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BCC Ruling No. 99-51-707

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-51-707

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.2.2.41 and Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and 3.2.5.13.(2) 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. Clare Wamsteeker, Manager, Physical Plant, Brantwood Residential Development Centre, Brantford, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Doug Ferguson, Chief Building Official, City of Brantford, to determine whether the proposed sprinkler system, designed according to NFPA 13R, provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.41. and Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and (2) of the Ontario Building Code at the Paris Road Group Home, 100 Paris Road, Brantford, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Clare Wamsteeker, Manager, Physical Plant
Brantwood Residential Development Centre
Brantford, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Doug Ferguson
Chief Building Official
City of Brantford

PANEL

Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. Robert De Berardis
Mr. Stewart Smith

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

August 5, 1999

DATE OF RULING

August 5, 1999

APPEARANCES

Mr. Rick Reichard, Architect/Planner
Snider Reichard March Architects
Waterloo, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Clare Wamsteeker, Manager, Physical Plant, Brantwood Residential Development Centre, Brantford, Ontario, has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is currently constructing a group home known as the Paris Road Group Home, 100 Paris Road, Brantford, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant is currently constructing a one storey (with a partial basement), group home with a building area of 312 m2 (excluding carport) that is intended to house only 7 residents, who are supervised 24 hours a day by up to 3 or 4 full time staff members working on eight hour shifts. The building is of combustible construction and is classified as having a Group B, Division 3 (care) occupancy under the 1997 Ontario Building Code. The separations between the basement and ground floor and between the bedrooms within the group home will have a 3/4 hour fire-resistance rating.

The structure will not be equipped with a fire alarm system, but will be supplied with a hard-wired interconnected smoke detection system and a sprinkler system. The Applicant is proposing that this latter system be designed and installed in accordance with the requirements of NFPA 13R, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Residential Occupancies up to and Including Four Stories in Height."

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether a sprinkler system constructed to the NFPA 13R standard achieves sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.41. and Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and 3.2.5.13.(2) of the Ontario Building Code. Article 3.2.2.41. requires that a B3 occupancy must be sprinklered even though it may be of combustible construction. The dispute therefore centres on the type of sprinkler system that is required.

The NFPA 13R standard stipulates that a sprinkler system be designed and installed for all occupied rooms. The NFPA 13 standard, however, goes further by also requiring sprinklering in unoccupied areas such as closets and concealed spaces such as attics. Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) states that a required sprinkler system must meet NFPA 13, whereas Sentence 3.2.5.13.(2), provides an exception to Sentence (1) by allowing low rise (four stories or less) residential occupancies to comply with the more relaxed sprinkler standards found in NFPA 13R.

If the subject B3 occupancy, as a low rise structure intended for a maximum of less than 10 people, could also be considered a residential occupancy according to the OBC, then the NFPA 13R standard would be an appropriate requirement for sprinklering.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.2.2.41. Group B Division 2 or Division 3, One Storey, Sprinklered

(1) A building classified as Group B, Division 2 or Division 3 is permitted to be of combustible construction or noncombustible construction used singly or in combination, provided

(a) except as permitted by Sentence 3.2.2.7.(1), the building is sprinklered,
(b) it is not more than 1 storey in building height, and (c) it has a building area not more than 500 m2 (5,380 ft2). Article 3.2.5.13. Automatic Sprinkler Systems

(1) Except as permitted by Sentence (4), if Sentence (2) permits a single exit from a floor area classified as Group B or Group C occupancy, the exit shall be an exterior doorway not more than 1500 mm (4 ft 11 in) above adjacent ground level.

(2) Instead of the requirements of Sentence(1), NFPA 13R, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems in Residential Occupancies up to and Including Four Stories in Height", is permitted to be used for the design, construction, installation and testing of an automatic sprinkler system installed in a building of residential occupancy that is not more than 4 storeys in building height.

  1. Applicant's Position

At the outset the Applicant indicated that he had recently been to the Building Code Commission representing a project that was very similar to the one at hand, and since the dispute centred on the same issue he would be making similar arguments as before.

The Applicant submitted that the care occupancy currently under construction should be considered as residential facility under the OBC, thereby allowing the proposed NFPA 13R conforming sprinkler system to be installed. The Applicant argued that the subject group home physically resembles a house from both the exterior, with its small size, and interior, with its homelike floor plans. He noted that the construction techniques are also residential in nature. In his view, it was not the intent of the 1997 OBC to require the more onerous NFPA 13 sprinkler standard for such small buildings of residential character and function. He suggested that smaller facilities (as measured by their floor area or occupant load) in the B3 classification be allowed to comply with NFPA 13R.

Considering that all occupied rooms would be sprinklered (according to NFPA 13R), that fire separations would be provided between floors and bedrooms, that hard-wired interconnected smoke detectors would be installed, and that evacuation would be quick, the Applicant stated that the life safety of the residents would be adequately protected without relying upon the more rigorous NFPA 13 requirements.

Lastly, the Applicant indicated that many safety and accessibility features had been included in the subject home, with some of these being beyond the minimum standards required in the Code.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent chose not to attend the hearing. The Commission therefore relied upon his written submission.

The Respondent submitted that the subject care home is not a residential facility and thus the sprinkler system should be designed and installed according to NFPA 13. The building at hand, he argued, would contain more than two people who would require assistance to evacuate in an emergency. As a result, the subject building does not meet the criteria found in Article 3.1.2.5. of the 1997 Ontario Building Code that allows a care facility to be considered as having a residential occupancy. Therefore, in the Respondent's view, a care occupancy must conform with NFPA 13 standards for sprinkler design and installation.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed sprinkler system, designed according to NFPA 13R, provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.41. and Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and (2) of the Ontario Building Code at the Paris Road Group Home, 100 Paris Road, Brantford, Ontario provided a fire alarm system is installed throughout the building.

  1. Reasons

i) Small residential type building;

ii) Less than 10 persons sleeping and occupying building;

iii) All safety features of B3 occupancy have been provided, other than NFPA 13; and,

iv) Fire separations consisting of 3/4 hour ratings between the basement and main floor and between bedrooms, corridors and living spaces have been provided.

Dated at Toronto this 5th day in the month of August in the year 1999 for application number 1999-48

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate

Mr. Robert De Berardis

Mr. Stewart Smith