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BCC Ruling No. 00-37-769

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. No. 00-37-769

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Clause 3.8.2.1.(1)(k) 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. Michael Moxam, Principal, Dunlop Farrow Architects Inc., Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Mel Brown, Chief Building Official, City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, to determine 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 Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, Stanley Avenue and Livingstone Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Michael Moxam, Principal
Dunlop Farrow Architects Inc.
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Mel Brown
Chief Building Official
City of Niagara Falls

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

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Michael Moxam, Principal, Dunlop Farrow Architects Inc., Toronto, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is constructing an addition onto the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, Stanley and Livingstone Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant is constructing a 15 storey addition on top of an existing 24 storey hotel. The addition will create a hotel with a building height of 39 storeys and a building area of 7, 075 m2, containing Group A, Division 2 and Group C occupancies. The addition and the existing building are both of noncombustible construction and equipped with a sprinkler system, a fire alarm system and a standpipe and hose system.

The construction in dispute involves the configuration of the egress doorways within the interior of the suites of the hotel. Specifically, the issue involves the amount of clear space to be provided on the latch side of the doors in the interior of the suites. All of the doors entering the suites swing inward towards the interior of the unit. The Respondent is requiring that a minimum 600 mm clearance be included between the latch side of the door and the demising wall that runs perpendicular to the corridor wall, thereby assisting in the barrier-free path of travel from the interior of the suite to the corridor.

The Applicant maintains that there is no basis for requiring this measurement of clearance adjacent to the latch side of the suite entry doors. It is suggested that a "barrier-free path of travel is not required within a residential suite (OBC 3.8.2.1.(2)(k)." In this regard, the Applicant is proposing a clearance ranging from approximately 127 mm to 711 mm between the latch side of the door and the demising wall. The clearance measurement is dependent on the design of the suite in question.

3. 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 suites. 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 specific requirement, an understanding of the requirement itself is essential. In this instance, Sentence 3.8.2.1.(1) outlines the parameters of construction. It specifies 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. Sentence 3.8.2.1.(2), including Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k), is a series of exceptions to the provisions of Sentence 3.8.2.1.(1). Specifically, Clause (k) exempts the requirement for barrier-free travel "within a suite of residential occupancy".

If a determination is made that an area is required to be barrier-free, then certain additional construction requirements apply. In this regard, Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) 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 toward the approach side and a minimum of 300 mm when the door swings away from the approach side. This provision is intended to make it easier for individuals in wheelchairs to open a door and travel through the doorway. As noted, the Applicant intends to provide, depending on the design of the suite, clearance from 127 mm to 711 mm on the interior latch side of suite doors. In some instances, this clearance will not meet the 600 mm minimum where a door swings inward in a barrier-free path of travel.

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 or travel that is required to be barrier-free. If so, the clear space requirements of Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) would be applicable.

4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Clause 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.

  1. 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

  1. 600 mm (23? in) where the door swings towards the approach side, and
  2. 300 mm (11? in) where the door swings away from the approach side.

5. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant advised that it is their intention to add several storeys to an existing 24 storey hotel, providing a total building height of 39 stories. In doing this, it is recognized that the route approaching the suites in the new portion must provide a barrier-free path of travel in accordance with OBC requirements. The additional floors have been designed in such a way that accessibility to the suites has been improved relative to the design of the existing floors.

The Agent contended that "within a guest suite, there is no basis for requiring a space next to the latch side of the suite entry doors as a barrier-free path of travel is not required within a residential suite (OBC 3.8.2.1(2)(k)." The Agent also advised that there is a prior ruling by the Building Code Commission in respect to this same issue. The Commission found, as is the Applicant's position, that there was no requirement for a barrier-free path of travel "within" a residential suite. In this regard, the design of the suites meets the specific parameters outlined in the Code.

The Applicant went on to state that both the existing and proposed portions of the hotel are fully sprinklered and that 3 accessible rooms are provided in the existing part of hotel.

In conclusion, the Applicant acknowledged that the Code requirements are not perfect; there are some inconsistencies. He emphasized that, in this case, the current OBC requirements did not mandate the 600 mm clear distance being requested by the Respondent. If this is an appropriate requirement and whether the OBC needs to be amended is a policy question for the Housing Development and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. It should not impact on the Commissions ruling in this instance.

6. Respondent's Position

The Designate for the Respondent submitted that Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(j) requires a barrier-free path of travel on floors with elevator stops. A barrier-free path of travel, therefore, is required into the suites of the subject hotel. As the doorway is located in the path of travel, the Applicant is thus expected to comply with Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) by providing 600 mm of clear space on the latch side of the door when the door swings into the unit, as is the case in this instance.

The Designate questioned why access to balconies and the doorway to at least one bathroom were required to provide enough clearance to be considered barrier-free when approached from the interior of a unit. The same standards, he suggested, should apply to the interior doorway of the suites and therefore Sentences 3.8.3.3.(10) and 3.8.3.3.(11) of the OBC are applicable.

The Designate acknowledged the Building Code Commission ruling on a similar application but questioned what, if anything, had happened as a result of the Commission's Recommendation to the Housing Development and Buildings Branch. It was recommended that the "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 occupants may not be familiar with their surroundings." The Designate still felt strongly that the barrier-free access provisions should apply in this instance. They are concerned that, without proper clearance, a disabled person may not be able to adequately move about or get out of one of these suites.

In conclusion, the Designate advised there are inconsistencies in the Code. It is their opinion that the interpretation of this issue could be viewed either way. In addition, the Designate emphasized that they would like to see such inconsistencies clarified, as recommended in the previous Commission ruling.

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that 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 Sheraton Fallsview Hotel, Stanley Avenue and Livingstone Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

8. Reasons

Sentence 3.8.2.1.(1) specifies the floor areas that require a barrier-free path of travel. Sentences 3.8.1.2.(2), (3) and (4) provide a list of exemptions to Sentence (1). Since a barrier-free path of travel within a suite of residential occupancy in Sentence (1) is listed as one of the exemptions, the requirements of Article 3.8.3.3. would not apply.

9. 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 27th day in the month of July in the year 2000 for application number 2000-56.



_________________________________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. John Guthrie





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Len King