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BCC Ruling No. 00-38-770

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. # 00-38-770

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Articles 1.1.3.2. and 3.3.2.12 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. Franco Lora, Project Coordinator, City of Toronto, Economic Development, Culture & Tourism, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Yaman Uzumeri, Chief Building Official, City of Toronto, Ontario, to determine whether the proposed elevated platform should be considered a stage and must therefore comply with Article 3.3.2.12. of the Ontario Building Code at the Lakeshore Grounds Assembly Hall, 3121 Lakeshore Blvd. West, Toronto, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Franco Lora, Project Coordinator
Economic Development, Culture & Tourism, City of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Yaman Uzumeri
Chief Building Official
City of Toronto

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. Michael Steele
Mr. Donald Pratt

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
August 10th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
August 10th, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. David Hine, Principal
Hine Reichard Tomlin Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant


Mr. Sait Toprak
Manager, Plan Examination
City of Toronto
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Franco Lora, Project Coordinator, City of Toronto, Economic Development, Culture & Tourism, Toronto, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is currently constructing an addition onto, and renovating the interior of, a facility known as the Lakeshore Grounds Assembly Hall, 3121 Lakeshore Blvd. West, Toronto, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The building at issue is an existing community centre that is described as two storeys in building height, 740 m2 in building area, facing one street and is of combustible construction. (The new construction will be of noncombustible material.) The existing structure contained meeting rooms for a variety of purposes and a multipurpose room and was classified as having a Group A - Division 2 major occupancy. As part of the renovations currently underway, the multipurpose room is being converted into a multiuse assembly hall that can accommodate dances, lectures and theatrical events. This portion of the building is classified as having a Group A - Division 1 occupancy.

The completed facility will be equipped with a sprinkler system and a single stage fire alarm system.

The construction in dispute involves the renovation of the multipurpose assembly hall, specifically the proposed addition of a raised platform to be constructed at the south end of the hall. This platform will serve as the area upon which theatrical performances, lectures and speeches will occur. To enhance the viewing of these activities on the platform, telescopic seating is proposed to be installed in approximately the northern half of the hall facing the platform. The platform area is 78.5 m2, the curtain area (at 6.6 m in width and 4.5 m in height) is approximately 30 m2 and the ceiling height is 6 m, as measured from the platform. It does not include a fly tower above nor a backstage area. As well, the platform area, as is the case for the rest of the building, will be sprinklered, but the Applicant does not intend to equip the proscenium opening with a fire curtain nor a sprinkler deluge system.

3. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed elevated platform should be considered a stage and must therefore comply with Article 3.3.2.12. of the Ontario Building Code.

This provision sets out certain fire safety requirements for stages used for theatrical performances that address the greater hazard associated with the production of theatrical performances such as increased fire load and overhead lighting. It includes requirements to sprinkler the stage (Sentence (1)), to provide a 1 hour fire separation between the stage and its ancillary spaces (Sentence (2)), to provide a 1 hour separation between the stage (including ancillary spaces) and the seating area and, to maintain this separation at the proscenium opening, to install a fire curtain or a sprinkler deluge system (Sentence (3)), and to provide at least two vents (Sentence (5)). These provisions, however, obviously only apply when a stage is involved. In order to ascertain if the requirements of Article 3.3.2.12. apply, it must be determined whether the raised platform is a stage.

4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 1.1.3.2. Defined Terms - Stage

Stage means a space designed primarily for theatrical performances with provision for quick change scenery and overhead lighting, including environmental control for a wide range of lighting and sound effects and which is traditionally, but not necessarily, separated from the audience by a proscenium wall and curtain opening.

Article 3.3.2.12. Stages for Theatrical Performances

  1. A stage for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, including workshops, dressing rooms and storage areas, shall be sprinklered.

  1. A fire separation with a fire-resistance rating not less than 1 h shall be provided between a stage for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, including workshops, dressing rooms and storage areas.

  1. Except as permitted by Sentence (6), a stage for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, including workshops, dressing rooms and storage areas, shall be separated from the seating area by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating not less than 1 h, except for a proscenium opening protected with
    1. a sprinkler deluge system conforming to the requirements of NFPA 13 ?Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems?,
    2. an unframed fire curtain if the opening is not more than 20 m (65 ft 7 in) wide, or
    3. a semi-rigid fire curtain if the opening is more than 20 m (65 ft 7 in) wide.

  1. A fire curtain required by Sentence (3) shall be of a type designed to close

  1. automatically upon the actuation of the sprinkler system,
  2. automatically upon actuation of the fire alarm system,
  3. manually by remote control devices located at the curtain control panel and at each side of the stage, and
  4. automatically by heat-actuated devices.

  1. At least 2 vents for the purpose of venting fire and smoke to the outside of a building shall be provided above a stage designed for theatrical performances and shall

  1. have an aggregate area not less than one eighth of the area of the stage behind the proscenium opening, and
  2. be arranged to open automatically upon actuation of the sprinkler system.
  3. The fire separation referred to in Sentence (3) is not required between a stage and a seating area in a floor area that is sprinklered, provided a sprinkler deluge system is installed at the boundary between the stage and the seating area.

5. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant submitted that the proposed raised platform does not meet the definition of stage as set out in the OBC. He argued that the platform is simply an elevated area that is to be used as the focal point of the room and is raised to enhance the viewing of activities that will occur in the hall. He noted that the platform does not have a fly tower nor a backstage area. Moreover, since at least approximately 85 percent of the platform is visible form the seating area there is also very little in the way of wing space at the sides of the platform. Because of these limitations, the facility is not capable of accommodating productions that include large moveable scenery that may have a high combustible load.

The Agent then stated that Article 3.3.2.12. and its stage requirements, in his view, is intended to apply to large theatres such as the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto and others of its size. As he argued, OBC 3.3.2.12. deals with large stages that have the capacity for quick change scenery for which a fly tower is necessary. Such theatres also have large combustible loads, are equipped with sophisticated lighting systems and they are able to produce many complicated visual effects. This is not the case with the subject building, the Agent noted.

The Agent continued by stating that the hall is a multipurpose space and is not specifically designed for theatre productions. He noted that the seating can be folded up and the space can be used for athletic activities like fitness classes or for weddings, etc. The hall, the Agent added, is ?reminiscent of a high school (auditorium) stage or a gymnasium with a stage?, or even a raised sanctuary in a church. Larger theatres, on the other hand, are not multipurpose as such and are designed specifically for musicals and full-sized stage shows which have greater potential for higher fire risk. Accordingly, facilities that specialize in large theatrical productions must be built to higher building standards to reflect the level of associated hazard. The OBC, in particular Article 3.3.2.12., addresses this.

The key, however, is knowing how to differentiate between a stage and a raised platform and when to apply Article 3.3.2.12., the Agent stated. And to differentiate requires a certain level of judgement of Code requirements based on the circumstances at hand. It is because of the requirement to make a judgement, the Agent argued, that there are many facilities across the City and the Province that have a ?stage?-like platform but have not been required to meet OBC 3.3.2.12. To require this in the building at hand would be onerous.

The Agent then discussed NFPA 101, the ?Life Safety Code? standard, as a means by which some light might be shed on this situation. This standard, he indicated, separates stages into two main categories; legitimate stages where the height from the stage surface to the ceiling above it is more than 15.2 m (50 ft), and regular stages where the height is less than 15.2 m (50 ft). This standard provides higher requirements for legitimate stages than for regular stages. The requirements for legitimate stages are more in line with those in Article 3.3.2.12., he noted. Thus, since the ?stage? to ceiling height is 6 m, he asserted that the hall should not be considered a legitimate stage subject to higher construction standards.

The building, especially the hall, is receiving some physical improvements as a result of the renovation work they are doing, the Agent indicated. For example, the ?stage? area is being equipped with a mechanical exhaust system that is capable of six air changes per hour to vent smoke. As well, two, and in some areas three, additional layers of drywall are being added to the ceiling of the platform space. Also, the building is being fully sprinklered throughout.

In response to the question that the hall provide a guarantee that it only be used as a theatre on a limited basis, the Agent stated that it should not have to offer such a restriction because the facility is not capable of accommodating bigger and potentially more dangerous productions.

In summation, the Agent reiterated his view that the platform should not be considered as a stage. It does not meet the Code?s definition as a stage, especially because it lacks the capacity for quick change scenery. Consequently, he concluded that the requirements for a stage found in Article 3.3.2.12. do not apply.

6. Respondent's Position

The Designate for the Respondent submitted that the elevated platform should be considered a stage and it should be built in conformance with Article 3.3.2.12. He then proceeded to offer some background to the present dispute.

The Designate noted that the application for permit originally came in, in part, as a change of use from an A2 general use assembly building to an A1 occupancy to be used for performing arts. It was as an A1 occupancy that the building was reviewed. This change required that the building be sprinklered because the existing building is of combustible construction, and if it were built new would be required to be of noncombustible material. As a result, however, the sprinkler system cannot be seen as a compensating measure for the items mandated in Article 3.3.2.12.

The Designate then argued that it is clear that the hall will be used primarily for staging theatrical performances. And while full scale productions cannot be housed in the space, there will certainly be productions that will involve props, thus resulting in an increased fire load. Indeed, it doesn?t matter how small the production is, the scenery can contribute to a high combustible load, he asserted. Moreover, since it is anticipated that the building will be rented out to any interested party, professional or non-professional, to use for their productions, there will be very little control over the space and its use. This could mean, the Designate argued, that the hall could be used by individuals who have little or no experience in terms of theatre fire safety. Also, there will be no control over how many times the building is used for theatrical events. As it stands, it could be used every night for such purposes and the more times it is, the greater the risk of a fire occurring.

The Designate explained that the proponents are spending a considerable amount of money to make the building conducive for performing arts, but, in his view, they are not willing to pay what is required to meet OBC 3.3.2.12.

In conclusion, the Designate expressed concern regarding the safety of the stage if the requirements of Article 3.3.2.12. are waived. He stated that as an A1 building to be used for performing arts, the stage must be separated by a one hour fire separation, except for the proscenium opening which must be protected with a deluge sprinkler or a fire curtain.

7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed elevated platform is not considered a stage and therefore does not need to comply with Article 3.3.2.12. of the Ontario Building Code at the Lakeshore Grounds Assembly Hall, 3121 Lakeshore Blvd. West, Toronto, Ontario.

8. Reasons

  1. The construction is considered to be a raised platform in a multipurpose facility.
  2. The subject platform area does not provide for quick change and storage of scenery, etc.

Dated at Toronto this 10th, day in the month of August in the year 2000 for application number 2000-45.

_______________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair

_______________________________________________

Mr. Michael Steele

_______________________________________________

Mr. Donald Pratt