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What is Self-Certification?

2023 0518 Ideas Post
May 18, 2023
Emma Cline

The City of Chicago’s Department of Buildings offers a unique opportunity for Illinois licensed architects to become “Self-Certified”. This designation allows architects to self-certify their drawings, meaning they certify the drawings comply with the Chicago Building Code while also taking on the liability for compliance. Self-certified stamped drawings can bypass a lengthy review process and obtain permits faster. All projects are still reviewed for zoning compliance and receive a cursory review for obvious code violations by a city project manager. Permits going through the self-certification process are often obtained faster than projects going through a standard plan review.¹

To be eligible for this license, Illinois licensed architects must participate in a multi-day training class that is typically hosted once every other year.² This class covers a multitude of topics including the self-certification permit process, inspections, all things pertaining to the Chicago building code and regulations. Architect’s are also required to have held a license in the state of Illinois for three years before applying, and they are required to provide a list of 5 projects they have stamped and permitted with the city. If the applicant has not stamped a project yet, they must provide a list of 5 Chicago permitted projects that they had extensive involvement with. In this case, each project’s Architect of Record must sign off on the applicant's involvement with the project. Architects who hold this license are expected to have a deep understanding of the code, which allows them to quickly and accurately certify that their plans meet all requirements.

In addition to speeding up the permit process, architects with a Self-Certification License can save their clients time and money by editing out any aspects of the design that do not comply with the Chicago building and zoning codes which can create costly changes. By working with a self-certified architect, all architectural drawings are carefully reviewed for compliance on all aspects of the code sooner in the design process. This helps align initial bids with the final cost by eliminating unexpected changes to the design which can affect pricing and timing.

2023 0518 Ideas Post Diagram

Diagram of of permitting process for self-certified stamped drawings

It's important to note that this license doesn't give architects free reign to design whatever they want. They must still adhere to all building codes and regulations, and their plans can still be subject to inspection by the Department of Buildings if errors are found during the cursory review. But for projects that meet all requirements, having a Self-Certification Architecture License can be a huge advantage in terms of time and cost.

For more information on the self-certification process, please visit the city of Chicago’s Self-Certification Program website at You can find previous class PDFs, info on the next session, and a list of self-certified architects in the state of Illinois.

All diagrams and descriptors on the city permit processes are not exhaustive and for representational purposes only. For more information, please refer to the city of Chicago department of buildings website for further information.

¹ “After zoning is approved, self-certified permit applications are typically issued a permit within 10 business days if all contractor licenses are valid and there are no building violations or stop work orders on the property.”

² The Department offers training for new and renewing self-certification professionals in odd-numbered years.