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BCC Ruling No. 00-17-749

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #00-17-749

IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24(1) of the Building Code Act, 1992.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) and Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98, 122/98, 152/99, 278/99, 593/99 and 597/99 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Emanuel Vommero, owner, Vommero Enterprises, Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Mel Brown, Chief Building Official, City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, to interpret whether Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) of the Ontario Building Code, which permits an exemption from the requirement to provide barrier-free accessibility "within" residential suites, also applies to the design of the interior side of the egress doorways proposed for the units in the Econo Lodge, Lundy's Lane, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Emanuel Vommero, owner
Vommero Enterprises
Niagara Falls, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Mel Brown
Chief Building Official
City of Niagara Falls

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. John Guthrie
Mr. Donald Pratt

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
April 13, 2000

DATE OF RULING
April 13, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Emilio Raimondo, Architect
Piraino + Raimondo Associate Architects Inc.
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Robert Romanuk
Building and Inspections Coordinator
City of Niagara Falls
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Emanuel Vommero, owner, Vommero Enterprises, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992, and is currently constructing a new hotel known as the Econo Lodge, at Lundy's Lane, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The Applicant is currently constructing a new hotel structure classified as having a Group C - Residential occupancy. The building is described as five storeys in building height, 1,614 m2 in building area and is of noncombustible construction. The hotel will be equipped with a fire alarm system, a sprinkler system and a standpipe and hose system.

The hotel, when completed, is to have a total of 107 units, with 15 suites on the ground floor and 23 suites each on floors two through five. The ground floor of the proposed hotel will be provided with a limited number of specially designed barrier-free suites.

The construction in dispute involves the configuration of the egress doorways within the interior of the suites, in particular the amount of clear space provided on the latch side of the doors. The Applicant is proposing that in each unit 300 mm clearance be included between the latch side of the door and the demising wall that runs perpendicular to the corridor wall and that separates the suite's washroom from its interior hallway leading to the egress door. The doors of the subject hotel suites swing inward towards the interior of the units.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) of the Ontario Building Code, which permits an exemption from the requirement to provide barrier-free accessibility "within" residential suites, also applies to the design of the interior side of the egress doorways proposed for the subject hotel units. Article 3.8.2.1. determines which areas and which buildings are required to be barrier-free and which may be exempt.

Since this provision of the OBC deals with an exemption from a requirement, an understanding of the requirement itself is essential. In this instance, Sentence 3.8.2.1.(1) sets out the required construction. It states that, except under certain circumstances, a barrier-free path of travel shall be provided throughout the entrance floor and all normally occupied floor areas of a building as described below. Sentence 3.8.2.1.(2), including Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k), is a series of exceptions to Sentence 3.8.2.1.(1). Clause (k) specifically exempts the requirement for a barrier-free path of travel "within a suite of residential occupancy".

If, based on a review of Article 3.8.2.1., a determination is made that an area is required to be barrier-free, then certain additional construction requirements apply. Among these is Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) which mandates the amount of clear space required beyond the latch side of a door with a closer located in a barrier-free path of travel. The requirement is a minimum of 600 mm when the door swings towards the approach side and a minimum of 300 mm when the door swings away from the approach side. The intent of this provision is to make it easier for individuals in wheelchairs to open a door and travel through it. As noted, the Applicant is proposing to provide 300 mm, not 600 mm, clear distance on the approach side of the inward-swinging suite doors.

The Code ensures accessibility into the subject hotel rooms by extending the barrier-free path of travel into residential suites. The key question, however, is whether the interior side of the suite doors, as approached from the inside in order to exit, are considered to be "within" a path of travel that is required to be barrier-free. If so, the clear space requirements of Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) are applicable.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Sentence 3.8.2.1. - Areas Requiring Barrier-Free Path of Travel

    1. Except where essential obstructions in the work area would make a barrier-free path of travel hazardous, and except as provided in Sentences (2), (3) and (4), a barrier-free path of travel from the entrances required by Sentences 3.8.1.2.(1) and (2) to be barrier-free shall be provided throughout the entrance storey and within all normally occupied floor areas served by a passenger type elevator or other platform equipped passenger elevating device.

Clause 3.8.2.1. - Areas Requiring Barrier-Free Path of Travel

(2) The provision of a barrier-free path of travel in Sentence (1) does not apply:

(j) into suites of residential occupancy that are in storeys other than the entrance storey and that have all entrance doors at floor levels that do not correspond to elevator stop levels,
(k) within a suite of residential occupancy, or:

Sentence 3.8.3.3. - Doorways and Doors

(11) Every door equipped with a closer in a barrier-free path of travel shall have a clear space beyond the latch side of not less than:

(a) 600 mm where the door swings towards the approach side, and
(b) 300 mm where the door swings away from the approach side.

  1. Applicant's Position

At the outset, the Agent for the Applicant stated that he viewed the subject dispute as one of interpretation of the OBC and he indicated that he hoped the Commission would view it likewise.

The Agent submitted that Sentences 3.8.2.1.(1) and (2) of the Code are clear. In his view, these Sentences indicate that the hotel corridors are not exempt and therefore are required to provide a barrier-free path of travel, but the inside of the residential suites, i.e., the hotel rooms, are exempt. He argued that the interior side of the suite door and the interior approach hallway leading to it are entirely inside the suite, thereby satisfying the meaning of the word "within" used in the subject exemption Clause. A literal interpretation of the Code can only reach the conclusion that the interior side of the suite door is not in the barrier-free path of travel, the Agent stated. Consequently, the requirement found in Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) to provide 600 mm clear distance on the latch side of the door is not applicable.

The Agent then described the significant impacts the additional 300 mm, if required, would have on the entire design of the suites. First, the washrooms would have to be reconfigured so that their length would run parallel to the room and not the hotel corridor. This would have the effect of moving the washroom farther into the remainder of the suite and would cause considerable problems in terms of fitting the standard furniture expected in a hotel room such a two double beds, night tables, etc. In fact, the Agent indicated that one of the sides of one bed would essentially be only inches away from a wall. This situation, he noted, was not acceptable to his client. And since the building is currently under construction with floor slabs being poured such significant design changes could not be easily met.

The Agent concluded by stating that his firm has done numerous barrier-free projects and, in his own personal opinion, he would like to see the Code changed to expand the scope of accessibility. However, in the present case, the current OBC requirements did not mandate the 600 mm clear distance.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the barrier-free path of travel required in the hotel corridor extends through the doorway and into the suite. He supported this argument by stating that "the only exemption for doorways into (original emphasis) a suite of residential occupancy is in 3.8.2.1.(2)(j) of the OBC for suites in other than the entrance storey where an elevator does not stop." Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) cannot be used to exempt residential suite doors, he continued, because it specifically "deals with the situation within (original emphasis) a suite of residential occupancy (washrooms, corridors, etc.)..." As a result, he argued, the suite door is a part of the barrier-free path of travel and this applies to both sides of the door. As the Respondent asked; why would the Code allow accessibility into an area but not out? Doesn't a barrier-free path of travel go in both directions?

The Respondent continued by arguing that if the door, both inside and out, is in the barrier-free path of travel, then the 600 mm clear space requirement of Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) is applicable. The Respondent highlighted Sentence A.3.8.3.3.(11) of the Appendix to the Code to prove his point. He noted that this provision states the 600 mm distance should be provided for all doors, even those without closers.

The Respondent concluded by stating that they were looking for clarification of the Code. He indicated that if his view of the Code was incorrect then it should be amended to allow the disabled community greater ease in approaching and opening an egress door when exiting a residential suite, especially in hotel and short stay accommodation-type situations.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the exemption from the requirement to provide barrier-free accessibility "within" residential suites found in Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) of the Ontario Building Code also applies to the design of the interior side of egress doorways. Moreover, since the barrier-free path of travel is not required within a suite of residential occupancy, then the requirements of Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) are not applicable to the interior side of the suite entrance door.

  1. Reasons

While the Commission is sympathetic to the Respondent's position, we believe that the meaning of Clause 3.8.2.1.(1)(k) is clear. It does not require a barrier-free path of travel within a suite of residential occupancy. In our interpretation, the exemption, which employs the word "within", refers to the design of the interior of the residential suite. This, we believe, also includes the layout of the interior approach hallway leading to the egress door on the inside of the suite.

  1. Recommendation

The Building Code Commission recommends that the Housing Development and Buildings Branch review these aspects of the Ontario Building Code to examine the possibility of amending such provisions to allow for greater ease of barrier-free egress with respect to hotels and similar use buildings that provide short term accommodation where the occupants may not be familiar with their surroundings.


Dated at Toronto this 13th day in the month of April, in the year 2000, for application number 2000-20.





____________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. John Guthrie





__________________________

Mr. Donald Pratt