As more and more cities & states re-open business, retailers are challenged with the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and building programs. Understanding what they should and must do to safely re-open, what additional requirements may be in place for construction, and when permits expire is critical.
There are myriad publications and sources of information for guidance related to COVID-19. While the information below is by no means comprehensive, it can serve as a starting point for making informed decisions on next steps.
It’s worth noting that local municipalities can and, in many cases, have adopted requirements which are more stringent than state requirements. Retailers should confirm the information with local authorities. Due to the nature of this pandemic, this information is subject to change at any time.
What is the occupancy capacity for my space?
- Occupant load is a calculation derived from the building code and enforced by the local jurisdiction.
- The latest version of the International Building Code (2018 IBC), published by the International Code Council, calculates mercantile occupancy based on 60SF/occupant.
- Drawings prepared by architects typically include a code analysis, usually located on the cover sheet, which shows the calculated occupant load for the space.
- Posted placards which identity maximum occupancy, issued as a part of the Certificate of Occupancy, may be found in your space.
- As a result of COVID-19, many jurisdictions have enacted policies restricting the number of people in retail businesses. In some cases, occupancy is limited to 25% or 50% of the calculated code occupancy.
- The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has catalogued COVID-19 related business updates & mandates from U.S. states, some of which include current restrictions on occupancy.
- Similarly, the National Retail Federation (NRF) has collected retail restrictions and guidance by state.
What can I do to safely re-open?
- The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has published free Back to Work Safely™ guidance resources for different businesses, including one specifically for retailers.
- ICSC has numerous additional resources available, including recommendations on best practices for re-opening.
- NRF has developed Operation Open Doors, another source for information and considerations.
- The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) has published A Blueprint for Shopping Safe.
What are the considerations for construction?
- As part of their Back To Work Safely™ program, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has prepared an informative Guidance Document titled “Returning to Work: Construction Environment.”
- Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) has included on their website a Coronavirus Update which provides a comprehensive list of resources.
- Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) has posted Daily Covid-19 Safety Questions for Construction Companies.
- The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) has developed a plan outlining recommendations for exposure prevention, preparedness, and response plan for construction.
- Many cities have had to deal with reduced hours for their building departments, which has resulted in delays with permitting and inspections.
- Technology is being leveraged by some municipalities to fill the gap by allowing virtual inspections.
- Contacting your local building department is the best way to identify the processes and requirements currently in effect.
When does my permit expire?
- Building permits often are valid for up to 180 days from date of issuance. Local jurisdictions determine the timeframes, and there is likely to be some flexibility as a result of COVID-19.
- It may be possible to extend a building permit for another 180 days (or whatever period is allowed by the local jurisdiction). The local building official will determine if the circumstances are beyond the control of the permit holder.
SGA Design Group has completed thousands of projects for retailers all across the country. If you need help understanding occupancy limits, permit requirements, or need any architectural services, we’re here to help.
The information provided herein is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.