Change of Use | Change of Occupancy

ArcWest Architects has worked with various clients and project types to support the process of submitting an application for the change of use, or change of occupancy with municipal building departments. This need most often arises when an individual or company purchases or leases a building that is recorded and approved for one use with the intent to utilize the building or space for a different use.  For example, an owner may purchase a building that is classified as a retail shoe store and wants to convert it to a restaurant.  The proposed change of use requires the review and approval of the local municipalities building and zoning department.

The primary reason for this requirement is simple: safety and welfare of the occupants and nearby neighbors. The regulatory agency needs to insure that the proposed use is compatible with the existing building type and construction, as well as appropriate for the assigned zoning.  For example, a multi unit residential use may not be appropriate for a building that was used as a business office space. With any “change of use” compatibility is the question. The building department needs to verify that the requirements for the proposed use are suitable to the existing building architecture and allowed within the zoned district.

As a professional service, ArcWest will work with the owner first to obtain or create an as-built drawing of the building’s slated or envisioned new use.  Next with an understanding of the building’s current use and proposed use, ArcWest can complete a Building Code Analysis to understand what the requirements are.  Basic items reviewed under this Code Analysis will include:

  • Construction Type
  • Occupancy Classification
  • Height of Building and Number of Stories
  • Gross Area in Square Feet
  • Occupant Load
  • Exiting / Egress Systems
  • Sprinkler Systems / Fire Alarm & Detection

Depending upon the comparative review of the current use and the proposed use during the code analysis, improvements or modifications to the building may be required in order for the project to be in conformance with current building code regulations.  A few common building elements that can potentially be affected by a change of use are egress requirements, mechanical ventilation, fire resistance of walls, number of plumbing fixtures required, etc..

A few scenarios to consider:

  • If the project is a simple adaptive reuse, meaning the new owner intends to occupy the space with minor, if any changes for the new use then the number of drawings required for the “Change of Use“ application are minimal.  This is the simplest process.
  • More often, the building owner wants to complete renovations that will enhance the proposed business activity.  In this situation a complete set of drawings (architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and potentially fire protection) is required for both the change of use application and a building construction permit.
  • An owner may be just in the process of considering the feasibility of a proposed use for a prospective property (i.e. new coffee shop in an old retail store) ArcWest can assist with the initial diligence prior to completing the purchase to understand what physical improvements may be required for the proposed occupancy to be compliant with current building code and zoning regulations.

Regardless of the scenario an owner may be considering, ArcWest Architects can support the process. Whether submitting an application for a “change of use” for a simple adaptive reuse, or diligence and feasibility for a proposed business and building, or for a more in depth renovation project requiring a change of occupancy, ArcWest can provide the professional assistance and services required.

– Robin Adams

For more information on how ArcWest can assist you, contact us directly at 303.455.7741 or through our website.

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