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​Phased Occupancy and Construction Best Practices

This document stems from a request by Contractors and Developers who would like to have a better understanding about how to deal with commercial projects being phased in a strategic delivery process.  This is especially important for larger projects.  The primary interest is in understanding the conditions of phasing, the conditions of the project, the permitting process, the inspections process, the documentation needed for life safety, and health concerns necessary for a successful Certificated Occupancy (CO) or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) for those designated areas.


As a reminder, these steps are only for Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement (Building, Electrical, Plumbing and Mechanical).  For all other associated agencies involved with the project, it is necessary for you to contact them directly to determine how to meet their ordinances and policies in order for them to release their holds at the time of CO and TCO for the phasing strategy.


Below are the best practices that have shown positive results for the project time line and meet the expectations of the customer.
 
Key points to consider and understand when developing a phasing plan for a project:
 
1.      Preliminary Plan Review
 
When designing your project, it is important to involve Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement as early as possible so that everyone will have an understanding of the phasing strategy for Occupancy and Construction. Typically, this is done by the Design Professional (Architect, Engineer, Owners, Developer and Contractors) who requests a preliminary review. This meeting is most productive when plan review staff and Inspections team Project Managers (PMs) are present.  This assists in making sure all parties understand the concept of the phasing plan and how the phasing will be done.  The Inspections team PMs must be requested on the preliminary review application.    The charges are based on the number of the inspections team members who are required or requested to be present in the meeting.  At the conclusion of the Preliminary Review meeting, the Design Team will submit meeting minutes to plan review staff for approval.  To start the process, please click here​ to see how the Preliminary Plan Review process works and benefits your project.

Key Points for the Preliminary Review meeting:


The design team (Architects and Engineers) is required to take all meeting minutes and distribute them via email and in the Electronic Plan Management system (EPM).

  • Appendix B / code summary of the project and overall
  • Key plans reflecting the Construction and Occupancy phasing plan and strategy for occupancy
  • How life safety systems and egress will be maintained
  • How construction activity and staging will be handled during the phasing strategy
  • Permits that will be required for each phasing and building
  • Site impact issues for egress and accessibility

2.       Plan Review Process
 
When the project is submitted to our Electronic Plan Management System (EPM), the construction drawings should include all the Building, Mechanical, Plumbing and Electrical systems, as well as the life safety components.  These must be in place for the building and for each Occupancy and Construction phasing area.  The design team is responsible (Architects and Engineers) for having their construction documents coordinated to reflect all aspects of the Occupancy and Construction phasing plan areas and any life safety systems necessary for occupancy. 


Also, the plans should reflect all the key points discussed and covered in the Preliminary Plan Review meeting, as well as the phased construction plan strategy.  The design team should have the proper number of permits necessary for the phasing strategy in the submittal package, with the permits reflecting the phasing area being permitted. 


For more information about the EPM system please click here.

 

3.      Exit Meeting – Permitting procedure for the construction phase
 
Once the construction documents have been approved by Mecklenburg County and other agencies, an exit meeting will be required.  This meeting will verify the overall concept of the phasing plan, permits, and safe guards of the construction process with the inspection team and project managers.  This will insure that all have an understanding of the Occupancy and Construction phasing plan, and their responsibilities and roles as outlined in the construction documents.  This will be an opportunity for any addition concerns or specific considerations to be discussed before permitting.
 
If everyone agrees, the permits will go through a final check.  At the time of permit issuance, the contractor's account will be charged for services.  Any additional services required during the construction process will be a separate charge.  A Pre-Construction meeting should be held with the field inspectors and contractors to make sure all have an understanding of the expectations of how the Occupancy and Construction phasing will be done.   
 
For what would be required for TCO for phased Occupancy and Construction please click here
  
 
4.       Inspections for construction phase
 
Construction Phasing
 
Inspections of construction phases that do not require occupancy prior to completion of the entire project will be conducted in the same manner as any other non-phased construction.  (Ex. Footing phase, Foundation phase, Shell phase, etc.)
 
 

Occupancy Phasing
 
When occupancy of one phase is needed prior to the completion of the entire project, a phased occupancy plan is required.  A phased occupancy plan must be submitted and approved by the Department prior to any request for a phased occupancy inspection.  The following minimum information must be included for each phase of the project:
  1. A phasing plan showing the areas to be phased and how the required exiting system for each area is to be maintained, including all pertinent information (see below).
  2. Each completed phase must be independently code-compliant, including the requirements for exiting, disabled access, light and ventilation, parking, emergency response, etc.
  3. Access to and within the completed phase must be separated from the construction areas, without requiring the occupants to exit through the construction areas.
  4. Any construction staging areas must be shown on the plan.
  5. Phase boundaries must be clearly identified on the phasing plan.
  6. Phase boundaries and any materials used to create physical barriers must be clearly identified on the phasing plan.
  7. Electrical and gas services provided to the completed phase must be completed to the point of service.  In addition, these services must be secured in such a manner that construction areas are not also serviced, thereby putting workers at unexpected risk.
  8. Mechanical systems serving the completed phase must be completed to the points of service and discharge.
  9. Plumbing systems serving the completed phase must be completed to the points of service and discharge.
  10. All Life Safety systems for the entire project must be completed and tested, as required, unless the completed phase is separated from any other areas and approved by both the fire and building officials.
  11. Fire Suppression systems for the entire project must be completed and tested, as required, unless the completed phase is separated from any other areas and approved by both the fire and building officials.
  12. All agency occupancy holds including Fire, Utilities, Planning, Engineering etc. must be released prior to a request for a phased occupancy inspection.
  13. Once the phasing plan is approved by the Department and all required work is completed to satisfy the phasing plan, an application for Temporary Certificate of Occupancy may be submitted.
  14. Following satisfactory completion of all above items, an inspection will be conducted and occupancy of the phased area will be granted. 
  15. Fire - All fire and life systems, including, but not limited to, fire sprinkler, fire alarm, and other fire suppression systems are required to be 100% complete in the shell building, and in all up-fitted space prior to a certificate of occupancy.  The fire department is required to perform an acceptance test prior to occupancy.  Vacant spaces within a shell building are allowed to install a single notification device (horn/strobe) to comply with the shell building fire alarm requirements.
  16. For requirements for TCO for phased Occupancy and Construction, please click here.

5.      Changes to initial phasing plans or how to implement a phasing plan if one was not done prior to permitting:

 

5.1 Changes to an Initial Occupancy and Construction Phasing Plan

 

If changes are made to the original Occupancy and Construction phasing plan, it will be necessary for the customer to submit a RTAP to outline the changes and the new proposal for delivery. This will have to be verified with the inspectors and team representatives first.  This plan must be reviewed for code compliance.  Once the plan is approved, an exit meeting will be held.  This meeting will verify the overall concept of the phasing plan, permits and safe guards of the construction process with the inspection team and project managers to make sure all have an understanding of the phasing plan, their responsibilities and roles as outlined in the construction documents.  This will be an opportunity for any addition concerns or specific considerations to be discussed before permitting.

 

It will also be necessary for the inspection division to verify how the change will affect inspections that have already been performed and if adjustments need to be made to existing permits if new permits are required.

 

5.2 Implementing an Occupancy and Construction phasing plan if one was not done prior to permitting

If the owner’s team fails to identify phased occupancy as a project characteristic during the permit review, but changes to such a phased occupancy strategy during construction, the process is the same as described above in item 5.1.  However, customers should take care to initiate review and approval of the phasing plan at the earliest time possible.  These proposals are typically handled as an RTAP review process, requiring 5-8 work days(minimum) on average to complete. The approved phasing plan must be available for inspector reference before or no later than at the time the initial TCO or CO inspection is requested. Again, the owner’s team should take care to consider the time required in advance of calling for a phased occupancy TCO inspection, and plan accordingly.

 



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