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BCC Ruling No. 99-47-703

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-47-703

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) 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. J. M. O. Grey, Vice-President and Chief Architect, Toronto Dominion Bank, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Dan Mousseau, Chief Building Official, City of Burlington, Ontario to determine whether the bank vault interior, as constructed, without sprinkler protection in a building required to be sprinklered, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Toronto Dominion Bank, Millcroft Shopping Centre, 2000 Appleby Line, Building G, Unit G1, Burlington, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. J. M. O. Grey, Vice-President and Chief Architect
Toronto Dominion Bank
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Dan Mousseau
Chief Building Official
City of Burlington

PANEL

Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. James Lischkoff
Mr. Donald Pratt

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

July 8, 1999

DATE OF RULING

July 8, 1999

APPEARANCES

Mr. J. M. O. Grey
Toronto Dominion Bank
Toronto, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Brad Swainsbury
Building Inspector
City of Burlington
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. J. M. O. Grey, Vice-President and Chief Architect, Toronto Dominion Bank, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a Toronto Dominion retail bank branch at the Millcroft Shopping Centre, 2000 Appleby Line, Building G, Unit G1, Burlington, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant has recently constructed a 371.7 m2, Group E - (retail bank branch outlet) mercantile occupancy for the Toronto Dominion Bank. The bank branch is located within a larger retail plaza that is described as one storey in building height, 2044.6 m2 in building area, and contains Group D and Group E occupancies. The plaza is noncombustible construction and is equipped with a sprinkler system, but is not provided with a fire alarm system.

The construction in dispute involves whether the 2,896 mm by 2,134 mm vault is required to be sprinklered. The Applicants have not currently provided a sprinkler head in the vault interior. The vault, manufactured by Chubb Security Ltd., consists of wall, floor and roof concrete modular panels a minimum of 190 mm thick with a four hour fire resistance rating. The vault is equipped with a smoke detector and a heat detector that are connected to the bank's security system. This system is monitored 24 hours a day.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the bank vault interior, as constructed, without sprinkler protection in a building required to be sprinklered, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code. This provision requires that where a building is to be sprinklered the system must be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA 13, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems". The NFPA 13 standard, specifically Subsection 1-6.1, requires that all areas of a building be sprinklered, including rooms and spaces, except where expressly omitted. Bank vaults, however, are not included as one of the exceptions listed in the NFPA 13 standard.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.2.5.13.(1) Automatic Sprinkler Systems

(1) Except as permitted by Sentences (2), (3) and (4), an automatic sprinkler system shall be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA 13, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems". (See Appendix A.)

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant acknowledged that NFPA 13, as cited in OBC Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1), does require that bank vaults be sprinklered. However, he indicated that it was his intention to argue that the subject unsprinklered vault does provide sufficiency of compliance with OBC 3.2.5.13.(1).

The Applicant noted that, in his view, this issue arose because the NFPA, an American standard, had changed over the last ten to fifteen years with respect to the requirement for sprinkler protection in bank vaults. Canadian building regulations such as the OBC, meanwhile continue to reference the NFPA 13 standard. That the OBC references the NFPA 13 standard is not the issue, what is, he argued, is that NFPA did not consult with or notify any Canadian financial institutions before making this revision.

Regarding the sufficiency of the unsprinklered vault, the Applicant then argued that the chance of a fire occurring in a vault is very unlikely. Their records which date back to 1962 do not indicate any such occurrence. Moreover, since the vault is built according to Subsection 3.1.5. of the OBC (Noncombustible Construction) and because it is a nearly air tight space, any fire would have little oxygen to fuel itself with. If, on the other hand, a fire were to start outside the vault elsewhere in the building the risk of damage to the contents within the vault is low due to its four hour fire-resistance rating. There have been a few such incidences and in all cases, even when the surrounding building was a total loss, very little damage to the contents occurred. As the Applicant noted, the bank has had a far greater history of loss due to water damage than from fire.

The vaults are also equipped with two early warning devices; a smoke detector, and a heat detector. These devices, connected to the bank's alarm system, will provide adequate notice to the fire department to respond to a fire on the premises, he argued. The Applicant is also proposing to install a sprinkler head outside and above the actual vault itself. He indicated that he is also willing to enhance the suppression system immediately outside the vault door and to change the interior cabinets to ones constructed of metal. The Applicant added that the carpet in the bank is fire retardant.

The Applicant then compared bank vault regulations and construction to that of electrical vaults, which he noted are listed as an excepted space under NFPA 13. He noted that electrical vaults, while also required to be noncombustible and be equipped with smoke detection, are generally built to a lesser standard in terms of thickness of concrete and fire-resistance rating. Further, electrical vaults are also not required to provide heat detection. He argued that bank vaults, being built to a higher standard, should also be exempt from sprinklering.

For these reasons, the Applicant concluded that the as-built unsprinklered vault provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1).

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that OBC Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) requires as per NFPA 13 that all spaces in a building required to be sprinklered must be equipped with a sprinkler head. NFPA 13 clearly does not allow this exception.

Regarding the Applicant's arguments concerning sufficiency of compliance the Respondent noted that the vault is loaded with combustible materials and is open during day time operations which in event of fire would allow oxygen to fuel flames. As well, the early detection systems installed in the vault do not provide any suppression to actively fight the fire. The Respondent also argued that the construction and use of the vault does not make it comparable to an electrical vault, therefore the same exemption should not apply. There are numerous penetrations in the subject vault which could possibly allow any fire to spread.

The Respondent indicated that sprinkler technology has advanced to the point that accidental set off rarely occurs. A chemical sprinkler system, for example, could be designed to suit the banks purposes.

For these reasons, the Respondent indicated that he felt that he did not have the authority to allow the disputed construction.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the bank vault interior is required to be installed with sprinkler protection in accordance with Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Toronto Dominion Bank, Millcroft Shopping Centre, 2000 Appleby Line, Building G, Unit G1, Burlington, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

i) Where a building is required to be sprinklered, Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code requires that an automatic sprinkler system must be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA-13-1994 "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems".

ii) Subsection 1-6.1 of the NFPA-13 states that "a building, where protected by an automatic sprinkler system installation, shall be provided with sprinklers in all areas". The intent of the Standard is to require sprinklers in all rooms and spaces, except where specific sections of NFPA-13 permit the omission of sprinklers. However, bank vaults are not one of the given exceptions.

iii) No sufficiency of compliance was demonstrated by the Applicant that were considered sufficient by the Building Code Commission.

Dated at Toronto this 8th day in the month of July in the year 1999 for application number 1999-40

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate

Mr. James Lischkoff

Mr. Donald Pratt