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BCC Ruling No. 00-36-768

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. No. 00-36-768

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentences 3.2.2.10.(1) and (2) and 3.2.5.4.(1) and Article 3.2.5.5. 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. Robin Ng, Principal, Ng Chee Architects, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Gerry Bilous, Chief Building Official, City of Oshawa, to determine whether the new sprinklered facility separated from an existing building by a firewall, but which is proposed to be constructed without facing a street for fire fighting purposes or a fire access route, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 3.2.2.10.(1) and (2), Sentence 3.2.5.4.(1), and Article 3.2.5.5. of the Ontario Building Code at the Thorntonview Long Term Care Facility, 186 Thornton Road South, Oshawa, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Robin Ng, Principal
Ng Chee Architects
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Gerry Bilous
Chief Building Official
City of Oshawa

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. John Guthrie
Mr. Len King

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
July 27th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
July 27th, 2000

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

Mr. S. Kwan Lo
Manager, Permit Services
City of Oshawa
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Robin Ng, Principal, Ng Chee Architects, Toronto, Ontario, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to extend an existing building known as the "Thorntonview Long Term Care Facility" located at 186 Thornton Road South, Oshawa, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant is proposing to extend an existing one-storey long term care facility by constructing a new 1581.48 m2, two-storey structure to the rear (or north) of the present building. Both the existing and the proposed construction have a Group B, Division 2 - Care and Treatment occupancies. The buildings are and will be of combustible construction and are to be equipped with a fire alarm system. The new facility will be fully sprinklered and will be separated from the existing building by a firewall. Doors in the firewall, however, will allow intercommunication between the new structure and the existing building.

The construction in dispute involves the fact that the new structure will not face a street, nor will it be provided with a fire access route. The Applicant is, however, proposing to sprinkler the presently unsprinklered central portion of the existing building that would abut the link to the new facility.

The lack of access to the proposed building is primarily the result of the physical constrains of the site in question. The property is bordered to the east by Thornton Road South, which is the only municipal roadway adjacent to the property. (There is a fire access route to the front of the existing building connected to this road.) Between Thornton Road South and the east exposing walls of both the new and existing buildings is a very steep slope. Grading this slope to provide an access route/street to the proposed facility is, in the opinion of the Applicant, impractical. In addition, the site of the new building is bounded to the north by a flood plain, to the west by a river and to the south by the existing building, the length of which will completely preclude access to the new building.

3. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the new sprinklered facility separated from an existing building by a firewall, but which is proposed to be constructed without facing a street for fire fighting purposes or a fire access route, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 3.2.2.10.(1) and (2), Sentence 3.2.5.4.(1), and Article 3.2.5.5. of the Ontario Building Code.

The first provision, Sentence 3.2.2.10.(1), requires that every building face a street conforming to Articles 3.2.5.5. and 3.2.5.6. However, Sentence 3.2.2.10.(2) then permits, for the purposes of establishing construction requirements for buildings based on their occupancy, size and height and complying with fire fighting requirements, that a fire access route can be considered as a street if it conforms to Subsection 3.2.5. In addition, Sentence 3.2.5.4.(1) requires that buildings of a certain size also provide a fire access route directly to specific areas of a building, thus ensuring that if the structure is large enough that continuous access is provided from the street onto the property and to particular areas of the building. Sentence 3.2.5.4.(1) is a separate requirement than that of Article 3.2.2.10. and becomes applicable when a building surpasses the height and area thresholds it sets out. The subject building is of a size that it is required to both face a street and provide a fire access route.

The requirements of Article 3.2.5.5. expand upon the above concept. It details the standards to be met when determining the location of a fire access route where one is required. This Article requires that, for a building not provided with a fire department connection, a fire access route must be located between three and fifteen metres from the main entrance and other required openings of the building face. This access route must be designed in such a way that it provides an unobstructed path of travel not longer than 45 metres from the pumper vehicle to the main entrance of the building, and not longer than 90 metres measured from the fire hydrant to the main entrance of the building.

As noted, no street or access route is being proposed for the new building. In lieu of these, the Applicant is proposing to fully sprinkler the central portion of the existing building that is to abut the connecting portion between buildings. The issue to be considered therefore is whether partial sprinklering of the existing building can sufficiently compensate for the Building Code requirements of facing a street and providing an access route.

4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 3.2.2.10. Streets

  1. Every building shall face a street located in conformance with the requirements of Articles 3.2.5.5. and 3.2.5.6. for access routes.
  2. For the purposes of Subsections 3.2.2. and 3.2.5. an access route conforming to Subsection 3.2.5. is permitted to be considered as a street.

Sentence 3.2.5.4. Access Routes

  1. A building which is more than 3 storeys in building height or more than 600 m2 (6,460 ft2) in building area shall be provided with access routes for fire department vehicles
    1. to the principal entrance, and
    2. to each building face having access openings for fire fighting as required by Articles 3.2.5.1. and 3.2.5.2. (See appendix A.)

Article 3.2.5.5. Location of Access Routes

  1. Access routes required by Article 3.2.5.4. shall be located so that the principal entrance and every access opening required by Articles 3.2.5.1. and 3.2.5.2. are located not less than 3 m (9 ft 10 in) and not more than 15 m (49 ft 3 in) from the closest portion of the access route required for fire department use, measured horizontally from the face of the building.
  2. Access routes shall be provided to a building so that
    1. for a building provided with a fire department connection, a fire department pumper vehicle can be located adjacent to the hydrants referred to in Article 3.2.5.16.,
    2. for a building not provided with a fire department connection, a fire department pumper vehicle can be located so that the length of the access route from a hydrant to the vehicle plus the unobstructed path of travel for the fire fighter from the vehicle to the building is not more than 90 m (295 ft 3 in), and
    3. the unobstructed path of travel for the fire fighter from the vehicle to the building is not more than 45 m (147 ft 8 in).
  3. The unobstructed path of travel for the fire fighter required by Sentence (2) from the vehicle to the building shall be measured from the vehicle to the fire department connection provided for the building, except that if no fire department connection is provided, the path of travel shall be measured to the principal entrance of the building.
  4. If a portion of a building is completely cut off from the remainder of the building so that there is no access to the remainder of the building, the access routes required by Sentence (2) shall be located so that the unobstructed path of travel from the vehicle to one entrance of each portion of the building is not more than 45 m (147 ft 8 in).

5. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the construction of the required street/fire access route for the new addition cannot practically be achieved in this location because of the characteristics of the site. There is a steep escarpment on one side of the building and a river and flood plain on the other. In an attempt to create an access route, the Applicant proposed that firefighter access could be provided through a heavily sprinklered area at the middle front of the existing building which would lead to the new addition.

The Applicant submitted the following arguments to demonstrate sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of the OBC:

  1. It is unrealistic to expect that, if there is a fire in the proposed addition, there would be an impediment to firefighter access to the addition in the existing building.

"The Fire Safety Plan will address the necessity of maintaining clear access between the main entrance of the existing building and the door in the fire wall (sic) separating the existing building from the addition.

  1. If a fire were to occur in the existing building, it would not be reasonable to expect that a fire would occur simultaneously in the addition.

  1. The allowance in OBC 3.2.5.5.(4) whereby a 45 m distance from a fire vehicle to an entrance of a portion of a building completely cut off from the remainder of the building is permitted, effectively constitutes an exception to the requirement for a maximum 15 m distance from a fire route to a main entrance which generally applies.

"The actual distance from the door in the fire wall (sic) providing access to the addition to the fire route is less than 24 m - considerably less than the 45 m allowed in OBC 3.2.5.5.(4).

"The fact that, by virtue of the fire doors in the fire wall (sic), the addition is not 'completely cut off' from the existing building, may be appreciated as being advantageous in that direct access is provided to the addition from the vehicle and the main entrance containing the fire alarm annunciator.

"This is superior to a situation where there is a considerable distance to travel around the exterior of the building from the fire department response point to a remote entrance in a 'completely cut off' portion of the building.

  1. The existing building is subdivided by fire walls (sic). The owner's representative has indicated that the central portion of the existing building containing the firefighter access route from the existing main entrance to the door to the addition may be sprinklered. Such sprinklering would cover the entire centre portion of the existing building between fire walls (sic) separating such portion from the east and west wings containing patient rooms."

6. Respondent's Position

The Respondent advised that the City welcomed the development of this project and recognized the difficulties stemming from the physical constraints on site. However, he submitted that the new structure is a separate building, and is therefore required to be provided with a fire access route in compliance with the Ontario Building Code.

The Respondent outlined that they would be content with the proposal if the new building was of noncombustible construction and if the middle front portion of the existing building was sprinklered.

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the new sprinklered facility, separated from the existing building by a firewall, but which is proposed to be constructed without a fire access route, does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 3.2.2.10.(1) and (2), Sentence 3.2.5.4.(1), and Article 3.2.5.5 of the Ontario Building Code at the Thorntonview Long Term Care Facility, 186 Thornton Road South, Oshawa, Ontario.

8. Reasons

i. The new structure is considered to be a separate building and is, therefore, required to face a street or a fire access route considered as a street in accordance with Article 3.2.2.10. In addition, due to the size of the proposed new building, at 1581.48 m2, a fire access route from the street and onto the property to the principal entrance and each building face having access openings for fire fighting purposes is required in conformance with Article 3.2.5.4. The subject proposal does not provide either.

ii. The proposed sprinklering and access through the existing building is not sufficient to compensate for the level of life safety that would be provided with direct access to the facility for emergency personnel as set out in the Code.

Dated at Toronto this 27th day in the month of July in the year 2000 for application number 2000-44.



_________________________________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. John Guthrie





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Len King