Re: commercial building
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 11:09:00 -0600 (MDT)

>In our City's review of our common house construction documents, the decision
>has been made that the CH is a commercial building and must therefore comply
>with ADA and other commercial-construction policies....
>Has anyone dealt with the commercial-building issue with your city planning
>department, and/or with appeal processes?  Advice welcome!  Thanks.

There are various sub-categories of commercial. Look for the broadest 
category, like the one they'd use for a church parish hall, probably, 
some sort of general-assembly place. Requirements vary, from very special 
ones for theaters and restaurants, to broad issues of general safety and 
access. If you aren't already in the least-restricted category, then see 
how that can be accomplished. 

ADA is a given. Beyond that, in our case were requirements for highly 
reinforced floors (as if we were going to be training elephants in 
there), fire safety and egress requirements, and number of lavatories. 
Some things were a function of how many square feet we had, but not all 
areas counted the same, and it mattered what we CALLED a space. A 
"recreation" room was different from an "exercise" room (huh? but yes). 
We could exempt various storage spaces and hallways from some of the 
calculations.  We kicked and screamed (very politely and civilly, of 
course) about the requirement for 4 lavs, especially, and got it down to 
a practical 2. I think we also got the floor reinforcement backed off 
some too, as this would have been a big expense. 

Much depends on 
a) Studying the fine print in the building code and understanding the 
alternatives and
b) Your personal dealings with the bureaucrats, and how well you can 
convince them that you can have what you want AND they can be "doing 
their job." They need to be able to back up their decisions with SOME 
chapter and verse.

Choose your battles. You are commercial in the world where you are either 
a house or you are commercial. Read "non-residence." And you may 
eventually find yourself in situations where you have 80 people in your 
common house for something and many of them do not know where the exits 
are, and the place is suddenly full of smoke and the electricity is out, 
and you'll  be glad you have panic push-bars on the doors, emergency 
floodlights, and a way to get out of there in a hurry! 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature) (very active peace movement here- see our 

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