Alberta Building Code for commercial building permits
Before you start
This information assists business owners and contractors in understanding and implementing general Alberta Building Code requirements for commercial building permits. Commercial spaces must comply with the Land Use Bylaw, Government of Alberta safety codes (building, electrical, fire and plumbing and gas) to be used by a business. Businesses are responsible to ensure the rules and regulations of all provincial governing bodies that may be applicable to their business activities are followed, prior to using the space.
Business owners and contractors should consult with a design professional before financially committing to a location, as the cost to make necessary upgrades or changes to a building may be expensive. The City of Calgary does not determine who should perform or pay for any necessary upgrades between a tenant, building manager or landlord, but a business licence cannot be issued for a space that does not satisfy the requirements of the Alberta Building Code.
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Building permits may be required for a new business or a business changing ownership, even if there is no construction planned. This is to ensure it meets health and safety requirements, as the approvals may differ from the previous business in the location.
A business location may also require trade permits for plumbing, gas, electrical or mechanical work, applied for by a qualified trade contractor, to prepare the space for use. The types of trade permits required depends on the type of business, current conditions in the space, what you are proposing and what is required by applicable codes.
When is a building permit required?
A building permit is required when:
- The space has a new use (e.g. a retail store changes to a restaurant).
- Any construction is being done, including structural or partition wall changes, mechanical, plumbing, gas or electrical work.
- The mechanical equipment needs to be upgraded to meet building code, due to a change in use (e.g. car detailing to engine repair affects ventilation rates; using a forklift in a warehouse may require additional ventilation).
- You are the first tenant in a space.
- A health review is required: restaurants, daycares, pools, personal services (such as hair salons, massage centers, tattoos, nail salons).
- There is a change in kitchen or mechanical ventilation equipment or new equipment being installed.
- There is a change to the occupant load.
A building permit is generally not required when:
- The use and space remain unchanged (office to office or retail to retail).
- The scope is cosmetic (painting or furniture).
We’re committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.
A building permit for a minor tenant improvement may be issued within 21 business days, provided code requirements are met and all necessary documentation is provided in the application. The timeline of a permit application will increase if amendments or resubmissions are needed from the applicant. Refer to your project’s requirement list for detailed submission requirements.
Trade permits can be requested online and most will be issued the same day as the application. Mechanical trade permits for beauty salons, car washes, commercial kitchens, dry cleaning plants, dust collection, health clinics, locations with forklifts, service garages, smoking lounges (shisha), spray booths, and welding shops require mechanical plans to be submitted and examined by a safety codes officer. These types of trade permits are generally issued within a week from the date plans are received. Automatic fire extinguishing systems are reviewed on-site.
When applying for a building permit, the requirement list will indicate what you need to apply. Drawings need to be accurate, legible and contain necessary information on mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as details on washrooms, fire ratings and any other affected areas covered by the Alberta Building Code. Review the requirement list carefully to ensure all necessary items are included.
If additional assistance is required, consider hiring a professional familiar with the Alberta Building Code and your business requirements.
When would a professional architect or engineer be required?
An architect or professional engineer may be required to design and inspect your project for the intended location. Refer to the Alberta Building Code division c section 2.4.2 or talk to a consultant to determine if professional involvement is required. Where professional involvement is required, drawings submitted for your building permit application must be stamped by the designing professionals.
For projects that do not require professional involvement, consider consulting a design specialist if you are unable to produce acceptable plans for permit submission.
Can my location be used for my business?
Each business activity is associated with a building classification in the Alberta Building Code. Due to the complexities involved in interpreting classifications, a designer or architect should be engaged to do a building code analysis of the building and ensure the building is suitable for your business. The analysis will identify the building occupancy classification of the building and the rules related to that class.
Classification is determined by building size (footprint area and number of storeys), construction type (wood or concrete and steel), sprinkler installation and occupancy.
Depending on how the existing building is classified, changes and upgrades may be necessary to accommodate the proposed occupancy. The nature of these changes will vary according to the current building occupancy classification, size and number of storeys. For example, a building without sprinklers may be suitable for a retail store, but not suitable for a restaurant (due to the size, height and construction of the building).
Why is it important to know my building classification?
Your building code classification will assist your designer in ensuring your proposed construction meets the Alberta Building Code requirements. Building classification will assist with the design and construction, by helping to determine:
- Fire ratings of walls, floors, mezzanines and roofs
- Construction type (combustable or non-combustable)
- If sprinklers are required
Ensure your building classification is clearly indicated on your submitted plans. Providing this information reduces delays in your application review.
The Alberta Building Code also has specific sections to help determine:
- Design occupant load
- Washroom requirements
- Required exiting
- Fire alarm and detection requirements
Does my location have to be accessible?
Codes dealing with accessibilty, or barrier-free design, exist to allow proper and safe access to buildings and facilities for all people regardless of physical, sensory or developmental disabilties. Reasonable access to facilities is required to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to be active, independent and safe within the community.
The rules for barrier-free design are found in section 3.8 of the Alberta Building Code. To help explain this material the Alberta Safety Codes Council has produced a document titled barrier-free design guide to help explain the barrier-free requirements of the code.
The City of Calgary has accessibility standards, the Access Design Standards, that exceed those of the Alberta Building Code. Although only mandatory for City buildings, design and building professionals are encouraged to implement these standards in all projects constructed within Calgary. Learn more at Access Design Standards.
If you need clarification on specific barrier-free requirements or exceptions call 311.
What if the physical layout of the building makes it difficult to provide a barrier-free access and facilities?
Contact Alberta Municipal Affairs to see if they will consider a relaxation for your particular situation. Complete the Application for Relaxation of Required Facilities for the Disabled.
If you are constructing a new building or an addition (including second floors, mezzanines and additions to the existing building) to accommodate your business, you will need to comply with the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) or the Alberta Building Code section 9.36. Tenant improvements and minor renovations on buildings that were constructed to meet the energy code will require energy code compliance on renovations. Visit National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings for more information and how it may affect your business. To discuss NECB or 9.36 requirements, contact 311.
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