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The City of Portland, Oregon

Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300


1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

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Life Safety/Building Code

The building code classifies child cares, preschools and schools for more than five children who are older than 2 ½ years of age as E (educational) occupancies. Facilities that care for more than five children younger than 2 ½ years of age are classified as I-4 (institutional) occupancies, which have more restrictive requirements and are not covered by this document. If you have any questions regarding which occupancy classification your facility would fall under, speak to a Life Safety Reviewer at (503) 823-1456.

Unless they are located in an area with a fire sprinkler system, classrooms used for children need to be on the ground floor (which could potentially be a daylight basement) and each room used by children needs to have at least one exit directly to the outside at ground level.

Several of the building code requirements for E occupancies are based on the number of children. The building code assumes one child for every 20 square feet in classrooms (kindergarten and older) and 35 square feet for younger children. That means that the Life Safety Reviewers will be assuming more children, in your facility, than you probably actually plan for.

E occupancies that would have more than 50 children (as calculated by the building code) are required to have a fire alarm system.

Two exits are required from child care or preschool classrooms when the code calculated number of children is more than ten. A second exit would be required from classrooms for older children when there are 50 or more students, as calculated by the code.

An educational occupancy must be separated from most other uses (such as adjacent retail or office tenants) by fire rated construction. That separation is most commonly provided by applying several layers of gypsum board to the common walls and/or ceiling. There is generally no fire separation required between a church or other assembly occupancy and an educational occupancy.

For more information on how the occupant load of your particular use might be calculated, and what types of life safety improvements might be required, visit the Development Services Center with a plan showing the layout, and meet with a Life Safety Reviewer.