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BCC Ruling No. 00-29-761

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. No. 00-29-761

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentences 3.4.3.5.(3), 3.4.3.5.(4), and 3.3.1.17.(3) 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. Hugh Magennis, Vice-President, Invar (Post Road) Corporation, North York, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Yaman Uzumeri, Chief Building Official, City of Toronto, Ontario, to determine whether the as-built handrail that projects 100 mm into the required 750 mm minimum width of a landing where a door swings into an exit stair complies with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(3) of the Ontario Building Code (OBC), and whether the guards containing outward curving metal balusters comply with OBC Sentence 3.3.1.17.(5) at One Post Road, Toronto, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Hugh Magennis, Vice-President
Invar (Post Road) Corporation
North York, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Yaman Uzumeri
Chief Building Official
City of Toronto

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. Robert De Berardis
Mr. John Guthrie

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
June 14, 2000

DATE OF RULING
June 14, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Allan Larden, Principal
Larden Muniak Consulting Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Mario Angelucci, Manager, Plan Review
North District
City of Toronto
Designate for the Respondent


RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Hugh Magennis, Vice-President, Invar (Post Road) Corporation, North York, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is constructing a new four storey residential building known as One Post Road, Toronto, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant is constructing a new Group C - residential building. The building is four storeys in height and 3,065 m2 in building area. It is of noncombustible construction and equipped with a sprinkler system, fire alarm system, and a standpipe and hose system.

There are two elements in dispute in the construction of this building. The first involves the projection of a handrail into the required width of a landing where a door swings into an exit stair. In this regard, the handrail in question projects 100 mm into the 750 mm clearance from the arc of the door swing and the opposing wall in the exit stair landing. As a result of the handrail projection, the clear width of the landing is reduced to 650 mm.

The second area of construction in dispute involves the design of the balusters used in the guards of the exterior terraces. The subject balusters, when the balcony is viewed in section, are not vertical. They are designed with an outward projecting curvature, i.e., in a bow shape. At issue in particular is the lower portion of the balusters which curve away from the exposing face of the building. The slope of this portion is measured at 55° from horizontal at approximately 300 to 350 mm above the terrace surface.

3. Dispute

There are two issues at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent. The first being whether the as-built handrail, that projects 100 mm into the 750 mm required minimum width of a landing where a door swings into an exit stair, complies with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(3) of the Code and the second involves whether the guards, containing outward curving metal balusters, comply with OBC Sentence 3.3.1.17.(5).

In reference to the first issue, according to Sentence 3.4.3.5.(3), swinging doors cannot reduce the required width of exit stairs or landings to less than 750 mm. However, Sentence 3.4.3.5.(4) provides that, if a landing or an exit stair accommodates a handrail, the handrail and any construction below it, can project up to 100 mm into the required width. The handrail in dispute projects 100 mm into the required width of the exit stair landing, thereby providing a clear width of 650 mm. At issue between the parties is whether compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(3) can be achieved when considering Sentence 3.4.3.5.(4). In this case the question being posed is, can the required width of exit stairs or landings, already reduced to 750 mm by a swinging door, be further reduced to 650 mm by way of a 100 mm handrail projection?

In respect to the second issue, Sentence 3.3.1.17.(5) stipulates that, unless it can be shown that openings in a guard do not pose a hazard, the guard must be designed so that it does not facilitate climbing. The subject guards contain balusters that curve outward for a short distance. The curved portion of balusters has a maximum slope of 55° from horizontal and 35° from vertical. The dispute between the parties in this regard involves whether the outward slope created by this curvature is horizontal enough that it may represent a foothold and thereby facilitate or promote climbing of the guard.

4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentences 3.4.3.5. Exit Width Reduction

  1. Swinging doors in their swing shall not reduce the required width of exit stairs or landings to less than 750 mm (2 ft 6 in) or reduce the width of an exit passageway to less than the minimum required width.

  2. Handrails and construction below handrails are permitted to project into the required width of means of egress but the projections shall be not more than 100 mm (4 in) on each side of the required width.

Sentence 3.3.1.17. Guards

  1. Unless it can be shown that the location and size of openings do not present a hazard, a guard shall be designed so that no member, attachment or opening located between 140 mm (5 ? in) and 900 mm (2 ft 11 in) above the level protected by the guard will facilitate climbing.

5. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant submitted his position on the two issues in dispute, namely that, a) the Code permits a handrail to project up to 100 mm into the required 750 mm minimum width of a landing, including where a door swings into an exit stair, and b) the design of the curved metal balusters or pickets cannot reasonably be held to "facilitate climbing".

With respect to the first dispute, the Agent argued that Sentences 3.4.3.5.(3) and 3.4.3.5.(4) are linked and should be read in conjunction with one another. The required width of 750 mm where a door swings into an exit stair or landing has been provided in this instance. The literal wording of the Code allows handrails and construction below handrails to project 100 mm into this minimum required width. In the Agent's opinion, "the minimum 750 mm clear width of means of egress required where a door swings into a stair landing relates to the clear width at shoulder and upper arm height. The projection of a handrail 100 mm into this 750 mm clear width will not impede the effectiveness of the required minimum width."

The Applicant's Agent also noted that "both Sentences 3.4.3.5.(3) and (4) use the words ‘required width' when referring to the required clearance between the arc of the door swing and an opposing side of the exit as well as to the width of the means of egress into which the handrail is allowed to project. Very literally, the minimum required width of the exit stair at a landing where a door swings into the exit stair is 750 mm beyond the arc of the door. If this is the ‘required width' of the exit at the arc of the door swing, then the ‘required width' into which a handrail may project up to 100 mm is 750 mm. On this basis, the clearance from this handrail to the arc of the door swing may be not less than (750-100) = 650 mm in accordance with the literal Code."

With regard to the second dispute, the Agent argued that the primary concern related to the outward curving of balusters is whether the sloped portion facilitates climbing. The common definition of "facilitate" is "to make it easy". In this respect, he suggested that regard must be had as to whether the slope of the subject pickets makes it easy to climb the guard. He went on to state that, because the Code provides no direction as to when a baluster's angel becomes climbable, he has obtained an expert opinion in this regard. According to an evaluation of the Applicant's plans by Jake Pauls of Jake Pauls Consulting Services in Building Use and Safety, the pickets would not facilitate climbing, given the proposed design. Mr. Pauls, in his letter of September 3, 1999, states with "(a) small portion of the curvature is at approximately 35 degrees, maximum, from vertical...(e)ven if one were to place ones feet on this portion of the pickets, one would have to tilt away from the exterior side of the guard to gain any possible footing due to friction against the pickets. Such a body posture is in the safe direction."

The Agent for the Applicant concluded his submission on both issues by advising the Commission that, when reasonably considered, both areas of construction in dispute comply with the literal interpretation of the Code.

6. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that, in relation to the first issue, the Code requires that landings be 1,100 mm wide. A reduction in the required width is permitted to not less than 750 mm to allow for the swing of a door opening into the landing. This width cannot, in his opinion, be further reduced by the 100 mm projection of handrails. The two requirements are mutually exclusive and the effect cannot be cumulative. The Code did not intend, in this instance, to allow the required width of a landing that accommodates a door swing to be reduced to 650 mm.

With respect to the second dispute, the Respondent also argued that the term "facilitate" in the Code means "to make easier". In his view, however, the baluster design in the guard does not comply with the literal meaning of the Code since the outward curvature can be considered to make it easier to climb. The Respondent questioned whether this design was safe. The requirements of the OBC, he argued, are intended to protect children and adults with diminished capacity. Children have greater flexibility than adults and could easily climb this guard. They wouldn't need to lean back when standing on the curved portions, as suggested by the Applicant's expert.

The Respondent went on to suggest that normal construction practice provides balusters that are completely vertical. That is the reference point from which the safety of this construction should be considered. Even then, a guard could be considered climbable. In summation, the Respondent noted that this is a performance based-type Code issue and, in the City's view, the balusters in questions facilitate climbing.

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the as-built handrail that projects 100 mm into the 750 mm required minimum width of a landing where a door swings into an exit stair complies with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(3) of the Ontario Building Code and also that the guards containing outward curving metal balusters comply with Sentence 3.3.1.17.(5) of the Ontario Building Code at One Post Road, Toronto, Ontario.

8. Reasons

  1. The reduction in the required width of a landing to facilitate the door swing and handrail is in compliance with Code provisions. The OBC requires a landing width of 750 mm to accommodate the arc of a door swing and also permits a 100 mm projection by handrails or construction below handrails into the required width of a means of egress.

  2. The guards, with balusters having an outward curve creating a slope on the lower portion of the picket to a maximum of 55° from the horizontal, do not facilitate climbing. The curvature is directed outward from the terrace and from the upper rail of the guard, therefore, making it difficult to climb.



Dated at Toronto this 14 th day in the month of June in the year 2000 for application number 2000-27.



_________________________________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Robert De Berardis





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. John Guthrie