Building a Commercial Space

Commercial spaces must comply with the Land Use Bylaw and Alberta Safety Codes.

This page is to help business owners and contractors in understanding and implementing Alberta Building Code requirements for commercial building permits.

Business owners and contractors should consult with a design professional before financially committing to a location, as the cost to make necessary upgrades or changes to a building may be expensive. A business license cannot be issued for a space that does not satisfy the requirements of the Alberta Building Code.

Land Use for Businesses

Zoning in the Land Use Bylaw

Permitted use

Indicates that the business is allowed within a district. A Development Permit is required as a City Planning Officer must approve an application for permitted use.

To see all land use districts (zones) in Medicine Hat, visit:


Discretionary use

Indicates that the business may be allowed after due consideration is given to the impact of that land or neighbourhood. The City Planning Officer may approve with or without conditions, may refuse the application, or may refer it to the Municipal Planning Commission, who may approve or deny it.

Prohibited use

Indicates that the business is not allowed to operate within a district.

What if I can't meet one of the regulations?

You can apply for a variance on Development Permit applications, but cannot apply for a use that is prohibited. Depending on the request, the application may be reviewed by a Planning Officer or the Municipal Planning Commission.

A fee is required when submitting a variance request. See list of fees below:

Fees and Charges

You can also apply for a Land Use Bylaw amendment in which you could request to change a specific regulation, land use, or the land use district for a parcel of land. Land Use Bylaw amendment applications must be made to the City Clerk. A fee is required when submitting this application.

To learn more about rezoning land, visit:

Rezoning Land

Commercial Building Permits

Building permits may be required for a new business or a business changing ownership, even if there is no construction planned. This is to ensure it meets health and safety requirements, as the approvals may differ from the previous business in the location.

To apply for a building permit, visit:

Building Permits

A business may also require trade permits for plumbing, gas, electrical or mechanical work, which must be obtained by professional trades contractors.

To apply for a trade permit, visit:

Trade Permits

A building permit is required when:

  • The space has a new use (e.g. a retail store changes to a restaurant)
  • Any construction is being done, including structural or partition wall changes, mechanical, plumbing, gas or electrical work
  • The mechanical equipment needs to be upgraded to meet building code, due to a change in use (e.g. car detailing to engine repair affects ventilation rates; using a forklift in a warehouse may require additional ventilation)
  • Adding an accessory building or sea-can which is over 10m2 in area to the property
  • You are the first tenant in a space
  • A health review is required: restaurants, daycares, pools, personal services (such as hair salons, massage centers, tattoo parlours, nail salons)
  • There is a change in kitchen or mechanical ventilation equipment or new equipment being installed.
  • There is a change to the occupant load

A building permit is not required:

  • The use and space remain unchanged (e.g., office to office or retail to retail).
  • For cosmetic updates (e.g., painting or furniture).

How long does it take?

Building permit

A building permit for a minor improvement may be issued within 21 business days, provided code requirements are met and all necessary documentation is provided in the application. The timeline of a permit application will increase if amendments or resubmissions are needed from the applicant.


Trade permits

Trade permits relate to specific skilled trades (electrical, plumbing, gas or mechanical). To be issued trades permits, you must either have a Business License or be associated with a licensed contractor. Some trades permits may be processed within 1 business day from when the application is submitted.

Building classification

Each business activity is associated with a building classification in the Alberta Building Code. Due to the complexities involved, a designer or architect should do a building code analysis of the building and ensure it is suitable for your business. A professional analysis will identify the building occupancy classification of the building and the rules related to that class.

Alberta Building Code

Barrier-free design

Reasonable access to facilities is required to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to be active, independent and safe within the community.

To download a free barrier-free design guide, visit:

Alberta Safety Codes Council

Energy Codes

When applying for a building permit for a new building or an addition, drawings must include details which show compliance to:

  • Section 9:36 of Alberta's Building Code, or
  • Canada's Energy Code NECB


When applying for a building permit, the requirement list will indicate what you need to apply. Drawings must be accurate, legible and contain necessary information on mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as details on washrooms, fire ratings and any other affected areas covered by the Alberta Building Code. Review the requirement list carefully to ensure all necessary items are included.

Codes and standards available online

Electronic editions of the following codes are available free of charge: