Alberta Fire Code Occupant Load

Alberta Fire Code Occupant Load

On Site Fire Protection recently contacted us to inform us of the new occupant load restrictions due to the COVID pandemic.  We believe that many of you will benefit from the information.

So what does “Occupant Load” mean?  Occupant Load is the maximum number of persons that may occupy a building or an area of a building at one time.  When an occupant load is determined for the purposes of applying the Fire Code, it is referred to as the operational occupant load.

Due to COVID-19, restrictions have been placed on how many people may occupy a building or an area of a building at the same time.

For convenience, we have included the relevant sections from the Alberta Fire Code and Alberta Building Code.  Please note that this does not constitute legal advice from On Site Fire Protection nor KWB Chartered Professional Accountants and is only a small excerpt of the relevant section of the code.  You are advised to 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 square feet and divide by 266 to get your 15% COVID restricted occupant load.

Alberta Fire Code 2019, Division B Occupant Load

1.   The maximum permissible occupant load for any room shall be calculated based on the    lesser of:

  • The number of occupants determined in accordance with Table of Division B of the NBC(AE),
  • The occupant load for which means of egress are provided, or
  • The occupant load as calculated and posted in accordance with the NBC (AE). (See Note A- (1).)


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

  • The number of seats in an assembly occupancy having fixed seats,
  • 2 persons per sleeping room in a dwelling unit, or
  • 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, and 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 m²
  • 185.8 m² / 3.70 m² per person = 50 person normal occupant load
  • 50 people / 6.66 = 7 person COVID Restricted limit



  • These numbers apply to individual rooms. Therefore, you need to determine the occupant load for the rooms which customers have access to.
  • A posted occupant limit overrides the calculation from table, as it takes into account additional factors.

We would like to thank Scott Rusk from On Site Fire Protection for the information he provided as well as his permission to share the information with our clients and followers.

On Site Fire Protection is open, site inspections are available and contactless delivery or curbside pickup are an option on their online store.

If you are a KWB business client and you have some great tips, information or services that will help others during the pandemic, please click here to send us an email and we will do our best to highlight your business in a future blog.

Please note that the information in this blog has been updated as per the new restrictions announced on the 8th of December, 2020.

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