Building and Construction, Operations, V9I3

Engineer Drawings for Portable Structures

(Photo courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Most portable buildings on the market today are durable, well-built structures. 

After all, these buildings have to endure being dragged over gravel and rocks, hoisted by forklifts, pulled onto a delivery truck, and endure the bumps and bruises of traveling over 65 miles an hour over interstate highways. 

The building has to survive all of that before it ever gets to rest peacefully in a customer’s yard. 

Yet despite all the engineering you put into your buildings, there are times when you have to prove to the powers that be that your building is worthy of sitting at its final destination. This is often done through permits and getting engineers’ drawings made up.


Engineer drawings can be required for portable structures for safety and zoning compliance. 

Drawings ensure that the structure is safe and meets all relevant regulations. This is particularly important for structures that will be used by the public, as there is a higher risk of accidents and injuries.

Second, engineer drawings provide detailed information about the materials and construction methods that will be used to build the structure.

This information is important for ensuring that the structure will be able to withstand the forces that it will be subjected to, such as wind, rain, snow, and wildfires.

Engineer drawings provide a detailed record of the construction of the structure. This record can be used in the event of any issues or disputes that may arise in the future.

So, when do you actually have to worry about permits and drawings for your customers’ buildings? It really depends on where your customer wants the shed placed. Every local city, village, or county, depending on the jurisdiction, has its own set of rules or standards that apply. 

Here are some things to look out for that may trigger the need for permits and certified drawings:

The size of the structure. Many municipalities have a maximum size an accessory building can be before your customer needs to get a permit. This could be 120 square feet max or 200 square feet max. Anything above that could require a permit.

Will humans be living overnight in the structure? If so, you may want to do your due diligence before selling the building to make sure zoning allows for this. If a human will be living in the structure, local authorities will likely want drawings to make sure it is safe.

The building will be placed in a fire hazard area. This includes large portions of many Western states. Buildings become fuel for wildfires, and local authorities may want to know more about the likelihood of the building catching on fire and will want to know where the building is placed so fire crews can locate the building to protect your property or come rescue people inhabiting the building.

The building will be placed in a high snow area. Locations with high snow loads (think Cleveland and Buffalo) will likely want to ensure your structure can handle the heavy snow and not break your building. Too few trusses and roofs can cave in easily.

The building will be used for commercial purposes. If the general public will be using the building for business, that can trigger the need to have a permit and possibly drawings.


So, you have completed some due diligence and determined that a permit and drawings are required for your project. Where do you go to get drawings? 

You should hire an engineer or architect. Your local zoning office may be able to point you in the correct direction of a qualified engineer if you don’t know anybody locally.

Local regulations may include requirements for the size, height, and placement of the structure, as well as requirements for safety features such as emergency exits. 

It is important to ensure that your engineer drawings meet all these requirements before submitting them for review.

Once the drawings are complete, they will need to be submitted for review to the appropriate regulatory agency. This agency will review the drawings to ensure that they meet all applicable safety and regulatory requirements.

If the regulatory agency identifies any issues with the drawings, they will need to be revised and resubmitted. This process may need to be repeated several times until the drawings are approved. 

Once the drawings are approved, the engineer will provide you with a stamped copy of the drawings. This stamped copy is proof that the drawings have been registered and approved by the regulatory agency.


Engineer drawings can be an essential part of the process of building a portable structure, depending on the size, placement, and intended use of the structure. They ensure that the structure is safe and meets all applicable regulations. 

If you are building a portable structure, it is important to hire an engineer who specializes in this type of structure, review the local regulations, create detailed drawings, submit the drawings for review, and obtain a stamped copy of the approved drawings. 

By following these steps, you can ensure that your portable structure is safe and meets all applicable regulations.

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June/July 2024