BCAB #1779 - Building Code Application to a Change of Occupancy in an Existing Building

February 18, 2016

BCAB #1779

Re: Building Code Application to a Change of Occupancy in an Existing Building, Sentence of Division A

Project Description

The subject is an existing building that was constructed in 2011 as an “Agricultural Building/Barn” under Part 9 of the BC Building Code. The accompanying permit plans approved by the local authority were noted as “Not to be used for habitation – Farm use only.”

The building is a timber frame structure with three storeys. Contrary to the original described use of the building, the first storey of the building has been used as an assembly hall primarily for weddings, and the second and third storeys for  (short term) residential use . There have been some further unsanctioned construction/modifications to the building to accommodate these uses.

After enforcement action by the local authority there is agreement between the building official and the owner that there is a change of occupancy from the initial “agricultural building” to an assembly (A2) and residential (C) type occupancy.

Reason for Appeal

The local authority is requiring a detailed analysis by a registered professional to identify the building’s deficiencies with respect to Part 3 of the Building Code for the assembly and residential uses. It is also being requested that proposals be made to correct the identified deficiencies, either by using acceptable or alternative solutions of the Code.

An initial code analysis previously submitted was considered inadequate and not acceptable by the local authority. 

There is a disagreement between the parties as to the extent to which the requirements of the BC Building Code are applicable to the building.

Appellant's Position

The appellant considers the subject to be an existing building and that the upgrading proposed for the change of occupancy should be based on Sentence of Division A.  This Sentence indicates where there is a change of occupancy in an existing building the level of life safety and building performance shall not be decreased below a level that already exists. The appellant notes that the appendix [A-] identifies that when applying the code to an existing building, certain requirements may be relaxed. Although there is additional upgrading being proposed due to the change of occupancy, the appellant considers the requirement of the Building Code in terms of the application of Part 3 to existing buildings has been met; as the level of safety and building performance is not being decreased below the level that already exists.

Local Authority’s Position

The building official maintains that the proposed upgrading to the building to accommodate the change of occupancy does not comply with several of the code’s requirements, including but not limited to the type of construction, fire resistance rating of assemblies, fire alarm systems, sprinklers, water for fire-fighting, fire department access, release hardware on exit doors, and accessibility for persons with disabilities The building official is requiring that all compliance issues be addressed, as the current proposed scope of work does not meet the Code’s requirements and does not constitute an acceptable level of life safety and building performance.

Appeal Board Decision #1779

It is the determination of the Board to confirm the decision of the building official which:

  • considers that the code analysis submitted does not provide a complete analysis and does not adequately identify the work needed to bring the building in compliance with the code due to the change of occupancy,
  • requires a complete and detailed code analysis for the proposed uses, identifying all non-compliance with Part 3 of the Code, and
  • requires a proposal for the correction of all code compliance issues related to the changes in use and occupancy, through either the prescriptive requirements of the code or alternative solution proposals for the approval of the local authority.

Reason for Decision

  • The BC Building Code does not provide comprehensive guidance in its application to existing buildings undergoing a change of use or occupancy. However, the Code does establish the fundamental in Clause (c) Division A that the Code applies to the change of occupancy of any building. (Change of occupancy is primarily related to existing buildings.)
  • Sentence Division C states: “Sufficient information shall be provided to show that the proposed work will conform to this Code and whether or not it may effect adjacent property.”
  • The Board does not consider Article Division A, “Application to Existing Buildings”, to supersede and negate other Building Code requirements. Rather, the Article is a supplementary Code requirement specifically for existing buildings. 
  • Appendix note A- states:  “Code application to existing or relocated buildings requires careful consideration of the level of safety needed for that building. This consideration involves an analytical process similar to that required to assess alternative design proposals for new construction.” The Board considers the requests of the Building Official are reasonable in order to facilitate this type of analysis.
  • The Board acknowledges the potential impracticality of applying all Code requirements to an existing building. Appendix  note A- states: “The degree to which any particular requirement can be relaxed without affecting the intended level of safety of the Code requires considerable judgment on the part of both the designer and the authority having jurisdiction.” The Board considers the comprehensive Code analysis requested by the local authority is a necessary pre-requisite in order to consider relaxations.

Lyle Kuhnert, Chair, Building Code Appeal Board