Don’t change that occupancy

We recently consulted on a project involving a partial change in occupancy. The International Existing Building Code (2009) takes changes in occupancy quite seriously. Owners contemplating a project involving a change in occupancy should understand the life safety requirements changes require.
In this case, the building in question is a 1980s era mixed use building.

    Two stories above grade, boiler room below grade.
    4,000 square feet per story.
    Type V wood framed construction, unprotected
    Not sprinkled.
    First floor split evenly between retail and apartments.
    Retail separated from apartments by presumed one-hour construction.
    Second floor all apartments (4)
    This project would have converted the approximately 2,000 square feet of retail into apartments, bringing the apartment count to ten. Were this not a change in use, chapter 8 of the International Existing Building Code (IEBC) would have applied, and we would be able to limit our scope to the “work area” of 2,000 square feet. We recognized that by creating three apartments, we would need to sprinkle those apartments. If this were simply the renovation of existing apartments, our obligation to provide sprinkled apartments would be limited in that way. Chapter 8 of the IEBC is great in that regard: one can limit life safety upgrades to the area of work. That makes sense from a financial point of view. Building owners do not have to worry about upgrading an entire building when all they are really interested in is renovating part of a building.

The International Existing Building Code (2009) takes changes in occupancy quite seriously.

However, because this renovation involves a change in use, we are obligated to follow chapter 9 of the IEBC. To wit: “Where a portion of an existing building is changed to a new occupancy classification and that portion is not separated from the remainder of the building with fire barriers having a fire-resistance rating as required in the International Building Code for the separate occupancy, the entire building shall comply with all of the requirements of chapter 8 applied throughout the building…”
In this case, since the IBC requires two-hour separations between dwelling units or sprinklers, the IEBC is obligating the entire building be sprinkled. This requirement to perform life safety upgrades beyond the work area is a notable limitation on an owner’s ability to economically renovate a portion of a building when that renovation involves a change in use.

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Principal at Sealander Architects, Ellsworth Maine. Revit guru. Married with 3 children. Avid gardener. Lived in San Francisco for nine years. Master in Architecture from Columbia University Bachelor of arts in religious studies, Wesleyan University. Graduated Staples High School, Westport CT. Hope to spend some time in Hokkaido before all is said and done.