On Site Fire Protection

Alberta Fire Code Occupant Load

With the new COVID restrictions introduced as of November 24th, we have fielded a number of calls from clients wondering what their occupant load is. For convenience, below is the relevant sections from the Alberta Fire Code and Alberta Building Code. This does not constitute legal advice, and is only a small excerpt of the relevant section of the code. You should read the entire section or consult with a Safety Codes Officer to determine your actual occupant load.

As a shortcut approximation, for a single story retail store, take your sales floor area in ft² and divide by 160 to get your COVID restricted occupant load.

Alberta Fire Code 2019, Division B Occupant Load

1) The maximum permissible occupant load for any room shall be calculated on the basis of the lesser of

a) the number of occupants determined in accordance with Table of Division B of the NBC(AE),

b) the occupant load for which means of egress are provided, or

c) the occupant load as calculated and posted in accordance with the NBC(AE). (See Note A-

Alberta Building Code 2019, Division B

3.1.17. Occupant Load Occupant Load Determination

1) The occupant load of a floor area or part of a floor area shall be based on

a) the number of seats in an assembly occupancy having fixed seats,

b) 2 persons per sleeping room in a dwelling unit, or

c) the number of persons for which the area is designed, but not less than that determined from Table for occupancies other than those described in Clauses (a) and (b), unless it can be shown that the area will be occupied by fewer persons.

2) If a floor area or part thereof has been designed for an occupant load other than that determined from Table, a permanent sign indicating that occupant load shall be posted in a conspicuous location.

3) For the purposes of this Article, mezzanines, tiers and balconies shall be regarded as part of the floor area.

4) If a room or group of rooms is intended for different occupancies at different times, the value to be used from Table shall be the value which gives the greatest number of persons for the occupancies concerned.

Here are some of the values from Table for business types that may not already know their occupant load:

Business and personal services uses

personal services shops - 4.60 m² per person

offices - 9.30 m² per person

Mercantile uses

basements and first storeys - 3.70 m² per person

second storeys having a principal entrance from a pedestrian thoroughfare or a parking area - 3.70 m² per person

other storeys - 5.60 m² per person

To determine your normal occupant load, take your floor area in ft² and divide by 10.764 to get m², then divide by the required area per person. Then to determine your COVID restricted occupant load, divide that by 4.

Example: single story clothing store with 2000 ft² sales floor

2000 ft² / 10.764 = 185.8

185.8 / 3.70 m² per person = 50 person normal occupant load

50 people / 4 = 12 person COVID Restricted limit


-These numbers apply to individual rooms. So you need to determine the occupant load for the rooms which customers have access to.

-If you have a posted occupant limit that will override the calculation from table, as it takes into account additional factors.

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