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BCC Ruling No. 00-40-772

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. No. 00-40-772

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentences 9.8.2.1.(1), 9.8.3.1.(1) and 9.8.3.3.(2), Article 9.8.5.2., Sentences 9.8.5.3.(1) and (2), Clause 9.8.7.1.(1)(a), Articles 9.8.7.2. and 9.8.7.6., Sentence 9.8.8.2.(5) and Article 9.8.8.4. of Regulation 61, as amended by O. Reg. 400/91 (the "1990 Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Messrs. Lawrence A. Lundy and Antony T. F. Lundy, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Wib Bethune, Chief Building Official, Township of Seguin, Ontario, to determine whether the as-built stairs, handrails and guards provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 9.8.2.1.(1), 9.8.3.1.(1) and 9.8.3.3.(2), Article 9.8.5.2., Sentences 9.8.5.3.(1) and (2), Clause 9.8.7.1.(1)(a), Articles 9.8.7.2. and 9.8.7.6., Sentence 9.8.8.2.(5) and Article 9.8.8.4. of the 1990 Ontario Building Code at the Lundy Cottage, Cranberry Cove Fire Route, Hamer Bay, Lake Joseph, Seguin Township, Ontario.



APPLICANT
Messrs. Lawrence A. Lundy and Antony T. F. Lundy
Owners
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT Mr. Wib Bethune
Chief Building Official
Township of Seguin

PANEL Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. Fred Barkhouse
Mr. John Guthrie

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
August 24th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
August 24th, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Ken Selby
Construction Dispute Resolution
Toronto, Ontario
The Agent for the Applicant

Ms. Debbie Swim
Deputy Chief Building Official
Township of Seguin
Designate for the Respondent

RULING



1. The Applicants

Messrs. Lawrence A. Lundy and Antony T. F. Lundy, Toronto, Ontario, received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1990 and constructed a cottage at Cranberry Cove Fire Route, Hamer Bay, Lake Joseph, Seguin Township, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicants received a building permit in 1992 and constructed their new seasonal cottage sometime thereafter based on the standards found in the 1990 version of the Ontario Building Code. The building is a Group C - residential occupancy and consists of a main cottage that includes a hexagonal-shaped tower and a guest house, that is to be connected by a breeze way. (There is also a boathouse on the subject property.) The main building is two storeys in building height (including basement) and occupies a building area of 263 m2 (2,835 ft2). The building is of combustible construction and is equipped with sprinkler and fire alarm systems.

The construction in dispute involves three sets of stairs with accompanying handrails and two guards installed in different areas of the building. For the sake of clarity, each of the three stairs will be referred to as stair A, B, or C. The guards will be referred to as either guard 1 or 2.

The first stair (referred to as stair A) provides access from the ground level of the main cottage to the upper level of the hexagonal-shaped tower. This area is less than 20 m2 and is used as an office. The stairs leading to the office are 737 mm (2 ft, 5 in) wide and are the only means of egress provided from this floor area. (Although the office area does have a door that opens onto a deck constructed over a portion of the first floor roof.) The stairs contain two sets of winders less than 1,200 mm (3 ft, 11 in) apart that turn in opposite directions. The first winder turns through an angle of 450 and the second winder rotates 900. (These two winders thereby create a rough S-shape to the stair.) Stair A also has varying riser heights, ranging between 234 and 242 mm (9 1/8 and 9 ? in). Accompanying these stairs is a handrail attached to the tower's exterior wall. This handrail is not continuous, however, as it switches to the other (or interior) side on the lower half of the stair.

A guard (referred to as guard 1) separates the remainder of the office from the stair opening. It is measured at 737 mm (2 ft, 5 in) in height.

The second stair (referred to as stair B) is an open-tread stair and provides access from the ground floor to a loft bedroom located on an upper level. Stair B is 559 mm (1 ft, 10 in) in width and is also the only means of egress from this floor area. The upper portion of these stairs can be described as curved as they rotate 1800 around a central column. From their mid-point, the stair then continues straight to the ground floor level. The riser height is 222 mm (8 3/4 in) throughout and the tread depth (straight portion only) is 228 mm (9 in) with a run of 152 mm (6 in). The run dimension in the upper, curved portion of stair B does not meet the minimum run of 150 mm (5 7/8 in) for curved stairs not in exits.

Stair C provides access to the raised platform area that serves the upper shelf level of the library, which is located in the basement of the subject cottage. The access to this platform is provided through an irregular stair located under the platform itself. The stair (from the bottom) consists of two winder stairs that lead to a square landing. Users are then required to make a 900 turn and then mount a seven step ladder. The ladder is comprised of a central stringer with alternating steps protruding out from either side. There is no handrail. The entire stair is hidden from view as it is located behind a swinging bookshelf found on the lower level. No information was provided regarding the run and rise of stair C.

The guard protecting the upper bookshelf platform (referred to as guard 2) is an open guard. It consists of a single horizontal rail and two diagonal members that create an X shape in the space between the platform floor and the horizontal rail and between the vertical posts.



3. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the as-built stairs, handrails and guards provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 9.8.2.1.(1), 9.8.3.1.(1) and 9.8.3.3.(2), Article 9.8.5.2., Sentences 9.8.5.3.(1) and (2), Clause 9.8.7.1.(1)(a), Articles 9.8.7.2. and 9.8.7.6., Sentence 9.8.8.2.(5) and Article 9.8.8.4. of the 1990 Ontario Building Code.

The building permit for the subject cottage was issued in 1992. The applicable regulation at that time was the 1990 OBC. The following table summarizes the requirements of the 1990 Code and compares it with the existing situation in the subject cottage.



Provision of the Code in dispute

Required

Existing Situation

Sentence 9.8.2.1.(1)

Uniform rise and run is required in any one flight

Stair A: has various riser heights, ranging from 234 to 242 mm

Stair C: consists of three stairs, a landing, and a ladder

Sentence 9.8.3.1.(1)

Required dimensions for interior and exterior stairs serving a dwelling unit:

Maximum rise: 200 mm

Minimum run: 210 mm

Minimum tread width: 235 mm

Stair A: all risers exceed maximum

Stair B: all risers exceed maximum

Stair C: no information

Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2)

At least one stairway must have a minimum width of not less than 860 mm between floor levels

Stair A: 737 mm wide

Stair B: 559 mm wide

Article 9.8.5.2.

Curved stairs not allowed as exits stairs shall have an average run of 200 mm and a minimum run of 150 mm

Stair B: average run appears to comply, minimum run, at 0 mm, does not

Sentence 9.8.5.3.(1)

Winders shall not turn through an angle of more than 900 and individual treads shall have a 300 rotation each

Stair A: top winder turns through approximately 450 on a single step

Sentence 9.8.5.3.(2)

Only one winder is permitted between floor levels

Stair A: contains two winders

Clause 9.8.7.1.(1)(a)

At least one handrail shall be provided in a stair less than 1100 mm in width

Stair A: no handrail

Article 9.8.7.2.

A handrail shall be continuous throughout the stair

Stair A: handrail is interrupted as it changes sides of the stair

Stair C: no handrail

Article 9.8.7.6.

A clearance of at least 40 mm shall be provided between the handrail and the wall to which it is attached

Stair A: no clearance provided

Stair C: no handrail

Sentence 9.8.8.2.(5)

All guards within dwelling units other than those for stairs must be at least 900 mm high

Guard 1: 737 mm high

Guard 2: no information provided regarding height

Article 9.8.8.4.

In a residential occupancy a guard on a balcony must not have an opening that allows passage of an spherical object with a diameter of 100 mm, unless it is shown that the openings do not represent a hazard

Guard 2: is an open design



4. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code



Article 9.8.2.1. Uniform Treads and Risers

(1) Treads and risers shall have uniform rise and run in any one flight.

Sentence 9.8.3.1. Rise and Run of Stairs

  • Except for stairs to areas used only as service rooms, interior stairs within dwelling units and exterior stairs serving dwelling units shall have a maximum rise of 200 mm (77/8 in), a minimum run of 210 mm (81/4) and a minimum tread width of 235 mm (91/4).

Sentence 9.8.3.3. Stair Width

  • At least one stairway between each floor level in a dwelling unit shall have a minimum width between wall faces of not less than 860 mm ( 2 ft 10 in).

Article 9.8.5.2. Curved Stairs not in Exits

Except as permitted in Article 9.8.5.3., a curved stair not required as an exit shall have an average run of not less than 200 mm (77/8 in) and a minimum run of 150 mm (57/8) and shall have risers conforming to Article 9.8.3.1.

Article 9.8.5.3. Winders

  • Stairs within dwelling units may contain winders that turn through an angle of not more than 90 and individual treads turn through an angle of 30.

  • Only one set of winders described in Sentence (1) shall be permitted between floor levels.

Clause 9.8.7.1. Required Handrails

  • Except as permitted in Sentences (2) and (3), a handrail shall be provided on
  • at least one side of stairs less than 1 100 mm (3 ft 7 in) in width.

Article 9.8.7.2. Continuous Handrail

Except for stairs serving 1 dwelling unit, not less than one handrail shall be continuous through the length of the stairway, including landings, except where interrupted by doorways or newels at changes in direction. (See A-3.4.6.4.(5) in Appendix A).

Article 9.8.7.6. Handrail Clearance

A clearance of at least 40 mm (19/16) shall be provided between each handrail and the wall to which it is fastened.



Article 9.8.8.2. Height of Guards



  • All required guards within dwelling units other than those described in Sentence (4) shall be not less than 900 mm (2 ft 11 in) high.



Article 9.8.8.4. Openings in Guards

Openings through a guard on a balcony, an exit stair, or stairs, landings and the floor level around a stairwell in a dwelling unit, shall be of a size so as to prevent the passage of a spherical object having a diameter of 100 mm (4 in) in residential occupancies and 200 mm (77/8) in other occupancies, unless it can be shown that the location and size of such openings which exceed the limits do not represent a hazard.



5. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant submitted that during five years of use they have not experienced any safety problems regarding the subject stairs or guards. Moreover, they have not encountered any difficulty moving furniture to the upper levels.

The Agent stated that the cottage was designed by an architect and that construction was supervised by an engineer. Their work took into consideration the building type, usage, frequency of use, and limited space when designing and building the cottage, including the stairs. Considering the limited space, compliance with provisions such as those governing winders in stairs would create more problems than they would solve the Agent argued. He also noted the quality craftsmanship that went into constructing the cottage. In dealing with the particular issues the Agent did not address the specifics of the Code provisions in dispute.

Regarding Stair A, the Agent stated that it has been built into a very tight space, and because of the shape of the tower it had to conform to a restricted geometry in terms of its design. He argued that the upper level, or office area, of the tower was safe because an alternative exit is available on the roof of the building.

The Agent also likened the office area to a mezzanine in live/work units found in Article 9.8.3.1. of the 1997 version of the OBC. He noted that such units have no maximum rise, no minimum run and no minimum tread width for stairs accessing mezzanines. He argued that if such relaxations were permitted in this instance, they could also be applied to the use at hand.

In terms of Stair B, the Agent explained that the original design had a ladder accessing the upper loft level but once the building had been framed it was realized that a regular, albeit narrow, stair could be built. It was felt that this was far safer than the original ladder proposal. The Agent used the live/work mezzanine concept as an argument for alternative compliance with respect to this area as well.

The Agent stated that using ladders to access upper areas of libraries is quite common. He argued that the design of Stair C and the raised platform area above is safer than trying to access books from a rolling ladder, which is usually the case in private libraries.

On the issue of fire safety, the Agent argued that the cottage is safe. He noted that it is the only cottage in the area that is sprinklered and equipped with a fire alarm system. These features would greatly enhance the safety of occupants that had to negotiate the subject stairs in an emergency situation. The Agent asserted that the provision of a sprinkler system and a fire alarm system adequately compensate for the above referenced Code variations.

The Agent concluded that the cottage has been functioning well since it has been occupied. He stated that any of the Code issues raised by the municipality have not caused any safety problems, nor have they impaired the owners use and enjoyment of the cottage.



6. Respondent's Position

At the outset, the Respondent stated that the building permit issued in 1992 did not include a functional upper level for the tower. Besides, they were not given full access to the cottage for inspection purposes until late in construction.

The Respondent indicated that they are not sure wether the cottage will be turned into a year round residence or would continue to be used simply as a seasonal dwelling. If it did become a year round building the chances of an accident occurring on the stairs, etc. would increase greatly, he stated.

The Respondent did not addressed the specific provisions of the Code as they pertained to each of the stairs, handrails and guards. Instead, he mentioned that the report he submitted to the Commission covered his concerns.

The Respondent concluded by stating that, in his view, compliance with the Code was not achieved in numerous areas with respect to the subject stairs, handrails and guards.



7. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the as-built stairs, handrails and guards do not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 9.8.2.1.(1), 9.8.3.1.(1) and 9.8.3.3.(2), Article 9.8.5.2., Sentences 9.8.5.3.(1) and (2), Clause 9.8.7.1.(1)(a), Articles 9.8.7.2. and 9.8.7.6., Sentence 9.8.8.2.(5) and Article 9.8.8.4. of the 1990 Ontario Building Code at the Lundy Cottage, Cranberry Cove Fire Route, Hamer Bay, Lake Joseph, Sequin Township, Ontario.



8. Reason/s

i. The deficiencies itemized above represent, in most cases, significant deviations from Code requirements.

ii. The sprinkler and fire alarm systems are excellent safety features in an emergency situation, however, they do not compensate for the present stair, handrail and guard deficiencies during the course of their everyday, normal usage.

iii. No compensating measures relating to the use of the stairs was proposed.

Dated at Toronto this 24th, day in the month of August in the year 2000 for application number 2000-30.





_________________________________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Fred Barkhouse





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. John Guthrie