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Occupation of a building undergoing construction or alterations

The RBQ reminds building owners and contractors that they must take the necessary steps to ensure public safety in an occupied building undergoing alterations or in a partially occupied building during its construction.

Permitted building occupation

Facilities must comply with the Building chapter of the Construction Code. Nonetheless, it may happen that on the site of a building undergoing construction or alterations, some fire safety measures may not be present and certain features may not be completed or be temporarily out of order. Those in charge of the site and the building must have backup measures in place, such as temporary supervision, to protect the public.

Safety standards applicable to partially occupied buildings undergoing construction or alterations

To ensure the safety of occupants, the building's design and completed work must meet requirements of the Building chapter of the Construction Code.

Once occupied, a building must meet National Fire Code of Canada (NFC) requirements, where the code is enforced by the municipality.

Fire detection and alarm systems

The obligation to install a fire detection and alarm system depends mainly on the size of a building, its use and the number of its occupants.

In buildings undergoing construction or alterations, where a fire detection and alarm system is required, it must be operational in the occupied part at least and supervision must be assured in those parts not yet so equipped.

Should the system be temporarily out of order, other means of alerting occupants and supervision may be used as a backup measure.

Access lanes

Road access to the building must be fit to be ridden over and free of materials and equipment, so as to allow fire department vehicles and personnel to get to the building’s façades and interior.

Fire sprinkler and standpipe systems

If a building or part of a building is required to be fitted with a fire protection piping network or by a sprinkler system, these must be designed, built and tested in accordance with Québec's Construction Code and the National Fire Code of Canada, where it is in force.

Should those mechanical systems be put out of order, the fire department of the municipality must be notified.

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Fire hydrants and fire-hose hookups

Access to fire hydrants and to fire-hose hookups for supplying water to standpipes and sprinkler systems must be unhindered at all times.

Portable  fire extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers must be accessible, especially in areas that represent a particular risk due to activities taking place there or because of appliances or materials used or stored there. The extinguishers must be installed and maintained in compliance with the National Fire Code of Canada.

Means of evacuation

Exits and escape routes to exits must be provided in sufficient number for the floor space occupied. Where warranted, fire separations must be in place to protect access to exits.

Materials contributing to the fire resistance of separations and fire-resistant closures must be used.

Safety components of stairways, such as antiskid surfaces on steps and landings, railings and handrails, must also be installed in accordance with the requirements of the Building chapter of the Construction Code.

Fire escape routes must be free of obstacles, and exit doors and exit access doors must be capable of opening in the direction of evacuation, without use of a key or particular release mechanism. Should work site conditions temporarily limit the use of a means of evacuation, an alternate escape route to safety must be provided.

Building structure integrity and fire resistance

The installation of structural systems and materials that contribute to the fire resistance of weight-bearing structural members must be completed in the entire building.

Emergency electrical power and safety lighting

Emergency electrical power and safety lighting must be put into place in the occupied part and the fire escape routes.

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Unhindered public access

Once public access to a building is allowed, it must, unless there are exceptions, be made accessible to wheelchair users. In such case, a barrier-free path must be put into place to ensure people can get from the building entrance to the occupied part.

Elevators

An elevator may be used by the public only after checks and acceptance testing have been carried out and the attestation of conformity (section 7 of the form Declaration de travaux en ascenseurs [Fr] – PDF (683 KB) is signed by the lift system contractor's authorized representative.

Separation of mechanical rooms and of areas for storage or use of dangerous products

Areas housing equipment that represents a danger of fire or explosion (boilers, transformers, refrigeration facilities, incinerators, electric power rooms, etc.), as well as those reserved for the storage or use of dangerous products, must be isolated from the rest of the building with a suitable fire separation. Separations, including closures, must be installed in the occupied part and in all places carrying a fire risk for occupants.

Service space separation

Service spaces for ducts, connections, piping, cables as well as trash chutes and laundry chutes may serve as a conduit for the spread of fire and smoke within a building. Service spaces in the occupied part must be closed off. Openings must be fitted with a fire separation and fire dampers must be added in places where the ducts cross a fire separation.

Protection in the event of demolition

Should there be demolition work done in part of a building, the occupied part must be separated from the remainder of the building by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 hour.

Foamed plastic protection

Insulation made of synthetic materials, for example foamed plastics, give off toxic fumes when burned. Suitable heat barriers must be put into place to protect occupants from exposed insulation surfaces.

Additional requirements for tall buildings

Requirements for tall buildings relating to the control of smoke from fire and the use of elevators must be met for the occupied part of a tall building. The fire alarm and command post as well as the voice communication system must be capable of warning occupants throughout the building of danger.

Should any of the means mentioned above not suffice to meet requirements, you will have to provide for additional temporary safety measures.

Railings

In the occupied part, railings must be installed wherever there is a possibility of someone falling, as prescribed in the Building chapter of the Construction Code.

Construction radiators

Under the Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code, construction radiators cannot be used in a building undergoing construction or alterations when it has occupants, considering the fumes.

Isolation and control of access to a work site

The inside part of a building where construction work is being done must not be accessible to the public, and steps to control access must be put into place. Outside the building, if construction work is a source of danger for passersby, fences, barricades and covered passageways must be put up where needed.

Electrical infrastructure

The electrical cables and wiring in the occupied part must be complete and permanent, with components of the installation being operational and safe.

Any temporary installation is prohibited, unless doing without it would be impossible, such as the case of supplying power to an essential safety device while work is going on.

Supervision

Building supervision must be provided for, as well as a means to contact the fire department if the building is undergoing demolition.

Where different safety facilities are temporarily out of order, or public protection cannot otherwise be assured, a supervision service with rounds must be provided.

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