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Feb 21, 2022

Welcome to episode 29 of the solocast of Fire Code Tech! This week we are talking about assembly occupancies. What are some common definitions and examples of assembly occupancies? How many different types of assembly occupancies are there in the international building code? Are there some important fire protection technology thresholds for assembly occupancies? We answer all these question and more in this week’s episode of FCT!



Hello. Welcome to the solo cast of fire code tech in these episodes. It's just gonna be me, your host, Gus Gagliardi. There's gonna be a range of topics, but I'm gonna talk about specific technologies, installation, standards, codes, and how they work as well as some other interesting topics that don't neatly fit inside of the context of a normal interview.

Hello, all welcome to episode 29 of the solo cast of fire code. On this episode, we're talking about assembly occupancies. Yes. There is a unique fire and life safety history for assembly occupancies, and also some additional concerns whenever you are dealing with large groups of people. So I wanted to take this opportunity in the solo cast to talk about some of these occupancy specific features, because they can trigger some costly implications for fire and life safety.

One of the big reasons why fire and lamp safety is so strict for assembly. Occupancies is because we have a long history of rather deadly fires that are associated with, uh, assembly occupancies. NFP has some great resources for assembly occupancies and their fire histories. Some of the most deadly fires in us history are associated with.

Assembly occupancies. Um, the coconut Grove fire took nearly 500 people's lives. We also talked about the IRA hoist theater fire in a previous solo cast episode. There is a lot to be learned from these historic fires. So I would invite you to take a look at some of the resources NFPA has on these deadly fires.

I'll drop a link down in the show notes. If you wanna find out some more information, otherwise I'll probably be talking about some of these historic fires in future solocast episodes. So let's talk about the definition of an assembly occupancy. For this episode, I'm using the 2015 version of the international building code.

And we are in section 3 0 3, which speaks to assembly occupancies. It's the USAN occupancy chapter of the building code, which is chapter three. It says assembly group, a occupancy includes among others, the use of the building or structure or portion thereof for the gathering of persons for the purposes, such as civic, social or religious functions, recreation, food, drink, consumption, or awaiting transportation.

So as you can see in this occupancy, we are really talking about places where people gather in large numbers. So I wanna take the listener through the different types of assembly, occupancies in the building code, because they all have different safety and fire requirements, but they are generally speaking in the same, uh, order of magnitude.

So like I said, previously, we're in section 3 0 3 of the international building code. And let's talk about group a occupancies or assembly occupancies. And go through the four different types of assembly occupancies. So each different assembly occupancy has a different definition and some examples of what kind of buildings are considered by the building code as assembly occupancies.

Now there's not always an explicit example of the occupancy you might be dealing with. So. They provide a couple examples so that you can get some idea of how to extrapolate your building use and occupancy in order to use your judgment as a fire and line safety professional for what are the applicable, uh, codes and standards.

So let's talk about group a one assembly, occupa. First off the definition says group a one occupancy includes assembly uses usually with fixed seating intended for the production of viewing of the performing arts or motion pictures, including, but not limited to motion, picture theaters. Okay. So these are the examples of group a one.

So it gives a broad overview in the definition. And then now we're gonna talk about, uh, specific examples. And so, uh, the first example is theaters where you can watch movies. Second example is symphony and concert halls. Third example is television and radio studios admitting an audience. And, uh, fourth example is theaters.

So like where you would see plays and whatnot. So as you can kind of tell there's a bit of variation between these examples, but they all kind of have a same kind of, um, feel and used to 'em. Um, a one is one of the, each of these different groups have a bit different, um, fire and life safety implication, and.

Uh, I believe that a one has some of the more stricter requirements and then it kind of, uh, decreases in fire and life safety severity as we go down to a five. So I misspoke before there's five group, a occupancies moving on to a two or group a two definition reads group. A two occupancy includes assembly uses intended for food and.

or consumption, including, but not limited two banquet halls, casino, gaming areas, nightclubs, restaurant cafeterias, or similar dining facilities, including associated commercial kitchens in taverns or bars. Moving on to group a three. I think that in my experience group, a three is the widest category and the one that I've seen the most in my design practice.

Uh, usually there are a lot of like accessory. There are a lot of accessory, uh, assembly, occupancy usage, and we could talk about some specific instances and how, you know, if it's assembly or not. If it's very closer on the threshold, say you're looking at a conference room or something. Uh, we'll talk about that later.

But. A three occupancies are a bit of a catchall. The definition says group a three occupancy includes assembly uses intended for worship recreation or Mo or amusement. And other assembly uses not classified elsewhere in group a including, but not limited two. And there's more. Examples here than any of the other groups, but arcades art galleries, bowling alleys, community halls, courtrooms dance halls, exhibition halls, funeral parlors, gymnasiums, indoor swimming pools, indoor tennis courts, lecture halls, libraries, museums, places of religious worship pool and billiard parlors, pool halls waiting areas in transportation terminal.

This seems like a bit of a dust bin category. And it is. So if you are unsure, if you have a accessory use of a business in a business occupancy or in another occupancy, uh, and you believe it's assembly likely it is a, a three. We'll go through group a four and a five a little quicker, cuz I don't see them as much maybe.

Uh, I guess it depends on which occupancies you work on the most, but uh, I think group a one through a three are a bit more common group. A four group, a four occupancy includes assembly uses intended for viewing of indoor sporting events and activities with spectator seating, including but not limited to arenas, skating, rinks, swimming pools and tennis courts.

So this is a kind of, uh, open air or indoor, uh, sports activity. Um, maybe you could also consider like a basketball court, indoor basketball court, this kind of assembly occupancy group group, a five group, a five occupancy includes assembly uses intended for participation in a viewing outdoor activities, including, but not limited to.

Amusement park structures, bleachers, grandstands, and stadiums never had the opportunity to design a stadium, uh, or amusement park structure. But imagine that would be, uh, very difficult unless that's something that you did, uh, super frequently. So we just went over the five different types of assembly groups and what an assembly occupancy is.

But now I want to talk about some of the different fire protection features. We'll see how far we get. But first off, I want to talk about fire suppression systems. So chapter 9 0 3, which is automatic sprinkler systems, uh, speaks about occupancy, specific fire suppression requirements. So there a variety of different qualifying factors in the building code that might require you to have a sprinkler system.

But, uh, a large assembly occupancy is a very fast way to ensure that you're going to need a fire suppression system. So I won't talk about all of the different sections that are speaking to the requirements in regard to assembly occupancies and sprinkler systems. But there are a common couple of features for a building to have with an assembly occupancy that would trigger a fire expression system being require.

So let's just take a look at the most severe one, which is for a two occupancy in specific we're looking at section 9 0 3 0.2 0.1 0.2. This section states an automatic sprinkler system shall be provided for areas containing group a two occupancies in intervening floors of the building where one of the following conditions.

So, this is a great place for you to go check. Somebody brings you an architect, brings you a floor plan for a building, and it's a, uh, community center or a, uh, place that has, um, a large assembly space. And you want to determine if a sprinkler system is needed. Check. If you have a large assembly space categorize that use on occupancy and then come to section 9 0 3 and find which specific occupancy, uh, requirements that you might be meeting.

The first qualifying factor is fire area. And it says if the fire area exceeds 5,000 square feet, so. This is not that dramatic of a requirement for a large assembly space. If you're dealing with a building that is, you know, I've worked on a large theater recently with, uh, you know, a stage and day big open seating area.

That's more than 40,000 square feet. So, um, it is not uncommon for these assembly spaces to be rather large. Um, so if your fire area, if your largest fire area in your, a two occupancy exceeds 5,000 square feet, then you need a sprinkler system. The second requirement is the fire area has an occupant load of a hundred or more.

So we haven't talked about some of the life safety features yet, but. Um, it's very easy to get an occupant load of a hundred people for a lot of these assembly occupancies. Um, we could talk about life safety features specifically, but, um, there are instances in which, uh, you can get 15 or seven, uh, square feet per person, uh, net.

Uh, and so that adds up very fast. The third provision is the fire area is located on the floor other than the level of exit discharge serving such occupancies. So that might be a really. Easy qualification to meet. If you have a two story building without, you know, some, uh, level of exit discharge, then you need a sprinkler system.

So you can see that these barn and lay safety requirements, uh, they activate very quickly for these type of buildings. So as we talk about these common thresholds that might require, add additional fire and life safety equipment, Uh, occupant load is a huge factor. Uh, common occupant load factors, which are impactful are a hundred, 300, 500 and a thousand.

So if you just kind of have those round numbers in your head where you see an occupant load, exceeding those different thresholds have in your mind that there is a very good chance that there are additional fire protection and life safety requirements to be had. If you see these factors. Let's move on to fire alarm looking in section 9 0 7 of the 2015 edition of the international building code.

We're looking specifically at group a occupancies, and that is section 9 0 7 0.2 0.1 group a. This is the requirement for a fire alarm system. It says a manual fire alarm system that activates occupant notification in accordance with 9 0 7 0.5 shall be installed in group a occupancies where the occupant load due to the assembly occupancy is more than 300 is 300 or more.

Then it goes on to say group a occupancies, not separated from one another in accordance to a 9 0 7 0.3 point 10 shall be considered a single occupancy for the purposes. Applying to this section portions of group E occupancies occupied for assembly purposes shall be provided with a fire alarm system as required for group E occupancies.

Then there's an exception for the omission of manual fire alarm boxes. If your building has a automatic sprinkler system stall installed in accordance with section 9 0 3 0.3 0.1 0.1. And the, and it says, and the occupant notification appliances will activate throughout the notification zones upon sprinkler water flow.

That is a very long drawn out way to say, if you got 300 or more people, because if you're assembly occupancy, you need a fire alarm system. And it has to be a manual fire alarm system. Unless you have a sprinkler system that activates your fire alarm. Here's the big kicker for fire alarm systems and assembly occupancies.

Uh, and it's the next section down, which is 9 0 7 0.2 0.1 0.1 system initiation in group, a occupancies with an occupant load of a thousand or more. And it says activation in the fire alarm in group a occupancies with an occupant load of a thousand or more shall initiate a signal using an emergency voice alarm communication system in accordance with 9 0 7 0.5 0.2 point.

So this means you need a voice evacuation system. If your building has an occupant load of a thousand or more, this is a big deal. This takes your fire alarm system from just your standard horn STR system to voice, which it can be as much as like 10 times more for the cost of your fire alarm system, depending on all the features you need.

So this is a very big deal for you to determine as early as possible in the cycle of the. Not only does it have a huge cost implication, but it has a huge design implication because there are, uh, more devices to coordinate and, uh, more equipment to locate for these systems. So those are a couple of the big fire systems that might required.

Um, looks like next time we will get into some more of the fire and line safety features for assembly occupancies. And we can take a look at some of the other common features of assembly occupancies, like some of the other specific code sections that are commonly applicable. Like for instance, section four 10 in the, in chapter four, which is stages platforms and technical production areas.

And commercial kitchen equipment, like we talked about when describing the groups, but we will see you next time on fire code tech. Thank you for listen. Thanks for listening. Everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business.

The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.