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Micro Breweries and Distilleries What Is Micro?

May 2018

With the popularity of craft breweries and distilleries in our communities we are often approached at our respective counters with building permit applications to provide these facilities’. Breweries and distilleries contain several processes that can represent a hazard but the scale of these operations is important. Questions related to the crushing of malts, accumulation of vapour, combustibility, and quantities of combustible materials need to be answered to ensure proper life safety provisions are provided.

When reviewing these applications the first item of business is to determine the major occupancy of the micro-brewery/distillery. Calling into action our training we typically determine the occupancies as F2 (Brewery) and F1 (Distillery) as per the appendix of the OBC. Based on this classification, several restrictions and enhanced life safety are applicable to the construction.

The appendix of the OBC is a guide that helps us determine compliance with technical requirements within the OBC regulation. This guideline was based on large-scale distillation and refining operations which have large quantities of flammable and combustible liquids. Due to the limited quantities of flammable liquids within these micro-breweries/distilleries, these facilities may not represent an equivalent fire and explosion hazard.

Due to the variable sizes proposed it is important to determine the occupancy based on the definitions provided in the OBC between high, medium and low hazard occupancies within the industrial classification. Receiving this information from a professional with experience in these types of occupancies is imperative to apply the correct OBC provisions. Division A, defines the three industrial types as:

Low hazard industrial occupancy (Group F, Division 3) means an industrial occupancy in which the combustible content is not more than 50 kg/m² or 1200 MJ/m² of floor area.

Medium hazard industrial occupancy (Group F, Division 2) means an industrial occupancy in which the combustible content is more than 50 kg/m² or 1200 MJ/m² of floor area and that is not classified as a high hazard industrial occupancy.

High hazard industrial occupancy (Group F, Division 1) means an industrial occupancy containing sufficient quantities of highly combustible and flammable or explosive materials to constitute a special fire hazard because of their inherent characteristics

Brewery issues are typically related to their compatibility within a building that contains more than one residential dwelling unit. Since a medium hazard industrial occupancy cannot be contained within a building with more than one dwelling unit a low hazard industrial classification is necessary. When determining a low hazard classification, calculations for the combustible content and combustibility must be provided within the occupancy. All equipment, furnishings and process materials must be identified with the maximum quantities that can be expected. The applicant must clearly show that the content weight is not more than 50 kg/m2 with their combustibility not more than 1200 MJ/m2 to fit into the low hazard industrial classification.

Distilleries can be more difficult to determine based on the definition provided within the OBC. The distinction between medium and high hazard is based on the presence of a special fire hazard as a result of the inherent characteristics of the flammable materials within the occupancy. A medium hazard occupancy is not limited to quantity but assurances must be made that a special fire hazard does not exist. Typical large-scale operations will contain more than 1 million litres of distilled finished product so the applicant must determine that the micro-distillery is a fraction of this amount. More importantly the consultant providing the calculation must provide assurances that a special fire hazard does not exist.

Hazardous process requirements provided in Div B, and refer us to the Ontario Fire Code or stipulate specific explosion protection within the building. Combustible dusts can be produced from the malt powder if it is crushed and distributed throughout the building. Off-site crushing and closed loop systems may be used to reduce this hazardous environment. In micro-distilleries explosion protection or prevention systems may need to be provided to ensure flammable vapours do not create a special fire hazard.

Once the occupancy classification and hazardous processes protections has been determined it is also important to ensure these parameters are maintained for the life of the occupancy. Maintaining good property records and adding this information to the fire safety plan may be the best way to keep these occupancies “Micro”.

Gerald Moore

Chief Executive Officer