Site Analysis and Feasibility

Building and Site Selection Considerations

  • Is the site located in the community which the early learning facility serves?
  • Is the site accessible to target population? Can the site serve as a community hub?
  • Is the site accessible by public transportation and convenient for families and staff?
  • Are nearby traffic levels acceptable?
  • Is the site visible to passersby on foot or in vehicles?
  • Are adjacent businesses appropriate (e.g., no adult video stores, marijuana stores)?
  • Is there a history of crime or vandalism in the area?
  • Is the area suitable for evening events?
  • Is there access to utilities (e.g., electricity, sewer, water, gas, and phone)?
  • Will the site require heavy maintenance (e.g., topography, drainage, retaining walls, or geotechnical issues)?
  • Is the proposed use for the project permitted by zoning? For example, can you build the type of project you want on the site?
  • Is there adequate space for parking?
  • Are the soil conditions conducive to the project’s structural needs?
  • Is the size adequate, and can it accommodate future growth?
  • Is it structurally sound?
  • What is the condition of the roof, exterior walls, and windows?
  • What is the condition of all major systems (e.g., plumbing, electrical, and heating/ventilation)?
  • Is there proper drainage in the basement?
  • Can the seller or broker provide recent utility bills from all seasons?
  • Will projected energy costs be reasonable?
  • Has the building been checked for asbestos, lead paint, or other hazardous materials?
  • Are there appropriate fire exits?
  • Is the building American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant?
  • Is it a sustainably designed/green building or LEED-certified?
  • Can the space be easily reconfigured for early learning and administrative space?
  • What is the condition of adjacent and nearby properties?
  • Is a recent appraisal available?
  • Is the purchase price (or lease rate) reasonable and comparable to similar sites of similar age and quality?
  • Are the preliminary costs for improvements reasonable? Has your architect or project manager confirmed the costs?
  • What are the estimated maintenance costs?
  • Is the seller motivated to sell within your timeframe?
  • Is sufficient financing available to complete the transaction within the required timeframe?
  • Are there zoning restrictions? Will there be a need for zoning variances or lengthy hearings? Required setbacks? Legal easements or rights-of-way across the property? Prior title issues?
  • Are you permitted to display signage on the site?
  • Will building permits be available within the required timeframe?
  • Are there any political issues that would block approval of the site? Are the neighbors likely to support the project?

Site Analysis, Feasibility Study, and Plan Review

A Site Analysis and Feasibility Study is an assessment of a property during the early stages of project development to determine if the project is viable. This determination is based on many factors including the project goals, the project budget, site conditions, and applicable local zoning and building codes and regulations. It is usually conducted by a professional architectural firm or civil engineering firm.

A feasibility study will help you prioritize your needs and identify the strengths and weaknesses of a project. The study will identify a site’s available uses and any potential restrictions to the site’s use. Restrictions on the site’s use must be addressed through applications or certifications to local and state building and planning departments.

When DCYF receives a request to look at a building being considered for a licensed child care program, DCYF may schedule a feasibility visit to the building. A feasibility visit is an informal walkthrough of a building to determine if it is suitable for a child care facility. It is intended to identify barriers to the licensing process. For a center or school-age program, DCYF will invite the State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) to attend the feasibility visit.

A plan review is a formal review of floor plans for a proposed facility to provide guidance on meeting the physical requirements of a building planned for child care.

DCYF Resources for Site Analysis, Feasibility Studies, and Plan Reviews

Articles and Resources for Site Analysis and Feasibility Studies

Regulatory Considerations

Zoning is the way governments (city, county, and municipal) control the physical development of land through the land’s permitted and prohibited uses. Zoning classifications differ from place to place but typically include commercial, residential, industrial, and agricultural zones. Each zone classification is regulated by density, location, size, and type of buildings and land uses permitted. Most cities and counties in Washington State have zoning maps available online. You need to determine if your project’s location is zoned to permit an early learning facility. Start your search by going to your local city or county’s building and planning department. 

City and County Development Regulations and Zoning Codes are found on the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) website. MRSC Services is a non-profit assisting local governments better serve citizens by providing legal and policy guidance through consultants, training sessions, and extensive online resources.

A building permit is required when any structural change is made to an existing building or when any new construction is undertaken. Environmental permits may also be required depending on your location and project. Most local building and planning departments coordinate the regulation and permitting of construction and development projects. For permitting questions, it is best to start with your local building or planning department.

Find Your Local Building Official through the website of the Washington Association of Building Officials (WABO). Select the appropriate city or county from the drop down menu, then hit the search button for contact information.

ORIA was established to help citizens and businesses navigate Washington’s environmental and business regulatory systems.

  • ORIA’s Regulatory Handbook provides information about local, state, and federal permits, approvals, and licenses.
  • ORIA’s Land Use Permits provides information about zoning and environmental conditions impacting land use zoning and permitting.

ORIA’s Project Questionnaire is a tool developed by Department of Ecology to help determine what permits, approvals, and licenses you will need for your project?

Your project may need to be reviewed by The Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation (DAHP) and the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs (GOIA). In 2005, Governor’s Executive Order 05-05 was signed into law requiring capital projects using funds appropriated in the State’s Capital Budget to consider how the proposed project may impact significant cultural and historic places. The goal of the executive order is to proactively protect Washington’s rich history for future generations and to use taxpayer money wisely by avoiding the loss or destruction of historically significant sites, structures, and buildings.

If your project receives federal funding, the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106 may require a federal review of your project in consultation with other historic preservation offices and Tribal organizations. If your project acquires property, disturbs ground or involves structures more than 50 years old, contact DAHP staff at (360) 586-3065 to set up a project review meeting. See Governor’s Executive Order 05-05 Guidance for Capital Projects presentation.

If your project includes the renovation of a building built before 1978, you will need to comply with Washington State Department of Commerce’s Lead-Based Paint Program. Firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities, and schools must be certified by Commerce and use certified renovators who are trained by an approved training provider to follow lead-safe work practice. Abatement measures are designed to permanently eliminate lead-based paint hazards.

In 2005 the Washington State Legislature passed a law, RCW 39.35D, requiring public buildings to be built and renovated using “high performance” or “green building” standards to save money and reduce energy consumption. The legislation allows flexible methods and choices in how to achieve those standards. The legislation’s goal is for major capital facilities projects receiving state dollars be built to the LEED silver standards where “practicable.”

There are two exemptions to the requirement that ELF grant projects meet the LEED silver standard. The exemptions are based on characteristics of the facility or the characteristics of the project. See Department of Commerce’s 2019-2021 Early Learning Facilities (ELF) Eligible Organizations Program Grant Guidelines for details of the exemptions.

The LEED building principles offer the most savings when incorporated early in the design process. You are encouraged to talk with your architect early in the design process about LEED silver standards. The LEED rating system is run by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Fire and Life Safety Inspections

Inspections of child care facilities are completed by the State Fire Marshal Office (SFMO) upon request from DCYF licensing for a new child care license, changes to an existing license, or when DCYF licensing feels there has been a critical change or safety concern.

  • DCYF will not issue a license without an approved fire inspection from the SFMO.
  • Child care facilities will be inspected to the state adopted International Fire Codes.
  • Critical assessment inspections are unannounced.
  • Once a request for inspection is received from DCYF licensing, SFMO will schedule an inspection. An inspection document will be provided for both the initial and follow-up if a follow-up is required. If there is an appeal of the violations, WAC 212-12 outlines this process.

Fire and Life Safety Inspection Checklists