How to Get it Started: What ‘Use’ is Your Space?

This page will help a person begin to understand the importance of realizing the classification of his space by way of a building code analysis of the intended use of his space.

Before building codes, there was always an extreme potential for fire, property damage and loss of life. With building codes in place, (and apart from the work of special interest groups to sway the direction of the codes in a particular direction) the primary goal is protection from fire, property damage and loss of life through insuring that uses of spaces meet certain requirements based on the use.

So, the Next thing you will need to have a good handle on is the type of use for your space (BTW, ‘space’ here is not a reference to ‘the final frontier’, but rather it is the location / area that will encompass your work). Every space has a use, and by use, I would define it as the primary activity or behavior that will be occurring in the space. The ‘use’ is described in the codes as the ‘occupancy group’ and is described by the building code in the following ways:

  • Group A – Assembly (Including A-1, A-2, A-3, A-4 & A-5)
  • Group B – Business
  • Group C – Organized Camps
  • Group E – Educational
  • Group F – Factory & Industrial (F-1, F-2)
  • Group H – High Hazard (H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, H-5)
  • Group I – Institutional (I-1, I-2, I-3, I-4)
  • Group L – Laboratory
  • Group M – Mercantile
  • Group R – Residential (R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4)
  • Group S – Storage (S-1, S-2)
  • Group U – Utility and Miscellaneous

The building codes are effective because they recognize that disparity exists between things that people do; more protection of the occupants should be afforded to people who work with more hazardous or ‘life threatening’ materials or methods of doing things. So, as an example, if a person is painting with highly combustible paints, the requirements for the walls of the building will be different than if a person is using the space to exercise.

There can be a variety of uses within the same building. As an example, one could have an assembly space, such as a church, with offices that are adjacent to it. In this situation, the assembly space would be considered to have an occupancy Group classification of ‘A’ and the offices one of ‘B’.

Because of the variety of things that people can do, there are a variety of Occupancy Groups. Some of these groups are more restrictive than others, such as a house vs. a senior care center where elderly people live who need additional care… the relative degrees of helplessness of the individuals are used to designated the occupancy group and thereby dictate the applicable codes.

(Note: If you have found the information here helpful and would like to purchase a copy of the building code for yourself through one of our affiliate links, where no charge is added to your bill, but we receive a small commission from Amazon, you can click on this link: 2013 California Building Code, Title 24 Part 2 (2 volumes – includes parts 8 & 10)).

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