BCAB #1395 - Occupancy Classification of Automobile Sales Area, Article

May 17, 1995

BCAB #1395

Re: Occupancy Classification of Automobile Sales Area, Article

Project Description

The project in question is a new automobile dealership. The building is one storey in building height and 663 m2 in building area. The auto display area, offices and service reception/parts sales are separated from the service area by a 2 hr fire separation.

Reason for Appeal

Article requires every building or part thereof to be classified according to its major occupancy as belonging to one of the groups or divisions in Table 3.1.2.A. Table A-3.1.2.A. in Appendix A gives examples of the occupancies listed in Table 3.1.2.A.

Appellant's Position

After reviewing the examples in Table A-3.1.2.A. the appellant considered three possible occupancies for the sales/showroom portion of the dealership, Group E - Stores, Group F Division 2 - Salesroom and Group F Division 3 - Salesroom. Group E was eliminated because the showroom does not function as a store, having only 4 or 5 cars on display rather than stacks of merchandise, and the occupant load is normally much lower than department stores and supermarkets used as examples of Group E occupancies. The risk to life safety was not considered comparable to example Group E occupancies. Group F Division 2 was rejected for similar reasons based on examples in Table A- such as box factories, electrical stations, laboratories and repair garages. The salesrooms of these facilities would have much higher fire hazards than an auto showroom.

The appellant settled on Group F Division 3 based on the showroom's similarity to the hazard level of Table A-3.1.2.A. examples such as storage garages, sample display rooms and low hazard laboratories. The showroom was considered very similar to a storage garage but with a lower fire hazard because there would be fewer cars, less fuel in the tanks and far less movement of the cars.

Building Official's Position

The building official maintains that the correct classification is Group F Division 2 or Group E. The definition of Group F Division 2, medium hazard industrial, refers to the " combustible content of floor area" and because the service bays are not separated from the showroom by a firewall, which would put them in a separate building, the whole building is classified as Group F Division 2 based on repair garages being listed as an example of such an occupancy. Although the building could be classified as a Group E occupancy with the service area being ancillary, the Group F Division 2 occupancy with the sales area being ancillary is an acceptable alternative.

Considering the various complimentary uses in the building and the difficulty in adequately controlling the low fire and occupant loads necessary for a Group F Division 3 classification the building official considers Group F Division 2 to be the appropriate classification.

Appeal Board Decision #1395

It is the determination of the Board that the automotive showroom in question should be classified as Group E, mercantile.

George R. Humphrey, Chair