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Before you start

This information assists business owners and contractors in understanding and implementing general Alberta Building Code requirements for commercial building permits. Commercial spaces must comply with the Land Use Bylaw and Government of Alberta safety codes (building, electrical, fire and plumbing and gas).

Businesses are responsible to ensure the rules and regulations of all provincial governing bodies that may be applicable to their business activities are followed, prior to using the space.

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.

The City of Medicine Hat does not determine who must perform or pay for any necessary upgrades between a tenant, building manager or landlord.

Codes and standards available online

Current electronic editions of the following codes are available free of charge. Printed versions are available at a reduced price.

  • Go to Virtual Store - Click Browse Products
    • National Building Code of Canada
    • National Fire Code of Canada
    • National Plumbing Code of Canada
    • National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings
    • Alberta Building Code
    • Alberta Fire Code
  • Barrier-Free Design Guide 2017 - Visit Safety Codes Council site


A development permit (DP) is required for most forms of development within the City. You are required to have a valid DP before you can apply for a building permit to construct a building or structure, or to apply for a business license. A DP allows a specific type of development on a specific parcel of land in the City to proceed according to the Land Use Bylaw. DPs are issued by the City's Planning staff.

  Learn more about when a development permit is required.
  Apply for a development permit.

A building permit (BP) allows construction of a building or other structure to proceed on condition of compliance with the Alberta Building Code which addresses building and fire safety. BPs are issued by the City's Safety Codes Officers.

  Apply for a building permit.

All land in the City of Medicine Hat is assigned a land use (zoning) designation. Within each type of district, land uses can be permitted, prohibited or discretionary.
For maps and specific information on each land use district, see Zoning and Land Use

Permitted use:
Indicates that a land use (eg. retail store) is allowed within a land use district (eg. Regional Commercial District).

A City Planning/Development Officer must approve an application for a permitted use; therefore a development permit is still required. Conditions may be attached to the permit.

Discretionary use:
Indicates a land use may be allowed after due consideration is given to the impact of that use upon neighbouring land.

The Planning/Development Officer may approve the application with or without conditions, may refuse the application with rationale, or may refer the application to the Municipal Planning Commission, who may approve or deny it.

Prohibited use:
Indicates that a land use is not allowed within a land use district.

What if I can't meet one of the regulations?
You have the opportunity to apply for a variance on development permit applications. However, you cannot apply for a use that is prohibited.

Depending on the variance requested, the application may be considered by a Planning/Development Officer or by the Municipal Planning Commission.

There are fees associated with variance applications, payable when you submit your application. The City accepts payments in cash, cheques and debit (not credit cards).

You also have the opportunity to 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. For more information, see Rezoning Land or phone 403.529.8374

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.

  Apply for a building permit

A business location may also require trade permits for plumbing, gas, electrical or mechanical work, applied for by a qualified trade contractor, to prepare the space for use. The types of trade permits required depends on the type of business, current conditions in the space, what you are proposing and what is required by applicable codes.

When is a building permit required?
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).
  You are the first tenant in a space.
  A health review is required: restaurants, daycares, pools, personal services (such as hair salons, massage centers, tattoos, 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 generally not required when:

  The use and space remain unchanged (office to office or retail to retail).
  The scope is cosmetic (painting or furniture).

A building permit for a minor tenant 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. Refer to your project’s requirement list for detailed submission requirements.

Trades permits are permits relating to specific skilled trades (electrical, plumbing, gas or mechanical) which are required in building and renovation projects. To be issued trades permits, you must either have a business license or be associated with a Licensed Contractor.  Many trades permits will be processed within 1 business day from when the application is submitted. To learn more about trades permits, or to submit an application, visit Trades permits.

Can my location be used for my business?

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

Classification is determined by building size (footprint area and number of storeys), construction type (wood or concrete and steel), sprinkler installation and occupancy.

Depending on how the existing building is classified, changes and upgrades may be necessary to accommodate the proposed occupancy. The nature of these changes will vary according to the current building occupancy classification, size and number of storeys. For example, a building without sprinklers may be suitable for a retail store, but not suitable for a restaurant (due to the size, height and construction of the building).

Why is it important to know my building classification?

Your building code classification will assist your designer in ensuring your proposed construction meets the Alberta Building Code requirements. Building classification will assist with the design and construction, by helping to determine:

  Fire ratings of walls, floors, mezzanines and roofs
  Construction type (combustible or non-combustible)
•  If sprinklers are required

Ensure your building classification is clearly indicated on your submitted plans. Providing this information reduces delays in your application review.

The Alberta Building Code also has specific sections to help determine:

  Design occupant load
  Washroom requirements
  Required exiting
  Fire alarm and detection requirements

Does my location have to be accessible?

Codes dealing with accessibility, or barrier-free design, exist to allow proper and safe access to buildings and facilities for all people regardless of physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. Reasonable access to facilities is required to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities to be active, independent and safe within the community.

The rules for barrier-free design are found in section 3.8 of the Alberta Building Code. To help explain this material the Alberta Safety Codes Council has produced a document titled Barrier-Free Design Guide to help explain the barrier-free requirements of the code. Download free PDF or purchase printed version below:

  2017 Barrier-Free Design Guide 

If you need clarification on specific barrier-free requirements or exceptions contact a Safety Codes officer.

What if the physical layout of the building makes it difficult to provide a barrier-free access and facilities?
Contact Alberta Municipal Affairs to see if they will consider a relaxation for your particular situation. See below link:

  Application for Relaxation of Required Facilities for the Disabled

If you are constructing a new building or an addition (including second floors, mezzanines and additions to the existing building) to accommodate your business, you must comply with the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (NECB) or the Alberta Building Code section 9.36. Tenant improvements and minor renovations on buildings that were constructed to meet the energy code will require energy code compliance on renovations. To discuss NECB or 9.36 requirements, contact a Safety Codes Officer.

The current National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings (electronic edition) is available free of charge. A printed edition is available at a reduced price. For either version, visit the link below and click "browse products".

  Virtual Store - National Research Council Canada

When applying for a building permit, the requirement list will indicate what you need to apply. Drawings need to 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.

If additional assistance is required, consider hiring a professional familiar with the Alberta Building Code and your business requirements.

When would a professional architect or engineer be required?
An architect or professional engineer may be required to design and inspect your project for the intended location. Refer to the Alberta Building Code division C section 2.4.2 or talk to a consultant to determine if professional involvement is required. Where professional involvement is required, drawings submitted for your building permit application must be stamped by the designing professionals.

For projects that do not require professional involvement, consider consulting a design specialist if you are unable to produce acceptable plans for permit submission.



For questions, contact a Commercial Building Safety Codes Officer:


Zane DesRoches
Ph. 403.529.8207


Sean Streifel
Ph. 403.529.8207

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