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Regulating Building Projections

5th Street

Washington, DC’s allowances for building projections into the public-right-of-way are the most generous of any municipality in North America. Because building projection regulations are in DCMR 12: Construction Code and in areas regulated as public space, they require permits from both the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the Department of Transportation (DDOT). More information on DCRA’s permitting process can be found here and more information on DDOT’s public space permitting process can be found here. The Office of Planning (OP), as well as other District and Federal agencies, review building projections through processes administered by DCRA and DDOT.


The construction code allows waivers from limits on building projections for requests to embellish a building (DCMR 12A-3202.4). The construction code does not define “embellish”, and Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines it as, “to decorate or improve by adding detail; ornament; adorn.” This definition is consistent with how the city has permitted and regulated projections and is supported by the four characteristics traditionally found in DC’s building projections. OP refers to these characteristics as part of their review of projection code waiver applications:


1. Vertical Expression;

2. Building Articulation;

3. Secondary Embellishment; and,

4. Activation of Public Space.


Variances from projection allowances are requested through DCRA’s construction code modification process, and more information on that process can be found here  Prior to DCRA making a final determination on the application, requests for a modification from projection allowances are forwarded to OP and DDOT for their review and recommendation. OP or DDOT may determine that the application requires additional review by the Public Space Committee, a public space permit review process administered by DDOT. More information on the Public Space Committee can be found here and information their review process can be found here.


For More Information:

Introduction to Building Projections in Washington, DC
Intent and Impact of Projection Regulations in the District of Columbia 
Additional Resources