Building Developer

Questions relating to the renovation and development of commercial buildings in Monmouth.

Does the code ever require upgrades in an existing building when there has been no change of ownership or change of occupancy?

Yes, one example of that in the past are hood suppression systems in restaurants.  In the 1980’s building and fire codes recognized the advantage of fire suppression systems in hoods over cooking appliances in kitchens.  All existing restaurants or occupancies where commercial cooking was done were required to install hood fire suppression systems in a reasonable period of time.

I need to do some new wiring for the building. Do I need to use conduit?

Yes. All new wiring in a commercial building must be encased in conduit. If the wiring will be behind the wall or above the ceiling, you may use flexible conduit. If the wiring is mounted on the outside of a wall or ceiling, you must use rigid conduit.

Isn’t a fire sprinkler system costly, especially in an existing building?

Fire sprinkler systems can be a significant cost in the redevelopment of a property if you are looking at initial install cost only. Plan to spend at least $2.50 per square foot for sprinkler system installation. However, the code gives occupancies some trade-offs when the building is fully sprinklered. For example, the number of exits from a 2nd or 3rd floor may be reduced, fire separation between stories and exit stairwells may be reduced, travel distance to exits may be longer, fire extinguisher requirements may lesson if a fire sprinkler system is in place. Weighing the cost of a sprinkler system is worth exploring. The sprinkler system cost vs. the cost of constructing additional exits; adding a layer or two of drywall to all separation surfaces between vertical and horizontal surfaces; while replacing all openings between spaces with fire rated doors and windows might surprise you. You might also want to consider that a sprinklered building might be easier to sell down the road. A sprinklered building opens the door to many future uses of the building and can make your building more marketable.

Are there cases where a property is “grandfathered”?

The term “grandfathered” is used in relationship to complying with the code under which the property was built or modified. To answer the question, yes, if a building does not change in use or classification the existing building can normally remain as is. For example, if a building housing a business occupancy changes owners but does not change occupancy use, little if any code upgrades are necessary. An insurance office changing owners and becoming a legal office presents no significant change in use. However, an insurance office on the first floor with open space on the second floor and the owner wanting to use the first floor as a legal office and the second floor as an apartment is a change in use that can trigger code upgrades due to the second floor change of use, regardless of any ownership change.

Can’t an accidental discharge from a fire sprinkler head cause more damage than a fire?

An accidental discharge from a fire sprinkler is rare. Current industry standard is that 1 in 16,000,000 sprinkler heads manufactured fail and cause an accidental discharge. Even when the sprinkler activation is caused by fire, water damage is minimal. Normally only one to two sprinkler heads activate because fire sprinkler systems are designed to activate when fires are small in nature. They extinguish the fire or hold it in check until the fire department arrives. So what causes more water damage? Two fire sprinkler heads discharging 8 to 12 gallons of water per minute to stop a small fire or two fire hose lines each discharging 150 gallons of water a minute on a room and contents fire?

How do you select the appropriate code requirements for a building housing different occupancies, like a business on the first floor with residential on the second floor?

In general, the occupancy classification in the building triggering the most stringent code applies.

If I plan to purchase and redevelop a property in the City of Monmouth, does the building have to be brought up to current code?

Bringing the occupancy up to current code happens when the occupancy classification changes like taking a former Mercantile occupancy like Touch of Country and turning it into After Dark, an Assembly-3, Dance Hall. Bringing the occupancy up to current code should also happen when there is a change in the division of the same occupancy. For example, if After Dark wants to include a restaurant or put in a theater that changes the division class within the assembly occupancy classification. These changes would change the use from Assembly-3 to an Assembly-2 or Assembly-1 requiring an upgrade to the existing code.

If I want to redevelop an existing building in the community what code items need to be considered?

In general, older structures may need to be upgraded with a fire sprinkler system, an additional exit, updated wiring, exit lights or emergency lighting along exit paths.  Fire separation between stories and the protection of exitways like stairwells also need to be considered. There may also be ADA accessibility issues to be considered.