A commercial building is any building occupied only by commercial uses. A commercial space, or Business ‘B’ occupancy classification per BC 304 includes but is not limited to: public, civic, and professional offices; banks; service-oriented establishments such as dry cleaning/laundry or barber/beauty shops; ambulatory health care facilities; animal hospitals and kennels; educational occupancies for students above the 12th grade; nonproduction laboratories; public libraries; motor vehicle showrooms etc. Also, commercial buildings may include a building space used for any ‘Assembly’ occupancy classification for gathering of people with an occupant load of fewer than 75 persons, which is classified as Group B occupancy per BC 303.1.
Commercial buildings may also include incidental uses, which are ancillary functions associated with a given occupancy, such as mechanical rooms, and/or boiler rooms of a certain size that carry different levels of risk to that occupancy.
Alterations to a commercial building can be located in a Low Rise or High-Rise building depending on the building’s height. A Low-Rise building is a building below 75 feet, from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access. While a High Rise building is a building above 75 feet, from the lowest level of fire department vehicle access.
High-rise buildings are subject to special regulations in the Building Code (link for construction classification, elevators, egress and fire protection, and special regulations in the Zoning Resolution. There are several accessory uses associated with a new high-rise commercial building that may include parking, storage, meeting spaces and private offices.
An alteration work application always results in the issuance of a new or amended Certificate of Occupancy (CO). Alteration work in an existing building may include any combination of the following:
Vertical and Horizontal Enlargements. An addition to the floor area in an existing building
Conversions. An expansion of a use, or a new use in an area not previously used for such purpose. A conversion is a change of “use” as defined by the Zoning Resolution (ZR), and/or a change in the “occupancy classification” as defined in the Building Code (BC). A use or occupancy classification of a building is any purpose for which it is designed, arranged, maintained or occupied.
Egress Modifications. Any substantive change in the exiting width, length of travel distance, location, or occupancy load of exits, or any change in number of required exits in a building
Floor Area Reductions. A reduction to an existing building’s floor area that impacts the Certificate of Occupancy. For example, the complete elimination of one or more stories from a building, the demolition of a public assembly space on the top floor, etc.
Alteration work may include other remodeling/renovation projects in the scope of work, which are better described under the various Renovation Project Guidelines. Similarly, building systems such as new or modified plumbing, HVAC, or gas systems could be part of an Alteration Project and are better described under the various Building Systems Installation & Modifications Guidelines. An alteration project shall not be filed as a renovation project.
A mixed use building could contain any combination of two or more uses, while a ‘mixed building’ is a more narrowly defined term in ZR 12-10, and includes only residential and commercial uses. A Mixed Use building, with a primary commercial use could also contain any combination of the following uses: Residential, Manufacturing, and Institutional/Community Facility.
This guideline will primarily focus on commercial uses and will include portions pertaining to commercial and residential mixed buildings. Refer to Manufacturing and Institutional / Community Facility Alteration guidelines for additional requirements pertaining to those uses.
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