What is the difference between use and occupancy?
When applying the building code, it's important to understand the difference between use and occupancy.
The use of a space of a room or building describes the function or activity that is occurring within that space.
The occupancy of a space or the occupancy of a building is one of ten categories listed in IBC Chapter 3 these are assembly, business, educational, factory and industrial, high hazard, institutional, mercantile, residential storage and utility and of course, the subcategories within each of these.
The occupancy classification of a space or a building can only be one of the items in this list, whereas the use of a space or building could be almost anything.
There is really no limit to the number of uses that could be assigned to a space or to a building because there's no limit to the number of functions or activities that could occur.
From a code application standpoint, there are many requirements that are related to the occupancy classification, the allowable height area, number of stories all depend on the occupancy.
Similarly, the means of egress requirements found at IBC Chapter 10 and the Fire Protection requirements found in Chapter 9 are all based on the occupancy classification.
There are few situations where the use of a space dictates the code requirement, two notable ones being the assigning of an occupant load factor found in IBC chapter 1004 and the requirements related to incidental uses found in IBC Chapter 5.
In the construction community, the term mixed use or mixed use building is used frequently, and if you want more information on what is a mixed use building or what is a mixed occupancy building, you can check out the module on that topic.
In conclusion, it's important to realize that there is a difference between use and occupancy. The use of the space is what that space is actually being used for, the function or activity occurring in the space, whereas the occupancy of a space is one of ten occupancy categories listed in IBC chapter three.
I'm Chris Campbell, this is MeyerFire University.
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