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BCC Ruling No. 00-57-789

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. No. 00-57-789

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Clause 3.8.2.1.(2)(k) and Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11) 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. Tonu Altosaar, Partner, Bregman & Hamann Architects, 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 (Sentence 3.8.3.3.(11)) proposed for the units in the Marriott Fallsview Hotel, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Tonu Altossar, Partner
Bregman & Hamman Architects
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Mel Brown
Chief Building Official
City of Niagara Falls

PANEL
Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair
Mr. Fred Barkhouse
Mr. Donald Pratt

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
November 30th, 2000

DATE OF RULING
November 30th, 2000

APPEARANCES
Mr. Rick Mori, Senior Associate
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Robert Romanuk
Building & Inspections Coordinator
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

1. The Applicant

Mr. Tonu Altosaar, Partner, Bregman & Hamann Architects, Toronto, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is constructing a 13 storey extension to the existing Marriott Fallsview Hotel, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

2. Description of Construction

The Applicant is currently constructing a 13 storey addition to the existing 20 storey hotel, which is classified as containing a Group C residential occupancy. The addition is an extension of the existing hotel and will entail one storey of retail space on the ground floor and twelve storeys of residential hotel guest suites above. Both the addition and the existing building are of noncombustible construction and are equipped with a sprinkler system and a fire alarm system.

The construction in dispute involves the configuration of the egress doorways within the interior of the guest suites. The suites are located on floors 2 through 13 and each floor is accessible by an elevator. At issue between the parties is the interior design of the suite, in particular, the amount of clear space provided on the latch side of the egress door. 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. The interior of the suites, which includes the distance provided at the latch side of the doorways, has not been designed for barrier-free accessibility. In the Applicant's opinion, the interior design complies with the wording and intent of the Code in this respect.

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. In this instance, the Applicant's suite design does not meet the barrier-free requirement.

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

Sentence 3.8.3.3. Doorways and Doors

  1. 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 5/8 in) where the door swings towards the approach side, and
    2. 300 mm (11 3/4 in) where the door swings away from the approach side.

(see Appendix A)

Clause 3.8.2.1. Areas Requiring Barrier-Free Path of Travel

  1. The provision of a barrier-free path of travel in Sentence (1) does not apply

k. within a suite of residential occupancy, or

5. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant advised that he is very familiar with the issue of barrier-free design and is sensitive to the concerns involved in this type of design requirement. Having said that, however, the Agent emphasized that one must look to the intent of the Building Code and its wording when examining this particular element of construction. In doing this, it is recognized that the route approaching the suites must provide a barrier-free path of travel. However, there is clearly no such requirement for the interior of a residential suite, including the path of travel used in exiting the unit.

The Agent argued that, if barrier-free requirements were to be applied to the interior of the suite, a number of other elements of construction would need revision including all doorway widths, fixture heights, etc. By looking to the Code for direction in this regard the Agent submitted that "barrier-free" is defined such that "...a building and its facilities can be approached, entered and used by persons with physical or sensory disabilities". When combining this defined term with the words "path of travel", it is apparent that the direction in which a person is travelling is the key to the interpretation of the Code's requirements. "As no barrier-free path of travel is required within the suite, then egress out of the suite is not regulated, in the same manner that washroom fixtures, door handles, bathroom or kitchen counters, and intercom controls are not regulated within the suite", he stated.

The Agent also submitted that there have been two previous Commission rulings on this exact issue. The Commission concluded, in both instances, that the minimum clearance requirement being requested by the Respondent does not apply once you are inside the suite. He noted however, that the Commission did make a recommendation that the Housing Development and Building Branch examine the possibility of amending the barrier-free requirements with respect to hotels and buildings that provide short term accommodation.

6. Respondent's Position

The Designate for the Respondent submitted that the Code requires a barrier-free path of travel into the suites of the subject hotel. The doorway is located in the path of travel and the Applicant is, therefore, 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 argued that if balconies and doorways to the bathroom were required to provide enough clearance to be considered barrier-free when approached from the interior of a unit then the same standards should apply to the interior doorway of the suites; Sentences 3.8.3.3.(10) and 3.8.3.3.(11) of the OBC are applicable.

In addressing the Agent's argument involving the definition of "barrier-free", the Designate submitted that the key element in the definition is the word "used". "In order for persons to use the facilities of a building and satisfy the above definition of barrier-free there should be an implicit ability that they can egress from a room or facility from which the OBC mandates access. This appears to be indicated in OBC 3.8.3.3. and the general rule stated in 2.2.1.1.(1), namely that all materials, appliances, systems and equipment installed to meet the requirements of this Code shall possess the necessary characteristics to perform their intended functions when installed in a building." The barrier-free path of travel, therefore, extends beyond the face of the door.

With respect to the earlier rulings by the Building Code Commission, the Designate had hoped that there would be have some action taken on the Commission's recommendation to the Ministry. The Designate reiterated his desire to have the inconsistencies clarified in the Code.

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 Marriott Fallsview, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

8. Reasons

i. Clause 3.8.2.1.(1)(k) is clear. A barrier-free path of travel is not required within a suite of residential occupancy. The exception which employs the word "within" refers to the design of the interior of the residential suite. This also includes the layout of the interior approach hallway leading to the egress door on the inside of the suite. Since this is the case, the requirements of Article 3.8.3.3. would not apply.

Dated at Toronto this 30 th day in the month of November in the year 2000 for application number 2000-71.



_________________________________________________________________

Dr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Fred Barkhouse





_________________________________________________________________

Mr. Donald Pratt