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Building Commission
1 NW Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Civic Center Complex, Room 310
Evansville, IN 47708
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Change of Occupancy

This explanation is intended as an overall guide to the Building Code requirements for a change of occupancy in a building or tenant space.  Please note that the Building Commission recommends that prospective owners/tenants contact the Area Plan Commission AND Building Commission prior to executing any real estate agreements.

The Indiana Building Code differentiates the ways that buildings are used into separate "occupancy classifications.”  Every building is given an occupancy classification when it is built, and each occupancy classification has different Indiana Building Code requirements that go along with it.  The requirements for each occupancy reflect the type of hazard and the uses in the building.  A building will remain "grandfathered" even when the code requirements for any occupancy classification change over time, so long as the occupancy remains the same.  A change of occupancy is when there is a conversion in the building's occupancy that would alter the way the building code classifies the building's occupancy.  When the occupancy of a space changes, the building design must be re-evaluated for that occupancy’s new use.   For example, the requirements for a building to be used as a night club will be different (and more strict) than the building code requirements for a new warehouse building.  

The following information is a general outline of the change of occupancy process, but it is not intended as a design guide.  An Indiana licensed design professional and/or Code Consultant is normally required for a change of occupancy. 

If you are unsure if your project is a change of occupancy, please contact the City-County Project Manager or your design professional/code consultant.

Change of Occupancy Evaluation

The two basic components of a change of occupancy evaluation are found in Chapter 34 of the Indiana Building Code.

Structural Evaluation

The owner or applicant must have a structural evaluation of the existing building performed by a licensed design professional or other qualified professional to determine adequacy of the structural systems for the proposed change of occupancy.  The existing building must be capable of supporting the minimum load requirements specified in the Indiana Building Code.

Life Safety Evaluation

A licensed design professional or other qualified professional must provide an evaluation of the general safety, means of egress and life safety elements in the building and determine if any upgrades are required. The Code is flexible as to the exact upgrades that are required so the professional normally works with the owner or applicant to determine the best alterations for the business or building owner.

Procedures for Change of Occupancy

1. Hire a licensed design professional or code consultant familiar with the Indiana Building Code. The professional will inspect the building and prepare plans which include the structural and life safety evaluations that show compliance with the current Indiana codes for the proposed new occupancy use. The plans must clearly show existing conditions and proposed alterations. For a full list of plan requirements please click here.

2. Schedule a pre-application meeting by contacting the City-County Project Manager. At this informal meeting, you can present the project to Building Commission staff and receive information concerning building permit requirements as well as the forms and documents that will be needed at the time of application. The Project Manager can also include other departments with an interest in the project if needed.

3. Submit an Application for Construction Design Release including building plans and/ or construction documents to the Plan Review division of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.  For further information, please refer the Plan Review website by clicking this link. The hired design professional typically submits and obtains this release from State Plan Review. 

4. Submit a Commercial Review Application to the Area Plan Commission for site review approval of the proposed change of use as determined in the pre-application meeting. Building permits are required in nearly all cases. The request must describe in detail both the current and proposed occupancy. For further information, please refer to the Area Plan Commission website here.

5. The Building Commission will review the submitted plans.  Once compliance has been verified with the applicable codes, a Construction Design Release from State Plan Review has been obtained, and appropriate fees have been paid, the building permit will be issued to a properly licensed contractor authorizing the work to commence.

6. The properly licensed contractor must call for all required inspections. After final approval inspections have verified code compliance, the Building Commission will issue a new Certificate of Occupancy. The building may not be occupied before the Certificate of Occupancy is issued.