Building Classification – Pharmaceutical Facility Design

What class of building is my facility?

As architects and engineers, we get asked a lot of questions about pharmaceutical facility design. A common question relates to building classification – this is a critical initial step as it has a major effect on design, by determining the minimum technical requirements for the proposed building.

What is a “building classification”?

The National Construction Code (NCC) groups buildings and structures by their use and assigns each type with a classification from “Class 1” to “Class 10”, including some sub-classifications.
The class of building is a measure of the building’s likely use, fire hazard potential and occupants, so facility design is developed in accordance with the technical requirements of that building class.
Generally, the principal use of a building determines the classification of whole building. However, it is also possible for a single building to accommodate several parts with different uses, thereby having different classifications.

Which uses comprise a pharmaceutical facility?

A pharmaceutical manufacturing facility mainly consists of:

  • production/process/manufacturing areas,
  • storage areas,
  • offices (for production, warehouse and management/administration staff), and
    technical areas.

As per NCC building classification, these uses are labelled as below.

How do I classify a building with several parts with different uses?

In most cases, each of these parts is classified separately. However, where a part with a different use is not more than 10% of the floor area of the storey it is located, it may be considered to be ancillary to the major use. (See Figure 1 below showing two layout options for the same building)

building classification

Layout Option 01: The office area takes up only 8% of the floor area, the whole building is classified as a Class 8.
Layout Option 02: The office takes up 15% (more than 10%) of the floor area, the building is defined as “mixed use”. Manufacturing area (Class 8) and Office (Class 5) must be classified separately.

What if the minor use of a building is a laboratory?

It is not uncommon for a manufacturing facility to have an associated laboratory. Generally, laboratories are considered to have a high fire hazard potential. Therefore, where that part with a different use functions as a laboratory, regardless of the area it occupies, this (10% of the floor area rule) does not apply and that part is classified as a Class 8.

How are technical areas classified typically?

Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities require very large allocations of services space for mechanical, thermal and electrical facilities (such as plant room, machinery room, lift motor room, boiler room, etc.) These areas that serve the building must have the same classification as the principal use of the building.

Want more?

Designing in accordance with all of the relevant codes and standards can be somewhat complex, and should be designed and certified by licensed practitioners so please contact us if we can be of help. (See PharmOut’s services for Pharmaceutical Manufacturers for more detail.)

If you would like to read more on similar topics, the following blogs may be of interest: