OSE Special Event Building Permit Engineering Drawings

FAQ: Special event building permits in Ottawa

FAQ: Special event building permits in Ottawa

OSE Special Event Building Permit Engineering Drawings

In 2023, changes were introduced to our provincial building code for special events that may affect whether you’ll need a building permit for your outdoor event or festival. If you’re planning to host any kind of outdoor special event in Ottawa, it’s essential to understand what these changes mean so you can plan ahead and host a successful event without any red tape hassles or concerns.

We’ve already gotten a lot of questions from clients about these changes, so we wanted to share a bit more about what’s involved and how it will affect your events moving forward. We’ll stick with a simpler summary for this article, but the changes we’re talking about are amendments to Ontario Regulation 332/12 (the Building Code), if you want to dig into more detail.


What has changed?

The building regulations for outdoor special events have been expanded to apply to demountable stages and demountable structures.

The new rules state that any demountable stage or demountable support structure (see definitions below) that is built more than 3 metres (9.84 ft) off the ground now needs an event building permit from the City.


What are demountable stages and support structures?

Great question. There’s a long and technical definition in the regulation, but the simpler version is:

  • A demountable stage is a temporary structure that has one (or more) platforms PLUS a wall, roof, or other structures built on top of it.
  • A demountable support structure is any temporary structure (not necessarily a stage or platform) that can support event equipment such as banners, stage sets, props, or sound and lighting gear and signage.


What does that mean for my outdoor event or festival?

If you plan to use any medium- to large-sized mobile stages, platforms, or structures as part of your event — any platform higher than 3 metres (9.84 ft) and/or any structure higher than 5 metres (16.40 ft) — you will require a building permit.

Some examples of a stage requiring a building permit are SL100, SL250, SL260, SL320 and above. Here’s how they looked at some our our recent events:


K-Fest in 2023: SL320 stage


Capital Pride: SL260 stage


Barrhaven Canada Day: SL250 stage


Keep in mind that this doesn’t only apply to stages. Setting up something like a truss for hanging lights, which is very common in the events we produce, would also fall under these new regulations.


Are there any exceptions?

The only exception would be to use a smaller mobile stage or support structure that doesn’t exceed the height requirements in the regulations.

The good news is, our SL50 community size stage is just under the new building code requirement and does NOT require a building permit. (We’re actually the only company in the city with this stage in our inventory!)

By using our SL50, you will keep your costs lower, avoid the new building permit requirements, and still host a great event with the support of our design team.

Here’s what that stage looks like in the wild:


What are the penalties for non-compliant events?

The amended building code came into effect in March 2023. Now that the changes have been in effect for a year, we expect enforcement to be much stricter moving forward. 

If you fail to comply with the new regulations, your festival will likely be shut down. If you are the event organizer, that’s not a risk worth taking!


What’s the best way to make sure I’m following the rules?

One option is to work with the City of Ottawa directly to figure out whether you need a permit and how to apply for one. The City’s Event Planning Resources webpage and Event Guide is a good place to start — especially page 9 of the Event Guide, which covers the application process. Keep in mind that a building permit will take at least 90 days as it involves creating a site map, getting an engineer to review and stamp your plans, and submitting the permit to the City.

However, if you’d rather let someone else take care of it, you’re not alone!

We’ve already taken on stage productions this year that include dealing with building permits, and we’d be happy to help you, too. Not only does this take “wrangling red tape” off your to-do list, but we’ll also provide site map rendering and engineering reviews (like in the photo below) so you’re confident that your event is safe and the due diligence is well in hand. Reach out any time for more information — we’d love to chat.


What other permits will we need for our special event?

Every event is different, but common event permits include alcohol, noise, food, electrical, parking, merchandise and traffic or right-of-way permits. There’s a full list on the City of Ottawa website and in the City’s Event Guide.


Can OSE help us with permit applications?

Yes! We provide comprehensive services for building permit applications, including site map renders, engineering approvals, and submitting the application when you book a full event production with us.

While we don’t directly apply for other permits such as alcohol or noise, we can absolutely advise you on what you’ll need and how to obtain them as quickly and seamlessly as possible. In addition, we also provide a service where we will join you for the City’s SEAT (Special Events Advisory Team) meeting to review your event plan. We’ve built an excellent relationship with the SEAT department over the years thanks to our well-organized and compliance-oriented process. We’d be happy to work with you to ensure your SEAT meeting is a success and that all your bases are covered.

Contact us anytime if you have more questions!


Make some magic with your next event

Securing the right permits and making sure you’re running a safe and compliant event are only one part of your outdoor festival’s success. From sound and light production, to event design, interactive video, and logistics, it takes a lot to produce an event with an off-the-charts wow factor.

Our team of event alchemists can make it happen. You can learn more about our services here or contact us directly to book a free custom quote. Reach out today!

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About OSE

Optimal Show Experience is a multi-award winning event design and production company specializing in the art (and science!) of using sound, lighting and video to create immersive and one-of-a-kind live events.

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