Montana just completed a building code update review cycle and officially adopted the 2021 edition of the International Building Code. The state made a few changes to the code that benefit assisted living residences.
The 2021 IBC, Section 310.5, includes assisted living facilities with 6 – 16 residents under “Residential Group R-4”. It further divides this building type into 2 categories:
- Condition 1 – where all people receiving custodial care “are capable of responding to an emergency situation to complete building evacuation”; and
- Condition 2 – exists if any resident requires limited verbal or physical assistance while responding to an emergency situation to complete building evacuation.
The subjective and nebulous line between people who can respond in an emergency situation and those who need “limited verbal or physical assistance” often causes problems in both permitting and enforcement.
Montana developed a better solution that is related to how its licensing scheme defines assisted living. Those building an RAL in Montana now will not have to worry about this difficult IBC provision, as the state revised its building code to specifically designate the fire safety requirements that apply:
“(a) Assisted living facilities with 9 to 19 ambulatory residents [as refenced by Montana Code] … will be classified as an R-4 occupancy for building permit and construction standard purposes.
(i) Automatic fire sprinkler systems are not required.
(ii) A fire alarm system is required in all common spaces.
(b) Assisted living facilities with 5 or more non-ambulatory residents [as refenced by Montana Code] … will be classified as an R-4 occupancy for building permit and construction standard purposes.
(i) An automatic fire sprinkler systems is required.
(ii) Each non-ambulatory resident shall have an accessible sleeping room or space.”
As RALNA works with standards bodies like the International Code Council, we hope to get more clarity on these points for residents in other states as well.
To track bills and regulations that remain pending, go to RALNA’s real-time tracking boards:
2022 Legislative Tracking Board