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BCC Ruling No. 99-39-695

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-39-695

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.3.1.2(3) of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98, 122/98, 152/99 and 278/99 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Stefan Hensel, Building Projects Coordinator, Hospice at May Court, Ottawa, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Richard Hewitt, Chief Building Official, City of Ottawa, Ontario, to determine whether the proposed communal gas-fired fireplace located in a lounge area open to the building's internal corridor system complies with Sentence 3.3.1.2.(3) of the Ontario Building Code at the Hospice at May Court, 114 Cameron Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Stefan Hensel, Building Projects Coordinator
Hospice at May Court
Ottawa, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Richard Hewitt
Chief Building Official
City of Ottawa

PANEL

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, (Chair)
Mr. James Lischkoff
Mr. Fred Barkhouse

PLACE

Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

June 3, 1999

DATE OF RULING

June 3, 1999

APPEARANCES

Mr. Ralph Weisbrock, Project Architect
Katz Webster Clancey Associates Architects Inc.
Ottawa, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Chris Freeman
Chief Building Code Plan Examiner
City of Ottawa
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Stefan Hansel, Building Projects Coordinator, Hospice at May Court, Ottawa, Ontario, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate a portion of an existing convalescent home known as the May Court Convalescent Home at 114 Cameron Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to undertake interior renovations to an existing convalescent home in order that the home may be converted from a facility that once provided post-surgery recuperative care to one that provides care and comfort programs to terminally ill patients on a day basis. The building is classified as having a Group B, Division 3 - care occupancy. It is described as two storeys, having a total building area of 1,850 m2, and is of combustible construction. The building will be equipped with a standpipe and hose system and a fire alarm system, but not a sprinkler system.

The subject building is composed of two parts which were built at different times. The original structure is an old two storey (plus basement) converted house that is currently being used as the "Club House"and as staff areas. This part of the building is not currently being renovated. The larger, newer (constructed in 1960) portion of the building, where the renovations are proposed, is a single storey (plus basement) care facility that is connected to the south end of the older building.

As a convalescent home the building originally contained nineteen patient rooms, staff areas, offices, kitchen and dining areas surrounding a central courtyard. As part of converting the convalescent home to a day program care facility many of the rooms will be used for other purposes. Most of the bedrooms, for example, will be converted into offices, treatment rooms, activity rooms, and in some cases a new dining area. (Some bedrooms will remain since in the future the facility may offer overnight accommodations as part of its services.) The existing diningroom will be converted to a lounge equipped with a gas-fired direct vent fireplace.

The construction in dispute involves the placement of a gas-fired fireplace in the proposed lounge. The lounge, centrally situated, also acts as one of the main east-west corridors in the building and is an integral part of its internal circulation system. To allows this east-west movement through the lounge large entrances approximately 2.3 m in width are provided in its east and west walls. The entire south wall of the lounge abuts the courtyard. The fireplace is proposed to be located in the centre of the room's north wall.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed gas-fired fireplace located in the future lounge area which is open to the building's internal corridor system and serves as an access to exit provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.3.1.2.(3) of the Ontario Building Code. This provision prohibits the installation of a fuel-fired appliance in a corridor that serves as an access to exit. Despite that the northern portion of the lounge functions as a room with a fireplace, the southern half of the lounge is considered an access to exit. At issue is whether the lounge should be viewed as an occupancy located within a corridor. If so, then the proposed fireplace would be deemed to be in a corridor.

While the building is more than five years old and Part 11 can apply to most of its renovation, the inclusion of a fuel-fired appliance in the lounge is, according to Article 11.3.1.2., considered as adding a new building system to the subject structure and therefore must comply with the appropriate new construction standards in the OBC.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 3.3.1.2. Hazardous Substances, Equipment and Processes

(3) A fuel-fired appliance shall not be installed in a corridor serving as an access to exit.

  1. Applicant's Position

While he conceded that the lounge area is to be open to the access to exit, the Applicant submitted that the location of the fireplace is at the most remote point in the room from the exit route and would therefore be less likely to block egress. As a result, he argued that the lounge should not be viewed as an occupancy in a corridor. Moreover, if the fireplace was the source of an uncontrolled fire, he asserted, then exiting would originate from the lounge and would likely be dispersed between the six exits accessible from the north-south corridors immediately to the east and west of the lounge. If the lounge fireplace, the Applicant continued, was not the source of an emergency fire then the lounge would still be able to act as an access to exit route.

Fire separating the northern portion of the lounge to enclose the immediate fireplace area in an effort to maintain a continuous corridor separation would not increase safety nor prevent the spread of fire if the subject appliance were to explode which, in his view, would be the most likely cause of any fire associated with such a unit. An explosion would eliminate any fire containment provided by a drywall and stud separation. Such an event would also possibly render the four exits closest to the lounge unusable, nevertheless the abundance of exits in this building mean that the two more distant exits would still allow egress. However, the Applicant submitted that the potential risk from fire or explosion of the proposed fireplace is minimal. The unit is UL listed, AGA certified, CGA approved and is equipped with a safety switch controlling high temperatures. He argued that the fireplace offers much less hazard than a gas-supplied oven.

By way of offering compensating measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.3.1.2.(3) the Applicant proposed to install a shut-off valve which located on the gas line to terminate gas flow to the fireplace when the fire alarm is actuated. He also offered to equip the lounge area with a gas detector and additional smoke detectors, both of which would also be interconnected with fire alarm system.

Lastly, the Applicant stressed the importance of the fireplace to the atmosphere of the hospice. He described it as central element in the communal care and comfort for the hospice users. In his view, the benefit of the fireplace to the spirit and ambiance of the hospice outweighed the small risks involved. The Applicant submitted a letter from the hospice's Executive Director which stated that "when we considered the move into the May Court building, we had to assure our present patients that there would be a fireplace as that was the most important issue for their approval of the move."

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that since there is no continuous fire separation for the corridor separating the lounge area and its proposed fireplace then he argued the lounge should be considered as an occupancy in a corridor. He submitted a letter from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to support this view. Thus, he therefore considers the proposed fireplace as being located in the corridor which is serving as an access to exit. This, he noted, clearly violates Sentence 3.3.1.2.(3) of the OBC. As a result, he indicated that he does not have the authority to accept the fireplace as proposed by the Applicant. However, he did indicate that he sympathized with the atmosphere the Applicant was trying to create with the fireplace.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed communal fireplace located in a lounge area open to its building's internal corridor system provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.3.1.2.(3) of the Ontario Building Code at the May Court Convalescent Home, 114 Cameron Avenue , Ottawa, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

i) A minimum of 4 easily accessible exits are available.

ii) The fuel supply to the fire place is shut off by activation of the fire alarm system or loss of power.

iii) The glass enclosure prevents occupants coming in contact with open flame.

iv) A timing device will limit the use of the fire place to day and early evening use.

v) A system will be in place to avoid excessive heat build up in the room.

Dated at Toronto this 3rd day in the month of June in the year 1999 for application number 1999-27

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate

Mr. James Lischkoff

Mr. Fred Barkhouse