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BCC Ruling No. 99-48-704

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-48-704

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.1.8.16. of Regulation 61, as amended by O. Reg. 400/91, 158/93, 160/93, 383/94, 20/95 and 395/96 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. George Flumian, Chairman, Building Committee, Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre, Nepean, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Terry Dalkowski, Chief Building Official, City of Nepean, Ontario to determine whether the recently constructed upgraded, noncombustible, one hour rated, pressed steel frame with wired glass panels and a 45 minute rated hollow metal door designed to match the existing exit stairwell enclosure provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.1.8.16. of the Ontario Building Code at the Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre, 1026 Baseline Road, Nepean, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. George Flumian, Chairman, Building Committee
Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre
Nepean, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Ms. Terry Dalkowski
Chief Building Official
City of Nepean

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

Ms. Judy Jeske, Senior Associate
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Ottawa, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Frank Bidin
Manager of Permits
City of Nepean
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. George Flumian, Chairman, Building Committee, Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre, has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate an existing convent to create a care facility, known as the Villa Marconi Long Term Care Centre, at 1026 Baseline Road, Nepean, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant has recently renovated a portion of an existing 1950s convent building and has changed its use to create a long term care centre with a capacity of 60 beds, 30 each on the second and third floors. The remaining existing portion of the structure (to the west) was previously converted to a community centre, the second floor of which is used as a chapel. The Applicant has also recently constructed an addition onto the east side of the proposed long term care facility to expand the available area for that use.

The structure is described as having two major occupancies; a Group B, Division 2 - (long term care facility) occupancy and a Group A, Division 2 - (community centre/chapel) occupancy. It is three storeys (the community centre is only two) in building height, plus a partial basement and has a total building area of 2,140 m2, with the community centre being 645 m2, while the nursing home facility (including new addition) measures 1,495 m2. The building is considered to be of noncombustible construction and is equipped with a two-stage fire alarm system and is fully sprinklered throughout.

The construction in dispute involves the interior enclosure walls facing the building's central corridors of three exit stairs, two of which are located in the existing renovated portion of the structure, whereas the third is located in the new addition. Specifically, in the case of the existing stair enclosures, the original plain glass and wood frame glazing were replaced with wired glass in pressed steel frames having a one hour fire-resistance rating. The original paired narrow leaf doors were also replaced with single, wider (1,042 mm), hollow metal, 45 minute rated doors equipped with panic hardware. Both the wired glass and steel doors are labelled to indicate their fire-resistance rating.

The design intent of the new enclosure assembly was to match that of the existing original enclosure, especially in terms of the total amount of glazing and its overall configuration. As such, the new enclosures consist almost entirely of glass with each composed of 11 (roughly 40 cm by 95 cm) panes arranged horizontally in five rows containing two panes each, with the topmost row of three panes extending over the door. In the new exit found in the addition, the enclosure was designed in a near exact way, with the exception that the door is slightly wider.

During the partial demolition of the existing building's interior prior to the recent construction, however, the entire enclosure walls were removed.

For all three exits at which this issue has arisen the disputed enclosure assembly occurs on every floor. All of the stairs are required exits which lead directly to the exterior at grade. As a temporary measure, until a decision by the Building Code Commission has been rendered, the Applicant has covered the glazed area of each enclosure with drywall. None of the other wall and floor/ceiling assemblies in the existing and new stairs are in dispute.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the glazed area of the recently constructed exit stair enclosures, designed to match the existing original assembly but with a greater degree of fire-resistance rating, provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.1.8.16. of the Ontario Building Code. Sentence (1) of this provision restricts the aggregate of glazed area in a door to 0.8 m2, while Sentence (2) limits the aggregate of glazed area not in a door also to 0.8 m2. The area of wired glass in the Applicant's as built enclosures far exceed the 0.8 m2 total allowed in Sentence 3.1.8.16.(2).

As much of the subject structure is an existing building that underwent a renovation, Part 11 of the Building Code therefore applied. Since the original intent was to retain much of the interior as possible and nearly all the exterior, the project was originally considered a basic renovation. As well, an analysis of the change of use of the structure found that the Hazard Index at 6 matched the Construction Index of 6. Based on the first proposal, under Compliance Alternative B14, the original enclosure assemblies could have remained in place.

Subsequent demolition, however, removed much of the interior of the building, including the original stair enclosures, and thus went beyond what is considered basic renovation. Apparently at this point there was some confusion or lack of communication between Applicant and Respondent regarding these changes in the building and the corresponding regulatory requirements. The Applicant's plan then was, as discussed, to match and replace the previous non-rated enclosures in terms of glazed area with new 1 hour-rated enclosures. The dispute was only realized by the parties after construction was well under way.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.1.8.16. Area Limits for Wired Glass and Glass Block

(1) Except as permitted by Article 3.1.8.17., the maximum area of wired glass in a door used in the locations shown in Table 3.1.8.15. shall conform to the Table. (See Appendix A.)

(2) Except as permitted by Article 3.1.8.17., the maximum area of glass block and wired glass panels not in a door, used in the locations shown in Table 3.1.8.15., shall conform to the Table.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant acknowledged at the outset that the total glazed area in the subject stair enclosures do not comply with Article 3.1.8.16. of the Code. She submitted, however, that the as constructed situation is "a substantial improvement" over the previous condition which, she added, could have been retained or matched etc. under Part 11 if the renovation had not been so extensive. As a result, the Applicant indicated that her approach would be to demonstrate sufficiency of compliance with OBC 3.1.8.16. and to argue that the new performance level is better than the previous situation.

In terms of sufficiency of compliance the Applicant argued that the new materials are superior to the original construction, which the Code would have allowed. In fact, she noted that the entire enclosure assembly provides a one hour separation which is much more than the previous non-rated combustible assembly. Further, she also noted that the additional demolition that triggered this issue was done, in part, as a voluntary and pro-active measure to install sprinklering throughout the building. Without the sprinklers and the associated demolition the new wall assembly would have been able to match existing construction. The sprinklering, she noted, enhanced the safety of the building greatly beyond what is required. The sprinklers, acting to suppress a fire, would be especially useful by the enclosures since they would minimize the chance of fire spreading by radiation and thereby keeping the temperature rise in check.

The Applicant also argued that the exit stairs will not be exposed to a high fuel load in the immediate vicinity of the enclosures elements. If smoke does contaminate a stairwell there are two other exits serving the residents' floors, she noted. Moreover, the residents' floor areas are subdivided into three compartments separated by a 1 hour rating each served by an exit stair.

Lastly, the Applicant argued that the extensive glazing has additional health and safety benefits in a nursing home facility. The glazing, for example, enhances visual supervision of persons using the stairs, which is important considering the age of the residents. The extra glazing would be especially useful if a person required assistance in the stairwell. In terms of the overall health of the residents, she noted that the additional glazing would allow more natural light into the corridors, which would be quite beneficial in an institutional environment.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that references or arguments regarding the relevance of Part 11 to the subject enclosures were nullified when approximately 90 percent of the interior of the building was demolished, including the enclosures which were replaced by the new wall assemblies. At this point, as he indicated, Article 3.1.8.16. was the only germane criteria and the current as constructed enclosures far exceed the permitted aggregate glazed area. He noted that there are no construction difficulties etc. that would prevent the Applicant from meeting Article 3.1.8.16.

While the Respondent recognizes that the new assemblies provide a greater degree of fire separation than the original situation, he does not view this upgrade as an equivalent under Section 2.7 of the OBC. As he noted, there are no tests established to verify this upgrade, nor is there any history of past performance. Further, he indicated that the Code does not specifically allow sprinklering as a compensating measure for this type of modification to a required exit.

Finally, the Respondent argued that, considering many of the residents will be non-ambulatory and will need assistance, the integrity of the exits from a fire compartmentalization aspect is crucial. In an emergency, staff and fire fighters will need extra time to assist many of the occupants of the building down the exit stairs. For this basic reason they have concerns about the extent of glazing in the enclosures.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the upgraded noncombustible one hour rated pressed steel frame with wired glass panels and one hour rate hollow metal door proposed to match the existing stairwell enclosure does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.1.8.16. at the Long Term Care Centre, 1026 Baseline Road, Nepean, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

i) The Applicant was unable to demonstrate to the Building Code Commission that the existing measures provide sufficiency of compliance.

Dated at Toronto this 8th day in the month of July in the year 1999 for application number 1999-42

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate

Mr. James Lischkoff

Mr. Donald Pratt