Although you may not realize it, most of your life is categorized or classified in some way. For instance, when you head to the grocery store, the food is divided into specific categories, which are organized on designated aisles. The same goes for essentially any e-commerce store, where you’ll find key sections for any item you’re browsing.
Did you know that the building you’re in is also classified? There are a few different types of building classification, and it pays to understand how each one of them works.
Today, we’re sharing these categories to help you understand and navigate the process.
The Importance of Building Classification
Why should we take the time to classify buildings in the first place? After all, doesn’t the form of the property speak for itself?
Some codes and classifications are required to establish and reinforce both building codes and fire codes. They clearly dictate the number of people who can safely occupy a structure, as well as other guidelines for building use.
Failing to follow these code-specific regulations could make the building unsafe. It could also pose a direct threat to the physical safety of anyone who occupies it.
Then, there are classifications that matter to real estate investors and construction firms. These classifications reveal the types of building materials used in a structure, as well as their inherent value and resell potential.
Factors That Decide Building Classification
There are certain physical aspects that obviously denote one type of building from another. For instance, you can clearly see that residential home isn’t structured or designed the same as a corporate warehouse.
However, did you know that there are more specific features that a construction firm will consider when deciding how to classify a building? These include:
- The building location
- The local submarket
- The materials used during construction or renovation
- The methods and best practices used during construction or renovation
- The services and maintenance required for upkeep
- The rental prices currently charged in the submarket
At first glance, these properties aren’t always clearly visible. For instance, it can be difficult to know what practices a construction company followed when building a new structure. However, these variables can become clearer to investors or interested tenants once the firm explains its process.
Different Types of Commercial Building Classification
While there are many different classifications, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) recognizes three primary categories. According to this industry source, most commercial buildings will fall under the following sections:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
Let’s take a look at each classification in greater detail.
Class A Buildings
As you might expect, Class A buildings are often regarded as the top of the line.
These are buildings that are located in the most desirable neighborhoods or communities. They usually have the best and most efficient floorplans, as well as unique finishes and first-rate amenities. These properties may include exterior metal buildings, professional landscaping, and more.
In fact, Class A buildings don’t have to be buildings at all! Special landmarks, designed by renowned local architects, also fall into this classification. Any structure categorized as Class A will usually receive the services of a top-notch property management team, who will ensure that well-qualified tenants or buyers secure it.
If you’re a real estate investor, then it helps to know that Class A buildings typically contain high-value furnishings or fixtures. As such, they can usually fetch a higher price tag than a similar property just a few blocks down the road. They’re modern, updated, and appealing to today’s discerning customers.
Think of the best office building in town. While this isn’t always the case, it’s likely a Class A building and well-managed by a reputable local firm.
Class B Buildings
Class B buildings aren’t as unique or well-furnished as Class A buildings, but they’re still viable and essential parts of a local community. These structures tend to prioritize function over form. As such, they’re utilitarian in use and appearance.
While they may not boast the most modern amenities or furnishings, these buildings contain safe and usable space that makes them attractive to prospective renters and business owners.
Class C Buildings
As their name implies, Class C buildings are the lowest-quality commercial structures on this list. These buildings will fall into one of two categories.
The first category describes buildings that are old and outdated. They may also be neglected and in dire need of repair and upkeep, but they’re in a good location. Their physical position alone helps salvage their value somewhat, though there is much work to be done.
Then, there are Class C buildings that are in fairly decent/moderate shape. However, their location is less than desirable. Where they earn value in the state of their fixtures and materials, they lose it due to their geographical region.
Types of Building Codes and Classifications by Group
The above three classifications are important for both builders and buyers. The best construction firm will carefully weigh each option before deciding to construct a new property in a given location. Likewise, a prospective business owner will consider the classification before moving their business into that area.
However, there are a few other considerations to keep in mind as you research a potential space. We also recommend learning the building code of any structure.
The most reputable and longest-standing building code referenced in the U.S. is called the International Building Code (IBC). Experts in the construction industry will review this code on a regular basis to ensure the structures they’re building are within regulation.
There are 10 distinct codes within the IBC. These include:
- Group A (Assembly)
- Group B (Business)
- Group E (Educational)
- Group F (Factory)
- Group H (High-Hazard)
- Group I (Instutitional)
- Group M (Mercantile)
- Group R (Residential)
- Group S (Storage)
- Group U (Utilities and Miscellaneous)
Let’s review these in greater detail.
Group A (Assembly)
Group A buildings are places where people assemble for the following purposes:
- Worship (churches)
- Entertainment (concerts, theaters, stadiums, arenas)
- Eating and drinking (restaurants, bars)
If a restaurant can contain at least 50 potential occupants, then it’s classified as a Group A building. There are five subsets of this group that dictate specific types of gathering places.
Group B (Business)
Group B buildings are places where a company provides services. If the building also offers goods, then it is classified under Group M (Mercantile).
This is a wide-reaching category that can include banks, police stations, and post offices, as well as doctor’s offices and tax preparation agencies.
Group E (Educational)
Group E buildings are places where students learn. This includes all academic institutions, from preschool up to high school.
Group F (Factory)
Group F buildings are places where goods are constructed, maintained, or repaired. Most commercial factories will fall into this classification. The only exception would be very hazardous factories that contain dangerous chemicals or processes.
Group H (High-Hazard)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a hazardous material as any substance or chemical that poses a direct health or safety hazard.
If a building contains any type of substance that meets these qualifications, then it’s classified as Group H. These substances are usually flammable or toxic when exposed or consumed.
Group I (Institutional)
Institutions are buildings that house patients who cannot exit the structure on their own accord. This includes healthcare facilities, such as hospitals or nursing homes, where patients are room-bound until they are given official permission and approval to leave.
At the same time, it’s also used to classify jails and prisons. Though these two types of buildings are vastly different, they are similar in their measures of security and inhabitant oversight.
Group M (Mercantile)
Group M buildings are places where physical goods are sold. If you’ve ever walked into a grocery store, big-box store, or shop in the mall, then you’ve frequented such a space. Gas stations are also classified as Group M.
Group R (Residential)
In addition to the expected houses and apartments, Group R buildings can also include motels, hotels, and condominiums. The only requirement to earn this classification is the ability to house occupants overnight.
Group S (Storage)
Storage unit facilities fall into the Group S classification. However, there are also less-apparent inclusions, such as parking garages, which store vehicles for an extended period. Likewise, some warehouses that store goods are also designated as Group S.
Group U (Utilities and Miscellaneous)
If a building serves a purely functional purpose, then it may receive a Group U classification. For example, most barns fall into this category, as they are solely used to facilitate a farm. The same applies to any type of commercial tower, such as a water tower.
Which Types of Buildings Should You Consider?
Whether you’re looking for a single-family home or a large-scale commercial space, it’s critical to know the types of building classifications that exist today.
Two structures that appear physically identical could be used for two different purposes, which will affect their individual building codes. At the same time, two similar structures in different locations, or with different interiors, could receive different BOMA classifications.
As you navigate your options, we’re here to keep you informed on the latest business and health news. Check back often for more guides!