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BCC Ruling No. 16-07-1435

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Ruling No.:16-07-1434
Application No.: B 2015-50

 

BUILDING CODE COMMISSION

IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24(1) of the Building Code Act, S.O. 1992, c. 23, as amended.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 9.10.19.2. of Regulation 350/06, as amended, (the “Building Code”).

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by William Miller for the resolution of a dispute with Clayton Seymour, Chief Building Official, to determine whether the proposal to not install smoke alarms within a new residential dwelling provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 9.10.19.2. of the 2006 Building Code at 614010 Grant Road, Town of Englehart, Ontario.

APPLICANT

William Miller
Homeowner
Englehart, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Clayton Seymour
Chief Building Official
Earlton, Ontario

PANEL

Leslie Morgan, Chair-Designate
Tony Chow
Yaman Uzumeri

PLACE

City of Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

February 4, 2016

DATE OF RULING

February 4, 2016

APPEARANCES

William Miller
Englehart, Ontario
Applicant

Clayton Seymour
Chief Building Official
Earlton, Ontario
Respondent

RULING

 

1. Particulars of Dispute

The Applicant has received a building permit to construct a new single family dwelling unit at 614010 Grant Road, Town of Englehart, Ontario. This dispute has arisen for five separate properties within the town. The parties agreed that each of the cases should be heard together as the issue at dispute and the arguments are the same.

The issue at dispute relates to the installation of smoke alarms within the dwelling unit. Since the building permit application for this home was made in 2013, the 2006 Building Code is applicable to this case.

Article 9.10.19.2. of the Building Code specifies the location of smoke alarms within dwelling units. In part, Sentence 9.10.19.2.(1) states “within dwelling units, sufficient smoke alarms shall be installed so that there is at least one smoke alarm on each floor level, including basements, that is 900 mm (2ft 11 in) or more above or below an adjacent floor level, each bedroom is protected by a smoke alarm either inside the bedroom or, if outside, within 5 m (16 ft 5 in) measured following corridors and doorways of the bedroom door…”. Sentence 9.10.19.3.(2) permits smoke alarms to be battery operated when a building is not equipped with electrical power.

The subject single family dwelling unit is comprised of combustible construction and is two storeys in building height. The house contains a total of four bedrooms, three bedrooms are located on the second storey and the master bedroom is located on the first storey. The house is not equipped with electrical power; therefore battery operated smoke alarms would be permitted.

Upon final inspection, it was discovered that smoke alarms had not been installed anywhere within the dwelling and an order to comply was issued. The Order to Comply required smoke alarms to be installed in all designated areas. The Applicant has cited religious beliefs and practices as the reason for not installing any smoke alarms.

The Commission is being asked to determine whether the proposal to not install smoke alarms within the dwelling unit sufficiently complies with Article 9.10.19.2. of the Building Code.

2. Provisions of the Building Code in Dispute

9.10.19.2. Location of Smoke Alarms

    (1) Within dwelling units, sufficient smoke alarms shall be installed so that,

      (a) there is at least one smoke alarm on each floor level, including basements, that is 900 mm or more above or below an adjacent floor level,
      (b) each bedroom is protected by a smoke alarm either inside the bedroom or, if outside, within 5 m, measured following corridors and doorways, of the bedroom door, and
      (c) the distance, measured following corridors and doorways, from any point on a floor level to a smoke alarm on the same level does not exceed 15 m.

    (2) Smoke alarms required in Article 9.10.19.1. and Sentence (1) shall be installed on or near the ceiling.
    (3) Smoke alarms required in Sentences (1) and (2) shall be audible within the bedrooms when the intervening doors are closed.
    (4) Smoke alarms required in Sentences (1) and (2) shall be installed in conformance with the manufacturers instructions.

3. Applicant’s Position

The Applicants explained that they are Amish and cited religious beliefs as their reason for not wanting to install the smoke alarms. They informed the Commission that they prefer to place their trust in a higher power and not on man-made devices. They advised that they have not installed any of these appliances in any of their homes and that their homes are not equipped with electrical power.

The Applicants submitted that they would like to be exempt from such requirements that do not conform with their faith or beliefs. They added that they would be willing to sign a waiver that would absolve the Chief Building Official of any responsibility and further, would not hold the enforcing person responsible in the event that something happened.

In response to questions, the Applicants stated that there are no modern appliances of any nature in their homes. They do not have televisions or phones. They indicated that if they install smoke alarms that it would be a first and would break with their traditional way of life. They did advise that they have used flashlights which are operated by batteries; however, they felt that the use of a flashlight is not for life safety. They reiterated that they place their trust for their protection in a higher power.

In summary, the Applicants restated their request to be exempt from the Building Code requirements based on their religious beliefs and practices. They also reiterated that they would sign a letter releasing the town from any liability.

4. Respondent’s Position

The Respondent submitted that during an inspection, it was revealed that smoke alarms had not been installed anywhere in the dwelling. He noted that the dwelling is not equipped with electrical power and that, based on discussions, battery operated smoke alarms would be sufficient.

The Respondent stated that the Building Code is quite clear in that it requires dwellings to have smoke alarms installed in designated areas. He advised that this dwelling is heated by non-CSA approved wood fired appliances and that oil lamps are used for the lighting and that these factors make the risk of fire substantially greater.

The Respondent explained that he had met with the Applicants to discuss the Code requirements and encouraged the Applicants to comply by installing battery operated smoke alarms. He stated that he had advised the Applicants that if the municipality had not heard back within a week, then an Order to Comply would be issued. He noted that, despite the non-compliance with this requirement, the Applicants have been very cooperative in all other aspects of the project and there remains a good working relationship with the municipality.

The Respondent stressed that the issue is compounded by the size of the dwelling, the number of bedrooms, and the fact that the dwelling is heated by non-CSA approved appliances. He felt that these factors increase the fire hazard and therefore, the need for the smoke alarms is greater.

In conclusion, the Respondent summarized that the Building Code very clearly requires smoke alarms to be installed in designated areas and that this dwelling is required to have smoke alarms installed as per the requirement of the Building Code.

5. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposal to not install smoke alarms within a new residential dwelling does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Article 9.10.19.2. of the 2006 Building Code at 614010 Grant Road, Town of Englehart, Ontario.

6. Reasons

  1. The Building Code exists to protect the public by ensuring buildings in Ontario are safe. The Building Code sets out technical and administrative requirements to support objectives including fire safety, public health, and structural sufficiency for buildings in Ontario.

  2. The Commission is an adjudicative tribunal with a mandate to resolve disputes related to the sufficiency of compliance (emphasis added) of the technical requirements of the Building Code. The Commission’s mandate does not extend to providing exemptions to the technical requirements of the Building Code.

  3. The Commission did not hear any technical evidence or arguments to demonstrate how the proposal to not install smoke alarms provides and equivalent level of performance to that required by the Building Code.

  4. No compensating measures were proposed to achieve sufficiency of compliance with the minimum requirements set out in the Code.

Dated at the City of Toronto this 4th day in the month of February in the year 2016 for application number B 2015-50.

Leslie Morgan, Chair-Designate

Tony Chow

Yaman Uzumeri