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BCC Ruling No. 99-14-670

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-14-670

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.3.1.3.(8) and Article 3.3.1.4. 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. Jim Podd, Director, Campus Development, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Jennifer Favron, Chief Building Official, City of Thunder Bay, Ontario to determine whether the proposed laboratory and office tenancies should be considered separate suites, and would therefore be required to provide a doorway into a public corridor and to provide a fire separation between the corridor and the suites, including between the second floor corridor and the atrium, in accordance with Sentence 3.3.1.3.(8) and Article 3.3.1.4. respectively of the Ontario Building Code at the Northwestern Ontario Technology Centre, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Jim Podd, Director, Campus Development
Lakehead University
Thunder Bay, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Ms. Jennifer Favron
Chief Building Official
City of Thunder Bay

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Ms. Susan Friedrich
Mr. Michael Steele

PLACE

Toronto and Thunder Bay, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

March 11, 1999

DATE OF RULING

March 11, 1999

APPEARANCES

Mr. Scott Martin, Campus Engineer
Lakehead University
Thunder Bay, Ontario
For the Applicant

Mr. Alan Bygate
Sr. Plans Examiner
City of Thunder Bay
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Jim Podd, Director, Campus Development, Lakehead University, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a new, three storey office and laboratory facility at the Northwestern Ontario Technology Centre, Lakehead University, 955 Oliver Road, Thunder Bay, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to construct a new, three storey (plus basement) structure with a building area of 616.4 m2 (6,632.5 ft2). Two occupancies are proposed for the building; Group D - business (office) and Group F, Division 3 - low hazard industrial (laboratory). The building is proposed to be of combustible construction and will be equipped with a fire alarm system and a partial sprinkler system located only in the interconnected floor areas adjacent to the building's atrium, but not a standpipe and hose system.

The concept behind the development of the building is to act as an incubator to allow new businesses to grow and develop under the auspices of the Northwestern Ontario Technology Centre (NOTC). Each business' "incubation" period will last for a period of not more than three years. As owner of the building, the NOTC will provide general reception and administrative services. The NOTC also offers marketing, networking and funding application assistance to the individual business tenants. The actual leased office spaces, however, are under the control of the tenants.

The Applicant's intention regarding the design of the building is to create a working space to foster the growth of innovative and creative new business ventures. As a result, the building, in plan, is roughly shaped like a triangle and a full height atrium is located in the centre of the structure. A public corridor surrounds the atrium on the second floor. The Applicant is proposing that this corridor be open to the atrium and would therefore be considered interconnected floor space. The individual suite doors would open onto this second floor corridor. The two exit stairs serving the second floor are to be located on the same side of the building and would be accessed by the atrium corridor. This is not an issue on the third floor because there the atrium is separated from the floor space by a glass and drywall partition.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the new business ventures, although sharing many services, should be considered separate tenancies within individual suites according to the Ontario Building Code and as a result whether the public corridor located on the second floor is required to be separated from the remainder of thefloor area and from the atrium as per Article 3.3.1.4. This provision requires that in the case of the subject building, with only a required 45 minute separation between floors, but which is not entirely sprinklered, that a fire separation with a fire-resistance rating of 45 minutes be provided between the corridor and the rest of the floor area. This requirement, however, would apply in part in this case if the building was deemed to contain multiple suites. The Applicant is also offering sprinkler protection in the areas considered interconnected floor space, including the second floor open corridor.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 3.3.1.3.(8) Means of Egress

(8) Except as permitted by Sentences 3.3.4.4.(6) and (7), each suite in a floor area that contains more than one suite shall have

(a) an exterior exit doorway, or

(b) a doorway

(i) into a public corridor, or

(ii) to an exterior passageway.

Article 3.3.1.4. Public Corridor Separations

(1) Except as otherwise required by this Part or permitted by Sentences (2) to (7), a public corridor shall be separated from the remainder of the building by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating not less than 1 h. (See Appendix A.)

(2) The fire-resistance rating of a fire separation between a public corridor and the remainder of a floor area is permitted to be less than 1 h but not less than 45 min provided the fire-resistance rating by Subsection 3.2. is permitted to be less than 1 h for

(a) the floor assembly above the floor area, or

(b) the floor assembly below the floor area, if there is no floor assembly above.

(3) If a floor area is sprinklered, no fire-resistance rating is required for a fire separation between a public a corridor and the remainder of the floor area provided the corridor does not serve a care or detention occupancy or a residential occupancy. (See A-3.1.8.1.(1)(b) in Appendix A.)

(4) If a floor area is sprinklered, no fire separation is required between a public corridor and the remainder of the floor area provided the public corridor

(a) is more than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) in unobstructed width, and

(b) does not serve

(i) a care or detention occupancy, or

(ii) a residential occupancy.

(5) If a floor are is sprinklered, no fire separation is required between a room or a suite and a public corridor that serves it provided the public corridor complies with Sentence 3.3.1.9.(6).

(6) A floor assembly of a public corridor above a crawl space that conforms to Sentence 3.2.2.9.(2) is not required to be a fire separation.

(7) If a floor are is sprinklered, no fire separation is required between a public corridor and a room containing water closets and lavatories provided the room and the public corridor are separated from the remainder of the floor area by a fire separation that has a fire-resistance rating not less than that required between the public corridor and the remainder of the floor area.

(8) The sprinkler system in Sentences (3), (4), (5) and (7) shall be electrically supervised in conformance with Sentence 3.2.4.9.(2) and, upon operation, shall cause a signal to be transmitted to the fire department in conformance with Sentence 3.2.4.7.(4) when the corridor serves a Group E or Group F, Division 1 or 2 occupancy.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed new business ventures, while carrying their own "business names", are all part of the NOTC operation. The NOTC is the umbrella organization, under which all of the business ventures thrive. In his view, therefore, they all belong to the same organization which has a single tenure in the entire building. As a result, he argued that they conform to the definition of suite as described in the OBC, especially Appendix A.1.1.3.2. He stated that the level of safety of NOTC building occupants is not reduced because the occupants hold different "business names".

The Applicant also noted that they are proposing to sprinkler the interconnected floor areas, including the subject open corridor, which would allow safe egress from the second floor. He argued that this partial sprinkler system would compensate for the lack of fire separations between the businesses and the corridor and the corridor and the atrium.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted the proposed office areas serving the business ventures should be considered as suites. As they noted, despite the many shared services, the actual space occupied on a floor is entirely controlled in terms of use and access by the individual business ventures. They also noted that each business is to have its own lease agreement and would pay rent. This is not how a single tenant building would function. In their view, by simply belonging to a larger umbrella organization does not make it possible to waive the requirement for compliance regarding suite and public corridor compliance.

As such, they argued that the public corridor system must be separated from both the adjacent floor areas and the atrium. This would entail closing off the proposed open second floor corridor, they indicated. Further, since the sprinkler system is only covers part of the building the separations must have a fire-resistance rating of at least 45 minutes.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that second floor laboratory and office tenancies provide sufficiency of compliance with 3.3.1.3.(8) and Article 3.3.1.4. on the condition that the floor area is sprinklered throughout.

  1. Reasons

i) The various tenants normally are considered separate suites. However, considering the limited size, intended function and flexibility of the second floor area, the space is considered as only one tenant.

ii) Since these are not considered separate suites as discussed in reason 1, the provisions of 3.2.8.2.(6) permit exiting through the interconnected floor space.

iii) This decision is based on the proposed use as a technology centre which requires shared amenities and services to function effectively.

iv) The floor area is fully sprinklered.

Dated at Toronto this 11th day in the month of March in the year 1999 for application number 1999-03

Mr. Roy Philippe, Chair

Ms. Susan Friedrich

Mr. Michael Steele