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BCC Ruling No. 00-31-763

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #00-31-763

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 2.1.1.11. and Sentences 3.1.15.2.(1) and (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. Jason Abbott, Manager, Air Athletics Inc., Oakville, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Frank Asta, Chief Building Official, Town of Oakville, Ontario, to determine whether the proposed fabric material roof, which is not considered as a Class A, B or C roof covering, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.1.15.2.(1) of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and whether the building, as a structure covered in a fabric material, is required to comply with Article 2.1.1.11. of the OBC at the Air Athletics sports complex, 1333 North Service Road, Oakville, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Jason Abbott, Manager
Air Athletics Inc.
Oakville, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. Fred Barkhouse
Mr. Len King

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
June 29th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
June 29th, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Dave Johnson
Randal Brown & Associates Ltd.
Willowdale, Ontario

Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Frank Asta
Chief Building Official
Town of Oakville

The Respondent

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Jason Abbott, Manager, Air Athletics Inc., Ontario, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a tennis facility at the Air Athletics sports complex, 1333 North Service Road, Oakville, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant is proposing to construct a new sports facility classified as having a Group A, Division 2 assembly occupancy. The structure is described as one storey in building height, 3,344 m2 in building area and having dimensions of 91.44 by 36.57 m. The building is to be equipped with a sprinkler system, but not a fire alarm system. The structure is intended for use as a tennis facility and is proposed to hold a maximum of six courts. It will be heated in winter for year round usage.

The construction in dispute involves the basic construction of the building. The Applicant is proposing to erect the subject structure using arched steel frames set in concrete piers. This frame will support the building envelope, which is to be comprised of a translucent combustible fabric membrane.

3. Dispute

There are two issues in dispute between the Applicant and Respondent. The first is whether the proposed fabric material roof, which is not considered as a Class A, B or C roof covering, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.1.15.2.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Air Athletics sports complex, 1333 North Service Road, Oakville, Ontario. This provision requires that all roofs must have a Class A, B or C classification as set out in Article 3.1.15.1., which in turn mandates that a roof covering must be determined in conformance with CAN/ULC-S107-M, "Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Roof Coverings". The roof, as proposed by the Applicant, is to consist of a combustible fabric membrane and does not have a Class A, B or C classification in accordance with the CAN/ULC-S107-M standard.

Sentence 3.1.15.2.(2) provides an exception to Sentence (1). It permits the Class A, B or C roof covering requirement to be waived for tents, air-supported structures and buildings with an A2 occupancy that are less than two storeys and 1,000 m2 if a noncombustible material is installed under the roof cover. Since the subject building is intended to be a permanent structure and because it is not supported by air pressure but instead by a steel frame, the proposed tennis facility cannot be considered as either a tent or an air-supported structure. Moreover, with a proposed building area of 3,344 m2, it is too large to be considered under the final exemption in Sentence 3.1.15.2.(2). As a result, the relaxation offered in this provision regarding the roof classification is not applicable to the building in dispute.

The second issue is whether the building, as a structure covered in a fabric material, is required to comply with Article 2.1.1.11. of the OBC at the above referenced structure. OBC 2.1.1.11. stipulates that the energy efficiency of all buildings shall be designed to good engineering practice in a manner consistent with that described in ASHRAE/IES 90.1-1989, "Energy Efficiency Design of New Buildings Except Lowrise Residential Buildings" and the 1997 OBC Supplementary Guidelines or the Model National Energy Code (MNEC) for Buildings, 1997. Essentially, Article 2.1.1.11. requires that buildings be energy efficient and the referenced standards provide "good engineering practice" to achieve this.

ASHRAE 90.1 and MNEC deal with energy efficiency requirements in numerous building systems, such as auxiliary systems and equipment, building envelope, electrical power, energy management, HVAC systems, lighting and service water heating systems and equipment. Similar to a tent or an air supported structure, the subject building, proposed to be enclosed by a fabric membrane, would have difficulty meeting the energy efficiency standards for some of these building systems, especially those relating to building envelope. ASHRAE 90.1 and MNEC both offer an exemption to tents and air-supported structures with respect to meeting the building envelope requirements. Again, however, the proposed building is considered neither a tent nor an air-supported structure.

At issue, therefore, is whether the structure, due to its proposed enclosure with a fabric membrane, is required as per Article 2.1.1.11. to conform to all energy efficiency requirements set out in ASHRAE 90.1 or the MNEC.

4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.1.15.2. Roof Coverings

  1. Except as permitted by Sentence (2), every roof covering shall have a Class A, B or C classification as determined in accordance with Article 3.1.15.1.
  2. A roof covering is not required to have a Class A, B or C classification for
    1. a tent,
    2. an air-supported structure, or
    3. a building of Group A, Division 2 occupancy not more than 2 storeys in building height and not more than 1,000 m 2 (10,800 ft 2 ) in building area provided the roof covering is underlaid with noncombustible material.

Article 2.1.1.11. Energy Efficiency

  1. Except for buildings of residential occupancy within the scope of Part 9, farm buildings and areas of buildings intended primarily for manufacturing or commercial or industrial processing, the energy efficiency of all buildings shall be designed to good engineering practice such as described in
    1. the ASHRAE/IES 90.1.1989, "Energy Efficient Design of New Buildings Except Lowrise Residential Buildings" and the Supplementary Guidelines to the 1997 OBC, or
    2. the Model National Energy Code for Buildings, 1997.

5. Applicant’s Position

At the outset, the Agent argued that the proposed building, as a tension membrane structure, should be viewed as a tent or as an air supported structure, even though it does not strictly adhere to either definition. He then added, however, if the Commission rejects this view, the following discussion will demonstrate the safety of the building as a permanent structure.

On the issue of the roof classification, the Agent acknowledged that the fabric membrane does not meet CAN/ULC-S107-M, "Standard Methods of Fire Tests of Roof Coverings" and as a result cannot be classified as a Class A, B or C roof covering. Nevertheless, as he stated, the fabric has been tested to both NFPA 701, "Standard Method of Fire Tests for Flame-Resistant Textiles and Films" and CAN/ULC S109, "Standard for Flame Tests of Flame Resistant Fabrics and Films" which are the standards that recognized by the OBC and the Ontario Fire Code for awnings and tents. The tests indicated that flame does not propagate when exposed to the membrane. Consequently, the material, while still considered combustible, performs as well as can be expected in a fire situation. Moreover, the Agent argued that the building has been made considerably safer since it is to be fully sprinklered. As well, he noted that the sprinkler system, albeit installed on the high roof of the structure, would actuate prior to fire causing damage to the fabric since the sprinkler activation temperature is much lower than the melt point of the roof.

The Agent also indicated that the building was safe from a fire safety standpoint because, at approximately 48 to 50 people, it will have a low occupant load. As he reasoned, on six courts of tennis a maximum of 24 people could play at any one time, plus a total of 24 potential observers were anticipated. No viewing facilities for spectators are proposed and the building is to be used for tennis only. No other sports, parties, gatherings or raves are to be allowed, the Agent noted. In addition, the building will contain very little in terms of fuel load to propagate fire and the spatial separation between the proposed structure and the existing buildings and property lines are nearly triple the required distance. As well, fire extinguishers are to be provided.

Regarding the second issue, energy efficiency, the Agent argued that the proposed building should be exempt from the requirements found in ASHRAE 90.1 or MNEC. As he argued, apart from the fact that the tennis facility is structurally supported by steel arches and not air pressure, there is very little to distinguish this building from an air-supported structure. Consequently, he saw no reason why the subject structure should also not enjoy an exemption from at least some of the energy efficiency requirements, especially those relating to building envelope. In his view, it is not practical nor feasible for the proposed building to comply with Article 2.1.1.11. This impracticality, he continued, is recognized by Sentence 1.1.2.1.(5) of the MNEC which references Appendix commentary E-1.1.2.1.(5). The Appendix provision, he noted, specifically mentions "sports facilities" as being one of the buildings that may have difficulty meeting the requirements of the MNEC and still function as intended. The Appendix commentary adds that in such cases the authority having jurisdiction may wish to permit an exception.

In terms of the actual energy that will be consumed by the tennis building, the Agent argued it will be minimal. He indicated that the only energy usage would be heat in the winter and lighting at night. The translucent fabric, he noted, will make daytime operation possible without lighting, which itself is a considerable energy savings. And since the building is to be supported by a steel frame it would not need constant air pressure supplied continuously by fans to remain standing. Thus representing an improvement over air-supported buildings.

Lastly, the Agent concluded that based on the above reasons, sufficiency of compliance for the lack of a classified roof had been provided. Further, the structure, as a building enclosed with a fabric membrane, need not comply with the energy efficiency requirements found in Article 2.1.1.11.

6. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed building is not a tent nor is it a air-supported structure. The building, he argued, is accurately described as a tension membrane structure. Moreover, the Code does not permit such buildings. As a result, the proposed tennis facility should be treated as a permanent building and must comply with all applicable provisions of the OBC, including Sentence 3.1.15.2.(1) and Article 2.1.1.11. regarding roof classification and energy efficiency respectively.

The Respondent indicated that he has some specific concerns about the project. Specifically, he was troubled by the fact that the sprinkler heads, being approximately 16 to 17 m high, would likely not activate until a roaring fire had developed at the tennis surface. He also felt that the intended location of the building, near houses situated on an escarpment, could be a problem despite that the spatial separation was more than required. In addition, if the sports facility were to change ownership, the future owners may wish to use the tennis facility for uses that may have a higher occupant load. He noted that the site had changed hands frequently.

In summation, the Respondent argued that the proposed building did not fit the existing categories of buildings found in the current OBC. And as an anomalous structure, erring on the side of caution insofar as building standards are concerned is prudent. In addition, he insisted that if the BCC were to approve the proposal at hand they should attach some serious limitations controlling its usage and operation. For example, he hoped the Commission would restrict the use of the building to tennis only and limit the occupant load to the minimum number of actual users. He also expressed a desire to see the combustible load of the building remain low, in particular prohibiting the construction of any other structures within the facility.

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed fabric material roof, which is not considered as a Class A, B or C roof covering provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.1.15.2.(1) of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) at the tennis facility within the Air Athletics sports complex, 1333 North Service Road, Oakville, Ontario on condition that:

  1. The use of the building is restricted to not more than 6 courts of tennis and is limited to tennis use only;

  1. The occupant load is restricted to a maximum of 48 persons;

  1. No additional structures are permitted to be constructed inside the subject building;

  1. No storage of any material except as is consistent with that of an indoor tennis court is permitted; and,

  1. A spatial separation from adjacent buildings and property lines of at least 30 m must be provided.

It is also the decision of the Building Code Commission that the structure covered in a fabric material is not required to comply with Article 2.1.1.11. of the OBC at the above referenced facility on condition that:

  1. The electrical lighting and HVAC systems provided in the building exceed the prescriptive requirements for such systems in ASHRAE 90.1 or the Model National Energy Code for Buildings; and,

  1. A portion of the heating system make use of solar heating, heat pumps or heat exchanges.

8. Reasons

  1. The occupant load of the structure will be low considering its building area.

  1. The fuel load will be low.

  1. The proposed structure will have considerable separation from any other building.

  1. The HVAC and lighting systems will provide improved energy efficiency than would be normally required.

Dated at Toronto this 29th, day in the month of June in the year 2000 for application number 2000-34.



_______________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_______________________________________________

Mr. Fred Barkhouse





_______________________________________________

Mr. Len King