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BCC Ruling No. 00-25-757

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #00-25-757

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2. of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98, 122/98, 152/99, 278/99, 593/99, 597/99 and 205/00 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Tony Manocchio, Project Manager, Saddlebrook Construction Inc., 40 LePage Court, Downsview, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Morris Lucchetta, Manger of Inspections, Town of Richmond Hill, to determine whether the eighteen sets of as-built spiral stairs, which are not required exit stairs and are measured at 780 mm in width and 50 mm and 160 mm in minimum and average tread depth respectively, are required to comply with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15 and 9.8.5.2. of the Ontario Building Code at the Gates of Bayview Residences - Phase I, 3 Ellesmere Road, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Tony Manocchio, Project Manager
Saddlebrook Construction Inc.
Downsview, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Morris Lucchetta
Manager of Inspections
Town of Richmond Hill

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair)
Mr. Fred Barkhouse
Mr. John Guthrie

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
May 25th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
May 25th, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Randy Brown, President
Randy Brown & Associates Ltd.
Willowdale, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant


Mr. Morris Lucchetta
Manager of Inspections
Town of Richmond Hill
The Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Tony Manocchio, Project Manager, Saddlebrook Construction Inc., Downsview, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992, and is currently constructing a residential condominium known as the Gates of Bayview Residences -Phase I located at 3 Ellesmare Road, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The Applicant is currently building a new condominium residence classified as having a Group C occupancy. The structure is described as eight storeys in building height, 1,563 m2 in building area and is of noncombustible construction. The building will be equipped with a fire alarm system, a standpipe and hose system and a partial sprinkler system in the basement levels only.

The construction in dispute involves the installation of prefabricated metal spiral stairs in eighteen units with two floor levels. Both levels of the units have a floor area of approximately 30 m2 and the spiral stairs are the only means of passage between floors. The stairs are not considered as a required means of egress since all such units are equipped with an egress door on both levels leading directly to a public corridor.

The as-constructed stairs are supported by a floor-to-ceiling 100 mm diameter centre steel post. Each stairs is described as having 13 treads that together span a 2700 total rotation. The clear width between the post and the handrail on the outside of the stair is 780 mm. The tread depth measured directly adjacent to the centre post is 50 mm, excluding the area covered by the overhang from the above protruding step. Measured at 330 mm from the post the tread is approximately 153 mm in depth without the overhang area, and at 381 mm away, roughly the centre line of the stair, it is approximately 160 mm deep, also excluding the overhung portion.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the eighteen sets of as-built spiral stairs, which are not required exit stairs and are measured at 780 mm in width and 50 mm and 160 mm in minimum and average tread depth respectively, are required to comply with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15 and 9.8.5.2. of the Ontario Building Code. (While the building in dispute has been constructed according to Part 3 of the OBC, certain stair requirements of Part 9 are applicable because of Article 3.3.4.7. which states that "(s)tairs, handrails and guards within a dwelling unit shall conform to the appropriate requirements in Section 9.8.")

The above provisions set out requirements for stair width and tread depth. Specifically, Sentence 9.8.3.1.(2) stipulates that at least one stair between levels in a dwelling unit shall be a minimum of 860 mm in width. This provision applies to any stair, not just spiral ones. As noted, the Applicant's stairs are 780 mm wide. As well, Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2., both mandate that the minimum run of a curved or spiral stair (although Article 9.8.5.2. refers only to a curved stair) is required to be 150 mm and the average run must be 200 mm. The minimum and average runs of the subject stairs are 50 mm and 160 mm respectively.

Specifically, the issue before the Commission is not whether the as-installed stairs meet the prescriptive requirements found in the OBC regarding stair width and tread depth. Clearly they do not. Rather, the issue, as presented by the parties, is, as spiral and not curved stairs that are not required for exiting, whether it is necessary that they must conform with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2. of the Building Code.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) - Stair Width

    1. ,
    2. At least 1 stairway between each floor level in a dwelling unit shall have a width between wall faces of not less than 860 mm (2 ft 10 in).

Article 3.3.1.15. - Curved or Spiral Stairs

  1. A curved or spiral stair is permitted in a stairway not required as an exit provided the stair has:

(a) treads width

i. a minimum run not less than 150 mm (57/8), and

ii. an average run not less than 200 mm (77/8), and

(b) risers in conformance with Sentence 3.4.6.7.(2).


Article 9.8.5.2. - Curved Stairs not in Exits

  1. Except as permitted in Article 9.8.5.3., a curved stair not required as an exit shall have an average run of not less than 200 mm (77/8) and a minimum run of 150 mm (57/8) and shall have risers conforming to Article 9.8.3.1.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant commenced his presentation by noting that the eighteen sets of stairs in dispute are spiral and not curved stairs. He argued that such stairs are not adequately addressed in the OBC. In his view, the Code requirements for curved stairs are clear but the same cannot be said for spiral stairs. However, he stated that it was important to understand that the OBC does not exclude nor prohibit the use of spiral stairs in the circumstances at hand.

The Agent submitted that the 860 mm minimum width requirement, for example, only makes sense if the stairs are required to be used for exiting and moving furniture. In the present situation neither demand is being placed on the subject stair. As he noted, since there is an egress door leading to a public corridor on both levels of the units individuals could exit from either the upper and lower floor areas directly without using the stairs. Moreover, when moving furniture of any size it would be obvious and, in fact, much easier to take such objects out of the unit, into the corridor and onto the elevator. Therefore the requirement of Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2), he offered, is neither appropriate nor practical in terms of achieving compliance for the subject spiral stairs.

Regarding the issue of tread depth, the Agent argued that since the OBC seems to provide regulatory standards only for circular and curved, but not spiral, stairs it is difficult and in some cases impossible to meet the requirements of Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2. concerning tread depth. Article 3.3.1.15., which he noted is titled "Curved or Spiral Stairs", requires a minimum tread run of 150 mm, but on a spiral stair, which by definition is constructed around a centre support post, meeting such a minimum tread depth is not possible. The same situation holds for compliance with Article 9.8.5.2. as well, he asserted.

As a result, the Agent argued that it would be appropriate to look to model codes such as the National Fire Prevention Association, the Standard Building Code and the Building Officials and Code Administrators code which, in his view, more adequately address the concept of spiral stairs. When assessing the disputed spiral stairs under these model code standards, the Agent stated that they met all requirements (including overall stair width), with the exception of the minimum tread depth of 7 ? inches (191 mm) when measured 12 inches (305 mm) from the centre post. The latter, he explained, is the principle standard that these model codes use in terms of safety requirements for tread runs instead of minimum and average depths.

To mitigate the non-compliance with the 191 mm tread depth requirement, the Agent proposed that a second handrail attached to the centre post be added to the inside of the stairs. This handrail would project 100 mm from the post and would make the stairs safer and would effectively mean that users of the stair would be forced to walk closer to the outside where the tread run is deeper. In fact, he argued that by measuring 305 mm from the outside of the proposed inner handrail, and not the post itself, the prescriptive requirements of 191 mm for tread depth found in the model codes will be met. While the additional handrail would further narrow the stair, it would reduce the width to 668 mm which still exceeds the minimum of 660 mm set out in the referenced model codes.

In summation, the Agent indicated that since the subject stairs were assembled off-site and lowered into place with a crane as the floor slabs were being poured removing them would be exceedingly difficult and costly. He also noted that the same stairs have been approved by other municipalities, installed in numerous other projects, and used without problem. Lastly, the Agent argued that, in his view, the subject stairs, with the inside handrail, comply with the various model codes and present no safety concerns.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the OBC is very clear on the issues in dispute. Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2. are applicable to the subject stairs. And as such, the stair width and the minimum and average tread runs, he argued, were not in compliance. He stated that during an inspection of the stairs (after installation) he found that ascending was not an issue, but descending was unsafe due to the narrow tread runs.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the eighteen sets of as-built spiral stairs, which are not required exit stairs and are measured at 780 mm in width and 50 mm and 160 mm in minimum and average tread depth respectively, are required to comply with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Articles 3.3.1.15. and 9.8.5.2. of the Ontario Building Code at the Gates of Bayview Residences - Phase One, 3 Ellesmere Road, Richmond Hill, Ontario. The as-built stairs currently do not comply with the OBC in terms of width and minimum and average stair tread dimensions.

  1. Reasons

    1. The above provisions are applicable to curved or spiral stairs, even those not required for exiting.
    2. The proposed measure of adding a second handrail attached to the centre steel post on the inside of the stairs does not compensate for the deficiencies. In fact, it further narrows the stairs.


Dated at Toronto this 25th day in the month of May, in the year 2000, for application number 2000-41.





____________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_______________________

Mr. John Guthrie





__________________________

Mr. Fred Barkhouse