About the Building Division

COVID-19 Updates

Permitted construction is able to commence/recommence under the conditions that a sufficient Jobsite Hazard Analysis (JHA), Site Specific Safety Plan (SSSP), and other safety documentation with a particular focus on COVID safety in accordance with state and federal guidelines on COVID spread prevention is provided to and approved by ISD. All other pre-COVID conditions and requirements remain in full force and effect. 

Examples of a JHA and SSSP can be found in the ISD Contractor Safety Package available here.

Ensure a JHA and SSSP are uploaded to the General Contractor’s primary building permit in Citizenserve, or if there is none, to the individual permit application (i.e. Electric, Gas, or Plumbing permit):

Required measures for safety documentation include but are not limited to the following:

  • All workers on the site must wear clean face coverings, masks, or face shield which cover their nose and face, unless unable due to a medical condition or is otherwise exempted by Department of Public Health guidance.
  • A sign-in/sign-out log must be maintained for all persons on site (including deliveries).
  • Hand tools are not to be shared
  • Limit the number of people that reside in different locations traveling in the same vehicle
  • Sanitization procedures and handwashing availability
  • Social Distancing
  • Site Health Checks and/or Self-Health-Certification Checks prior to shift
  • Limiting individuals present at the time of inspection if practical

As an alternative to a physical sign in sheet as well as self-certification form, you can use an electronic version that will be logged with ISD available here.

There will be additional details provided if additional restrictions are mandated.

  • All restaurant establishments are limited to “Take Out” “Delivery”, and outdoor seating services

Outdoor seating service requires a license from the Somerville License Commission. Visit https://www.somervillema.gov/restaurantreopening for required steps and guidelines for applying and implementation

  • Grocery stores, convenience stores and “corner” stores are allowed to remain open provided they meet all applicable Somerville BOH, Governor, and Department of Public Health requirements
  • No non-prepackage self-service food is allowed for purchase i.e. salad bars, olive bars, etc.


The Building Division of the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) provides, permitting, plan review, inspections, and related services in order to ensure compliance with the Massachusetts State Building Code and Somerville Zoning Ordinance.

Responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing plans and issuing permits to homeowners, licensed contractors or architects
  • Conducting field inspections on building permits, certificates of occupancy, certificates of inspection, fire escapes, requests from homeowners and contractors
  • Responding to complaints received by homeowners, tenants or contractors to ensure a safe and clean environment
  • Representing the City of Somerville in court for violations of the Somerville Zoning Ordinance and/or State Regulations
  • Responding to emergencies as requested by the Somerville Fire Department
  • Coordinating with the Somerville Fire Department, Health Department, and the Department of Public Works
  • Registering and regulating newspaper boxes in the City
  • Building Permits

When is a Building Permit Required?

Anyone seeking to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, or demolish a structure or install a sign must first obtain a building permit at the Inspectional Services Division (ISD). Per Somerville Zoning Ordinance and Massachusetts State Building Code (780 C.M.R.), a building permit must be obtained before the start of any work and must be prominently displayed at the job site. Sign permits and demolition permits are categories of building permits, which are required by the Building Code. Follow this link for information about Demolition Permits.  A building permit signifies that the proposed use or structure is meeting zoning prerequisites (e.g.; setback, frontage, or minimum yard-size requirements) and the State Building Code. Ordinary repairs, as defined in the Building Code, such as painting and tiling, do not require a building permit. If you are unsure if you require a building permit or to schedule a preliminary meeting with a building inspector please call ISD at 617-625-6600 ext. 5600, or e-mail [email protected].

New Building Permit Issuance Policy (as of 10/1/2019)

As of October 1, 2019, any project that requires a poured foundation as part of the project construction will only be issued a foundation permit to begin construction. The project will only receive the full building permit after an as-built of the foundation work has been submitted and compliance with the approved plans is confirmed.

Any project that includes a poured foundation and has received a building permit, but has not had a foundation inspection will be required to submit a foundation as-built as part of the foundation inspection.

This does not alleviate the requirement that all required construction documents be submitted with a permit application; complete project plan set, all relative affidavits, all relative licenses, and insurance, etc.