Occupancy Classification in the International Building Code

  • Intermediate

The International Building Code is a code developed by the International Code Council and is in use throughout most of the regions in the United States. A major part of this code deals with fire prevention though the stress is more on the location of fire exits than on any fire prevention methods. The International Building Code has a number of chapters dealing with various subjects that include occupancy classifications, heights and areas, interior finishes, construction of foundations, walls and roofs, fire protection, construction materials, elevators and escalators, exits and entrances, and existing structures.

Building Occupation Classification in the International Building Code categorizes the buildings according to their usage and is also used to determine the building codes for each classification and for fire enforcement. Each classification would have its own building code and may be further subdivided into specific groups within each classification.

International Building Code Occupancy Classification

The broad classification for occupancy classification in the International Building Code is as follows:-

Group A or Assembly

These are buildings where people can gather for entertainment, worship, or eating. Buildings like churches, theatres, restaurants, stadiums, and community halls could come under this classification. Fire codes play a large part in the building codes for this classification and provision of proper egress and prevention equipment could predominate.

Group B or Business

These are generally buildings like banks, offices, government buildings and such places where there may be an assembly of lesser people than in buildings in Group A. Fire codes are less stringent but are mandatory, as well as stringent codes on materials that can be used in building.

Group E or Educational

This classification is for all educational institutions. The building codes would stress a lot on the safety aspect, ventilation, and other factors that could affect children.

Group F or Factories

This concerns all buildings that are in use for manufacturing processes or for repairs of products. Here stress would be on safety for the building and its surroundings.

Group H or High Hazard

Buildings that house the production of storage of hazardous chemicals, explosives, or toxic materials would come under this classification.

Group I or Institutional

This includes places like hospitals, nursing homes, or prisons where people are physically unable to leave without external assistance. Building codes for this classification would stress the safety aspect in case of fire or other calamities.

Group M or Mercantile

This would include buildings like supermarkets, department stores, and gas stations, where there is a large amount of public traffic as well as storage of goods.

Group R or Residential

This could include hotels and motels besides apartment buildings and houses. There would be a number of sub-classifications depending on the occupancy and nature of construction.

Group S or Storage

This would include all buildings whose main usage is storage and can include parking garages.

Group U or Utility

This classification would include water towers, barns, and other buildings which do not fit into the other classifications. Building codes for this classification would depend on the actual use that is being made of the building or structure.

Some buildings may be built with multiple occupancies in mind and would not fall into any of the above classifications. Such buildings would be classified as mixed occupancies and would have to follow the various building codes for each area of the occupancy depending on the usage. In such cases, each area would have to be separately designated and each of them would have to be segregated if the building or fire codes do specify such separation. Otherwise, the stricter code is considered applicable for the entire building and this could make a lot of difference to final costs.