents Required List includes all documents necessary for DSA to certify the construction. See form DSA 3.
A clearly defined building or similar distinct unit (examples: sitework, relocatable buildings, grandstands). Increments must be defined so that the scope of work included in the increment will be complete and code compliant even if other increments are not constructed. In general, portions of buildings such as "foundations" or "walls" may not be defined as separate increments.
Incremental Submittal Process
Many projects are completely designed and drafted prior to submission to DSA for plan review. DSA may accept a package of plans and specifications for a portion (or "increment") of the entire scope of the project so that plan review can start on that increment. This process is referred to as the "Incremental Submittal Process" and is acceptable as described in IR A-11.
A complete set of approved drawings and specifications retained by DSA in an electronic format. See PL 18-02.
Separate Assignment of "General Responsible Charge" for Parts of a Project
Most projects are designed and constructed under the "general responsible charge" of one person. When projects include structures that are designed and coordinated by a different individual, Title 24, Part 1, Section 4-316(a) allows for the assignment of general responsible charge to another individual. For example, an architect may design one building for a school while a separate architect designs another building. As long as it is clearly defined which architect is responsible for which aspects of the project (including sitework), the code allows both buildings to be submitted as part of the same project.
Historically, an "identification stamp" was placed on each drawing, and the signature sheet of the specification manual, by DSA to indicate that drawings and specifications had been reviewed and found to comply with the Building Code. Today, an image of the DSA identification stamp is generally included on the drawings by the designer prior to submission to DSA. After DSA checks the drawings and specifications, the plan reviewer adds his or her initials and date to the identification stamp. Documents that have been initialed and dated by the DSA plan reviewer are referred to as "Stamped Out." Note that a construction contract cannot be let until an "Approval Letter" is obtained from DSA (see below).
T & I List
A list of the structural materials tests and special inspections required for a project. Note that this list is a brief summary; the precise definition of the specific requirements must be included in the specifications or on the drawings. See form DSA 103.
- GL 3: Structural Plan Review (PDF)
- GL 4: Project Submittal Guideline for CALGreen Code (PDF)
- IR A-6: Construction Change Document Submittal and Approval Process (PDF)
- PL 07-02: Over-The-Counter Review of Projects Using Pre-Check Approved Designs (PDF)
- PL 18-02: Record Sets of DSA-Approved Construction Documents (PDF)
- PR 18-04.BB17: Electronic Plan Review for Design Professionals of Record Using Bluebeam 2017 (PDF)
- PR 18-04.BB18: Electronic Plan Review for Design Professionals of Record Using Bluebeam 2018 (PDF)
- PR 18-05: Electronic Plan Review for Consultant Plan Reviewer (PDF)
- PR 18-09.BB17: Electronic Plan Review for Over-the-Counter (OTC) Projects Using Bluebeam 2017 (PDF)
- PR 18-09.BB18: Electronic Plan Review for Over-the-Counter (OTC) Projects Using Bluebeam 2018 (PDF)
- Structural Plan Review Reminder List (PDF)
- Example Statement of General Conformance and Signature Block per IR A-18 (PDF)
- Project Certification Guide - Revised Edition (PDF)
- Exception to the Independent Entity Evaluation and Product Approval of Detectable Warnings and Directional Surfaces (PDF) Revised 04/09/08
- Modernization Plan Submittal Checklist: Access & Fire and Life Safety (XLS) Worksheet Prepared by OPSC
- Adaptive Re-Use: An Option For California's Schools - Archived 02/02/18; available on request for historical reference.
- Rehabilitation of Nonconforming Buildings for Public School & California Community College Use - Archived 02/02/18; available on request for historical reference.
- SEAOC 2012 Convention Proceedings: Navigating the Building Code Requirements for the Seismic Rehabilitation of Schools in California (PDF)
Seismic Mitigation (Proposition 1D)
- PR 08-03: School Facility Program/Seismic Mitigation Program (PDF)
- Eligibility Evaluation Report Template (DOC)
- DSA 4: Application for Review of Eligibility Evaluation Report for the Seismic Mitigation Program (PDF)
- DSA 1-REH: Pre-Application for Approval of a Rehabilitation Project Evaluation and Design Criteria Report (PDF)
- Seismic Mitigation Program: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) (PDF)
- Seismic Mitigation Program Outreach Event - September 29, 2011 [Click on "Instructional Tools: 2006 - 2012" tab and scroll down; documents maintained by the Office of Public School Construction]
DSA Sacramento Regional Office
1102 Q Street, Suite 5200
Sacramento, CA 95811
DSA Oakland Regional Office
1515 Clay Street, Suite 1201
Oakland, CA 94612
DSA Los Angeles Basin Regional Office
700 N. Alameda Street, Suite 5-500
Los Angeles, CA 90012
DSA San Diego Regional Office
10920 Via Frontera, Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92127