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BCC Ruling No. 99-11-667

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Clause and Subclause of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98 and 122/98 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Peter Paoli, Project Architect, Pellow & Associates Architects Inc., 20 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Ed Link, Building Commissioner, City of Windsor, to determine whether the intended smoke management system compensates for the proposed increase in travel distance and the elimination of a second exit to certain stores, thereby providing sufficiency of compliance with Clause and Subclause respectively of the Ontario Building Code at the Devonshire Mall, 3100 Howard Avenue, Windsor, Ontario.


Mr. Peter Paoli, Project Architect
Pellow & Associates Architects Inc.
Toronto, Ontario


Mr. Ed Link
Building Commissioner
City of Windsor


Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Mr. Kenneth Peaker
Mr. Robert De Berardis


Toronto and Windsor, Ontario


February 24th, 1999


February 24th, 1999


Mr. Jonathan Rubes
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. William Jean
Director, Site Development
City of Windsor
For the Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Peter Paoli, Project Architect, Pellow & Associates Architects Inc., Toronto, Ontario, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct additions onto an existing retail mall known as the Devonshire Mall, 3100 Howard Street, Windsor, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to renovate the Devonshire Mall by adding two separate additions, totalling 12,259 m2, to the existing building. The existing noncombustible structure is described as two storeys, with a building area of 76,475 m 2. It is predominantly Group E -Mercantile, however the building also contains Group A1 - Assembly (performing arts), Group A2 - Assembly (general) and Group D - Business occupancies. The building is equipped with a fire alarm, standpipe and hose and sprinkler systems.

The proposed expansion has two phases. Phase one, to be constructed at the south-east corner of the mall, will add a multi-plex theatre facility, containing twelve cinemas. This expansion will also create an outdoor truck loading zone located near the centre of the mall due to the fact that the western wall of the theatre facility is to be set back far enough from the existing building to allow a truck access route. The loading area will be situated at the exit of an existing 6 m wide underground pedestrian egress tunnel. The Applicant proposes to discontinue using the tunnel for exiting purposes, instead it will be used for moving merchandise to certain retail stores within the mall.

The original purpose of the pedestrian exit tunnel was to serve a cluster of retail stores situated in the middle of the mall. These stores form an "island" which is entirely surrounded by a 12 m (9 m wide only on the south end) public corridor that is not fire separated from the floor area. While there are 40 retail stores in the island, just 23 of them have a second exit (only 16 stores are required to do so by Code due to their size) at the rear that connects to a public corridor within the island, which in turn connects to the tunnel entrance located near the middle of the island.

Phase two, to be constructed along much of the west wall of the mall, will add additional retail space facing one of the site's main parking lots. This expansion will cause three of the existing west facing exits to be relocated further west. This relocation will create three areas where the travel distance from the most interior or remote stores to the nearest exit will range from 111 m to 121.5 m in total.

The Applicant is proposing to equip the renovated mall with a smoke management system designed according to NFPA 92B "Smoke Management in Malls, Atria and Large Areas" in which the building will be separated into five smoke protection zones. In the event of a fire,each of the smoke protection zones would operate by forcing smoke to the exterior by two exhaust fans, while providing air to adjacent zones with supply fans. This system would be automatically activated by smoke detection devices located in each zone. Smoke detector actuation would also cause the fire alarm to operate. The system, once constructed, would be tested.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed smoke management system compensates for the elimination of the second means of egress from the 16 retail stores in the island required to have a second exit and the increased travel distance to certain interior areas of the mall, thereby providing sufficiency of compliance with Clause and Subclause of the Ontario Building Code. These provisions, while contained in the same Article of the OBC, raise different issues when applied to the proposed expansion phases of the Devonshire Mall.

Clause requires that the travel distance to any part of the floor area of the mall that is served by a non-separated public corridor not exceed 105 m. The phase two relocation of exits at the building's western wall will cause the 105 m limit to be exceeded by a range of 6 m to 16.5 m in three certain areas. The phase one addition also contributes to the travel distance issue for one of the remote areas by relocating an exit at the south-east end of the building farther away.

Subclause further requires that the rooms or suites which face the subject public corridor and that are required to have a second means of egress only have half of the required egress doorways accessing the corridor. While only 16 stores in the island are required because of their size to have a second means of egress, the termination of the tunnel as a pedestrian exit, as proposed under phase two, means that all occupants from the island area must exit via the 9 m public corridor system in the mall. The second exits provided at the rear of the stores would therefore lead to the interior public corridor of the island and from there to the 9 m wide non-separated public corridors.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article Location of Exits

(1) Except as permitted by Sentences (2), (3) and, if more than one exit is required from a floor area, the exits shall be located so that the travel distance to at least one exit shall be not more than

(d)105 m (344 ft 6 in) in any floor area, served by a public corridor, in which rooms and suites are not separated from the remainder of the floor area by a fire separation, provided

(iv)not more than one half of the required egress doorways from a room or a suite open into the public corridor if the room or suite is required to have more than one egress doorway.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed smoke management system will provide sufficiency of compliance with the relevant provisions of the OBC since, in their view, it will compensate for the elimination of the second exit for the 16 island stores and the increase in travel distance. The Applicant argued that the approach they were taking in designing their proposed smoke management system was consistent with the zoned smoke exhaust requirements for interconnected floor spaces found in the OBC. He also noted that similar smoke management systems have been designed and installed in other malls in Ontario, including the Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga and the Bramalea City Centre in Brampton.

In particular, the Applicant argued that the proposed smoke management system would accomplish two functions. The first would be to provide a way to isolate large areas of the mall to create zones which would control the spread of smoke from contaminating other areas. The Applicant is proposing that the three egress routes from island's interior public corridor would exit into three different smoke control zones. This would assist the 16 stores without a second exit because it would offer a choice of at least two egress routes and would ensure that either exit of any store could access a different smoke control zone. Having the entire occupant load of the island exiting via the mall's public corridors is not a problem in terms of exit capacity, he noted.

The second function the smoke management system would accomplish would be to reduce the travel distance from the remote areas in the interior of the mall to less than 105 m. This would be possible since the structure would be divided into smoke control zones, thereby making the travel distance from any part of the mall to another smoke zone less than 105 m. The Applicant noted, however, that even without a smoke control system, a travel distance which exceeds the required limit by 16 m, adds only 12 seconds more exiting time calculated at a walking pace.

The Applicant offered other advantages of the smoke control system. Specifically, he noted that the smoke detection features, which are not required in shopping centre corridors, will provide early notice of a fire to building staff, occupants and the fire department. The smoke exhaust system will also enhance the safety of the building during an evacuation. Further, he argued that this system is more useful than a concealed tunnel, since most occupants would probably instinctively use the mall's corridor system when exiting. The Applicant also pointed out that the smoke exhaust feature assists during fire fighting activities.

For these reasons, the Applicant concluded that the proposed smoke management systemprovides sufficiency of compliance with the Ontario Building Code.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that eliminating the second exit from the 16 island stores and exceeding the travel distance will contravene Clause and Subclause of the Building Code.

Nevertheless, he noted that he was supportive of the Applicant's proposed smoke control system, however, he indicated that he felt this was beyond his jurisdiction to authorize. The Respondent requested that if the Building Code Commission were to rule that the proposal offered sufficiency of compliance, that they do so on the condition that the system be maintained and tested on an annual basis and that the results be made available to the Chief Building Official or Chief Fire Official of the City of Windsor.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the additions and renovations to Devonshire Mall provides sufficiency of compliance with Clause and Article of the Building Code on the conditions that

i)The intended smoke management system is designed and installed in conformance with NFPA 92B;

ii)Commissioned upon completion of construction to perform as designed; and

iii)Inspected, tested and maintained in accordance with the schedule established in NFPA 92B.

  1. Reasons

i) The smoke management system is designed to allow more egress time for safe evacuation.

ii) The travel time as a result of the increase in travel distance is estimated to be no more than 15 seconds.

iii) Increased early warning through the installation of smoke detectors in the smoke zones is provided.

iv) The smoke management system is considered a life safety system and required to be inspected and tested according to the NFPA standard.

Dated at Toronto this 24th day in the month of February in the year 1999 for application number 1998-75

Mr. Roy Philippe, Chair

Mr. Kenneth Peaker

Mr. Robert De Berardis