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Following the model of the 2010 National Building Code of Canada, the newest version of the British Columbia Building Code has introduced a new occupancy classification.

In previous editions of the code, the Group B Division 2 (B2) occupancy classification included both treatment and care types of health care. The new Group B Division 3 (B3) care classification addresses occupancies such as assisted living and other managed health care that does not include acute treatment. The acute treatment type of building use (for example, a hospital) is still classified as B2 occupancy.

The B3 occupancy, by definition, includes a facility where services are provided to support cognitive, physical or behavioural limitations. It includes assisted living facilities, hospices (without treatment), respite centres, facilities for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, and child care facilities for very young children. The need for these facilities has increased in the past several years as the general population has aged.

Key features of the new B3 occupancy include:

  • Buildings must be protected with fire sprinklers;
  • A three-quarter hour or one hour suite separation fire-resistance rating;
  • Smoke alarms are required in bedrooms and suites;
  • A maximum of six metre dead end common corridors are permitted,
  • Floors must be carved up into maximum 1,000 square metre fire compartments with a one hour fires-resistance rating;
  • Corridors are a minimum of 1,650 millimetres in width, if there is no patient movement in beds;
  • Doors must provide 850 millimetres of clear, unobstructed width;
  • An 18.4 millimeters per person exit capacity factor; and
  • Single stage fire alarm system is permitted for a building not exceeding three-storeys; otherwise, a two stage fire alarm system is required.

The increased allowances for combustible construction will give rise to conversions of smaller combustible buildings into updated facilities for B3 use – an option that had limited possibilities under the previous edition of the B.C. Building Code.

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