Alternative Family Care Homes and the National Building Code – What every group home operator needs to know! 

by Don Epp, SARC Facility Planner, June 11, 2024

In January 2024 Saskatchewan adopted the most recent version of the National Building Code (NBC 2020). The NBC is updated every 5 years and the Government of Saskatchewan has committed to adopting the NBC within 2 years of the latest revision. Expect NBC 2025 to be adopted in 2027.  

Before the NBC becomes legislated it goes through an amendment process. Certain parts of the NBC are changed to meet the specific and unique requirements in the province of Saskatchewan. These are called the “Saskatchewan Amendments”. These building code requirements are unique to Saskatchewan and not found anywhere else in Canada.  

Most of the Saskatchewan Amendments refer to Alternate Family Care Homes (AFCH). AFCH includes all group homes and group living homes that are governed by the Residential Services Act, and other types of care homes.  

AFCH are defined in the amendments, and are classified into 2 category groups – care occupancies or residential occupancies. Generally, AFCH with 1-5 occupants in care are considered residential occupancies and AFCH with 6-10 occupants in care are considered care occupancies. There are subtle differences in how these 2 categories of AFCH are viewed in the NBC. The smaller AFCH follow the building codes of a typical one-unit dwelling and the codes of Part 9 of the NBC. The larger AFCH follow building codes of commercial residential buildings and the codes of Part 3 of the NBC.   

Including the AFCH distinction in the amendments was a reflection of relaxed requirements for fire sprinklers in care homes. In 2016, AFCH with 1-5 occupants in care were not required to have fire sprinklers. However, additional fire safety measures were required in homes without fire sprinklers. Care homes, in the parts of Canada that adopt the NBC, are required to have fire sprinklers.  

AFCH classification was added to the Saskatchewan Amendments to replace the classification of care homes in the NBC. In the NBC, care homes are classified within the Group B Division 3 of Major Occupancies or B3 Care Occupancies. All care homes, with 1-10 occupants in care, would follow the same building code requirements.  

New to the NBC 2020 is the classification of Group B Division 4 major occupancies. This addresses the differences between smaller and larger care homes. B4 Home-type Care Occupancy has similar requirements to the AFCH distinction of care homes with 1-5 occupants in care.  

Saskatchewan follows the NBC 2020 with the Saskatchewan Amendments. For the most part, AFCH homes, including group homes, follow specific building requirements of the Saskatchewan Amendments and general building codes found in the NBC. It can be confusing to have 2 sets of codes (the NBC codes and Saskatchewan Amendments) for each type of care home, which are very similar in nature. Perhaps, when NBC 2025 is adopted in Saskatchewan, the term AFCH will be dropped and the B3 Care Occupancy and B4 Home-type Care Occupancy classifications will become the code standards. Please click here to read the Saskatchewan Amendments for NBC 2020 and how building codes affect group homes and group living homes.  

As always, SARC Members are welcome to contact me at any time if they have questions about how the NBC and Saskatchewan Amendments impact them. 


Please Note: The included information is for reference only, and SARC and its Members, their employers, officers, and Directors assume and accept no liability for any consequences arising from the use, non-use, accuracy, or legal compliance of any of the information, tools, or resources provided.

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