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BCC Ruling No. 99-62-718

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-62-718

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 1.1.3.2., Sentences 3.2.3.12.(1), (2) and (3) and Sentences 3.4.4.1.(1) and 3.4.4.3.(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. Bruce Stanton, Director, Resort Services, Bayview-Wildwood Resort Ltd., Severn Bridge, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Jim Oakley, Acting Chief Building Official, Township of Severn, Ontario to determine whether the definition of "exit" as set out in Article 1.1.3.2. and Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) of the Ontario Building Code require that the proposed exterior stairway serving a second storey exterior walkway be enclosed with a fire separation with an appropriate fire-resistance rating at Bayview Wildwood Resort, 1500 Port Stanton Parkway, R. R. 1, Severn Bridge, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Bruce Stanton, Director
Resort Services
Bayview-Wildwood Resort Ltd.
Severn Bridge, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Jim Oakley
Acting Chief Building Official
Township of Severn

PANEL

Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. Robert De Berardis
Mr. Fred Barkhouse

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

October 21, 1999

DATE OF RULING

October 21, 1999

APPEARANCES

Mr. Rod Young, Architect
Roderick H. Young Architect
Orillia, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Jim Oakley
Acting Chief Building Official
Township of Severn
The Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Bruce Stanton, Director, Resort Services, Bayview-Wildwood Resort Ltd., Severn Bridge, Ontario has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 and is currently rebuilding a hotel structure, known as Lakeshore House, at the Bayview-Wildwood Resort Ltd., 1500 Port Stanton Parkway, R. R. 1, Severn Bridge, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The Applicant is currently reconstructing and renovating a hotel building located on a year-round resort property. The subject building, as the second largest on the site, is one of the principal buildings on the resort. The structure was gutted by fire in April of 1999. The reconstruction portion of the project will essentially create an upgraded version of the earlier structure that will include two floors of hotel suites (6 suites per floor) and a pool in the basement. The major renovation work involved is the construction of an addition to the west of the existing building that will include a squash court, a conference area and a viewing mezzanine. (This portion of the project is not in dispute.) The complete building is therefore classified as having three major occupancies; Group A - Division 2 (conference area, etc.), Group A - Division 3 (swimming pool) and Group C (hotel).

The structure is described as facing one street, of combustible construction, two storeys in building height (plus basement) and 472.8 m2 in building area. This includes the 269 m2 of building area of the existing hotel occupancy and the 203.8 m2 of building area to be added with the construction of the squash court and conference area. All three occupancies in the building will provide, as required, separations with a fire-resistance rating of 45 minutes and a one hour separation between occupancies. The building will also be equipped with a fire alarm system.

The construction in dispute involves the two exit stairs located at either end of the exterior corridors the serve the ground and second floor residential suites. Both exit stairs are covered with roofs and partial walls enclosing the ends and sides of the landing areas. The sides of the stairs themselves, however, are open. In particular, there are also no walls separating the stairs at their access point from the corridors.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the definition of "Exit" as set out in Article 1.1.3.2. and Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) of the Ontario Building Code require that the proposed exterior stairway serving a second storey exterior walkway be enclosed with a fire separation with an appropriate fire-resistance rating. The definition of exit includes the words "protected from fire exposure from the building". The Respondent is reading this to mean that the exit, in particular the exit stairs, must by definition be protected. The Applicant disagrees with this view.

The second provision, Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1), stipulates, except under certain conditions, that an exit be fire separated to a certain level of fire-resistance rating from the remainder of the building. While the other exceptions listed in this Sentence are not relevant to the dispute at hand, Sentence 3.4.4.3.(1) is germane. This Sentence states that the fire separation requirements for exits found in Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) and in Sentences (1) and (3) of Article 3.2.3.12., "Protection of Exit Facilities", are not applicable to an exterior exit passageway if at least fifty percent of the exterior side is open and an exit stair is located at either end of the passageway. The subject building meets both of these criteria.

Sentence (2) of Article 3.2.3.13., however, is relevant. This provision requires that if an unenclosed stair may be exposed to fire from openings in the exterior wall of the building it serves, the relevant openings, as measured within certain distances horizontally, above or below, shall be protected in accordance with Sentence (4) of that Article. The proximate openings in the structure at hand have all been protected. Significantly, whereas Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) determines when (and in Sentence (4) how) to protect unenclosed exit stairs from openings in the building, it does not stipulate that the exit be enclosed.

At issue therefore, is whether the Building Code requires the subject building to provide a fire separation with adequate fire-resistance rating between the remainder of the building and the unenclosed exterior stairs.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Article 1.1.3.2. Defined Terms

Exit means that part of a means of egress, including doorways, that leads from the floor area it serves, to a separate building, an open public thoroughfare, or an exterior open space protected from fire exposure from the building and having access to an open public thoroughfare. (See Appendix A.)

Article 3.2.3.12. Protection of Exit Facilities

  1. Except as required by Sentence (3) and as permitted by Sentence 3.4.4.3.(1), if the plane of an exterior wall of an exit enclosure forms an angle less than 1350 with the plane of an exterior wall of the building it serves, and an opening in the exterior wall of the exit enclosure could be exposed to fire from an opening in the exterior wall of the building, the opening in either the exterior wall of the exit or the exterior wall of the building shall be protected in conformance with the requirements of Sentence (4) where the opening in the exterior wall of the building is within 3 m (9 ft 10 in) horizontally and;

  1. less than 10 m (32 ft 10 in) below an opening in the exterior wall of the exit; or
  2. less than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above an opening in the exterior wall of the exit.

>(See A-3.2.3.13.(1) in Appendix A.)

  1. If an unenclosed exterior exit stair or ramp could be exposed to fire from an opening in the exterior wall of the building it serves, the opening in the exterior wall of the building shall be protected in conformance with the requirements of Sentence (4) where the opening in the exterior wall of the building is within 3 m (9 ft 10 in) horizontally and;

    1. less than 10 m (32 ft 10 in) below the exit stair or ramp; or
    2. less than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) above the exit stair or ramp.

  1. Except as permitted by Sentence 3.4.4.3.(1), if an exterior exit door in one fire compartment is within 3 m (9 ft 10 in) horizontally of an opening in another fire compartment and the exterior walls of these fire compartments intersect at an exterior angle of less than 1350, the opening shall be protected in conformance with therequirements of Sentence (4).

Article 3.4.4.1. Fire-Resistance Rating of Exit Separations

  1. Except as permitted by Sentences (2), (4), 3.3.5.4.(3), 3.4.4.2.(2) and 3.4.4.3.(1), every exit shall be separated from the remainder of the building by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating not less than that required by Subsection 3.2.2., but not less than 45 min, for:

    1. the floor assembly above the storey; or
    2. the floor assembly below the storey, if there is no floor assembly above.

Article 3.4.4.3. Exterior Passageway Exceptions

1. The requirements of Sentences 3.4.4.1.(1) and 3.2.3.12.(1) and (3) do not apply to an exterior exit passageway provided:

  1. not less than 50% of the exterior side is open to the outdoors; and
  2. an exit stair is provided at each end of the passageway.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Agent for the Applicant submitted that the OBC does not require that the exterior stairs be enclosed. He pointed out that if the conditions of Sentence 3.4.4.3.(1) are met, then the fire separation requirements of Sentences 3.2.3.12.(1) and (3) and 3.4.4.1.(1) can be waived. He noted that both of the conditions - having fifty percent of the exterior side open to the outside and having exit stairs at each end of the passageway - have clearly been met in the design of the subject building.

The Agent also rejected the Respondent's argument that exits by definition must be fire separated from the rest of the building. In his interpretation, the definition of exit in Article 1.1.3.2. indicates that where it says "protected from fire exposure from the building" actually relates only to the words "an exterior open space" immediately proceeding those and is not a condition that pertains to exits in general as they are defined. To support this assertion he pointed out that Clause (1)(d) of Article 3.4.1.4. specifically lists "an exterior stairway" as a type of exit. He argued that it would inconsistent if the Building Code required separation and enclosure of exits (including stairs) in Article 1.1.3.2. and then permitted exterior stairs to be considered as an exit. As a result, he stated that Code does require a fire separation in this situation.

The Agent also argued that the building provided a high level of safety without the disputed separation. He noted that the building meets Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) which requires that openings in the building face in the proximity of the exit stairs be protected. There are no windows in the exposing building face, which will have a 45 minute rating , and the doors will provide the required 20 minute rating, he added. Another factor making the building safe, the Agent indicated, is that each suite is provided with its own balcony on the side of the hotel opposite to the exterior corridors. As well, the new fire alarm system goes beyond minimum Code requirements and will be an improvement on the previous one.

For the above reasons, the Agent concluded that the exterior unenclosed exit stairs are not required to be fire separated from the remainder of the building and the stairs - as designed - will provide the level of safety intended in the OBC.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the exposed exterior wooden stairs must be compartmentalized in order to conform to the requirements of the OBC. He argued that according to its definition in Article 1.1.3.2 exits are required to "protected from fire exposure from the building" they serve. This level of safety was warranted, he noted, because exits are a fundamental life safety feature of any building. However, in the subject structure the disputed fire separation is especially important as the building is constructed of combustible materials, the volunteer fire department cannot respond as quickly as in urban areas and the hotel has recently experienced a catastrophic fire.

The Respondent also expressed concern about various other aspects of the facility's safety. For example, he noted that there is a CN rail line that, if occupied by a train during an emergency, could potentially cut off access to the resort. In addition, being a remote site the water supply for fire fighting purposes is limited. Because of this, the Respondent indicated that he would prefer to see a dry pump system installed that could draw water from the lake.

While the Respondent acknowledged that his interpretation of this issue differed from that of the Applicant and the Technical Background Information memo written for this hearing by the Ministry's Housing Development and Buildings Branch, he asserted that the training he has received throughout his career taught him that all exit stairs, even those serving exterior corridors, had to be fire separated from rest of the building. He indicated that the present hearing afforded him the opportunity to seek clarification on this matter.

  1. Commission Ruling:

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that neither the definition of "Exit" as set out in Article 1.1.3.2. nor Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) require that the proposed exterior stairway serving ground and second floor exterior walkways be enclosed with a fire separation at the Bayview-Wildwood Resort, Severn Bridge, Ontario.

  1. Reasons:

    1. With compliance with all applicable other Code requirements in Sections 3.3 and 3.4, the as-constructed unenclosed stairs will provide adequate exiting for the subject building.

Dated at Toronto, this 21st day, in the month of October, in the year 1999, for application number 1999-61.

Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)

Mr. Robert De Berardis

Mr. Fred Barkhouse