Secondary suites are self-contained living units created within single-family homes. These suites include a kitchen, bathroom and a separate entrance, and provide Albertans with an affordable housing option.
The Government of Alberta established safety standards specific to secondary suites primarily for safety reasons and also as a means to provide options for affordable housing. The Alberta building and fire code requirements for secondary suites came into force on December 31, 2006. The Alberta Building Code requirements apply to suites built after December 31, 2006, and the fire code applies to suites built on or before December 31, 2006. Our objective in establishing these requirements was to improve safety for existing suites and establish better standards for new suites. There are two key differences between the building and fire code requirements, the first relates to heating/ventilation and the second is the discretion for municipalities to assess ceiling height.
For homes with a secondary suite built prior to December 31, 2006, a single heating/ventilation system is allowed under Alberta's fire code. Suites built after December 31, 2006, are required to have independent or separate heating/ventilation systems for the primary suite and the secondary suite, as per the Alberta Building Code. Independent heating/ventilation can mean two furnaces, or a combination of furnace and supplemental heating, such as space heaters. Interconnected smoke alarms and other safety features in the fire code provide safety for Albertans in existing suites with a single heating/ventilation system.
Regarding ceiling height, the municipal safety codes officer has the discretion to accept the ceiling height of an existing secondary suite. For all existing suites, this provision removes the potential for older homes to face unacceptable renovation costs and work due to lower ceiling heights.
Municipalities have the choice to develop bylaws to allow secondary suites in their communities, as well as deciding which areas may be zoned to permit secondary suites.
For more information about secondary suites, contact the Municipal Affairs Safety Services branch toll-free at 1-866-421-6929.
- Building Code Interpretation - Secondary Suites (pdf)
- Fire Code Interpretation - Secondary Suites (pdf)