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BCC Ruling No. 99-65-721

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-65-721

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) and Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) 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. Andrew Howcroft, Director of Vocational Services, Welland District Association for Community Living, Welland, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Mike Mantesso, Chief Building Official, City of Welland, Ontario to determine whether the stair lift, with a width of 1,220 mm when in operation, proposed to be located in an existing exit stair that is 1,675 mm wide provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) and Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) of the Ontario Building Code at the Seaway Mall, 800 Niagara Street, Welland, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. Andrew Howcroft, Director of Vocational Services
Welland District Association for Community Living
Welland, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Mike Mantesso
Chief Building Official
City of Welland

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

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
November 4, 1999

DATE OF RULING
November 4, 1999

APPEARANCES
Mr. Andrew Howcroft, Director of Vocational Services
Welland District Association for Community Living
Welland, Ontario

The Applicant

Mr. Mike Mantesso
Chief Building Official
City of Welland
The Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Andrew Howcroft, Director of Vocation Services, Welland District Association for Community Living, Welland, Ontario has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992, to install a stair lift into an existing public stair path at the Seaway Mall, 800 Niagara Street, Welland, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to install a chair lift on the main exit stairs to serve a non-profit agency that provides support and services to adults with a developmental disability known as the Welland District Association for Community Living (WDACL). The WDACL offers a vocational services employment program called "Community Options", which is located in a mezzanine suite in the Seaway Mall. Currently program staff have been meeting clients with limited mobility on the ground floor of the mall, however, this arrangement offers no privacy and does not afford access to the computer link up with the Human Resources Canada Office in the Community Options' office.

The building is described as two storeys in building height, 54,554 m2 in building area and is of noncombustible construction. The mall contains some Group A, Division 2 (assembly), Group D (office) business occupancies, but is mostly comprised of Group E (retail) mercantile occupancies. The building is equipped with a sprinkler system, fire alarm system and a standpipe and hose system.

The construction in dispute involves the placement of the proposed stair lift in the principal exit stair serving the subject mezzanine. Currently, the mezzanine, which consists of nine suites (connected by a public corridor), approximately 1,115 m2, has an occupant load of 83, and is provided with three exit stairs. Only two of these are considered public stairs, since one stair is located entirely within a suite. Of the two public stairs, the proposed stair lift is to be located in the larger, open stairs that front directly onto the public corridor. The Community Options suite is located immediately adjacent to the subject exit stairs.

The Applicant proposes to fix the stair lift measuring 1,220 mm when in operation, into the 1,675 mm width of the existing stair. When not in operation, the stair lift would only reduce the exit stairs minimally because the single steel rail it runs on is set off to one side and the chair platform folds up when not in use. However, while the lift is in operation, it would reduce the stair width to 456 mm.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the stair lift, with a width of 1,220 mm when in operation, proposed to be located in an existing 1,675 mm wide exit stair provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) and Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) of the Ontario Building Code.

The former provision stipulates that except under certain circumstances (which are not applicable in this instance) no fixture is permitted to reduce the width of an exit. This requirement applies to all fixtures, etc. regardless of whether they are in operation or not.

The latter Clause is the relevant provision in this case that determines the required exit width. It mandates that the subject exit shall have a width of not less than 900 mm for stairs and ramps. If the occupant load of the mezzanine area was higher and if the stair configuration was different, then Article 3.4.3.4. would be applicable. And if Article 3.4.3.4. applied then the required stair width would probably be wider than the minimum of 900 mm. In this instance, however, Article 3.4.3.4. is not relevant.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) - Exit Width Reduction

(1) Except as permitted by Sentences (2) to (4) , no fixture, turnstile or construction shall project into or be fixed within the required width of an exit.

Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) - Exit Width

(2) The required width of an exit shall not be less than;

(b) 900 mm (2ft 11 in) for stairs and ramps that serve not more than 3 storeys above grade or not more than one storey below grade.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the installation of the stair lift will not reduce the performance level of the existing exit stairs or block the path of travel in an emergency situation. He noted that as part of the lift installation it would be equipped with a device that would connect it to the mall's fire alarm system. This would offer several safety advantages, he argued. First, in an emergency when the fire alarm had been triggered, the lift would automatically shut down (unless in operation) thereby remaining in its folded-up position at the bottom of the stair. Secondly, if in operation and the fire alarm actuated, then the lift would immediately head in the direction of egress, in this case downwards, to the ground floor and fold up. As well, the lift is also equipped with a release mechanism that if for some reason the lift had malfunctioned during an emergency it could be folded up and locked in position at any point in the stair.

The Applicant also argued that even if the lift was in operation when the fire alarm triggered it would not cause delays. As he noted, the maximum time for the lift to travel from the mezzanine to ground floor is approximately 70 seconds. He asserted that if an emergency were to occur with the lift in operation it would be unlikely that the lift would be at the very top of the stair. As a result, he thought that a median time of 35 seconds for descent of the lift was appropriate. Therefore, using 35 seconds as the operative figure, he argued that most of the occupants on the mezzanine level would not have reached the stair yet, or if in the stair, would not be as far down as the lift.

For these reasons, the Applicant concluded by stating that the stair lift, would not reduce the performance level of the main exit stairs and thereby cause a hazardous exiting situation.

Lastly, the Applicant appealed to the Commission to consider how useful the lift would be to the disabled clients of the Community Options program.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that although the lift would make the mezzanine barrier-free accessible, it would create a hazardous situation by narrowing the main exit stair. In particular, he noted that the proposal violated Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) and Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) by installing a fixture that reduced the required exit width. This, he claimed, would reduce the performance level of the building.

The Respondent also expressed concern about the existing mezzanine, which he claimed does not conform to Code. He noted that if it were constructed new it would need to contain a vertical fire separation between the mall and the corridor and a public corridor leading to two enclosed exit stairs. As it stands now, the existing mezzanine is not well served by exits. He indicated that the other public exit stair is difficult to locate, confusing to navigate, and is not equipped with handrails. He feared that the proposed stair lift would further worsen the situation.

In summation, the Respondent noted that the stair lift did not conform to the relevant provisions of the Ontario Building Code and as a result he indicated that he felt he did not have the authority to accept the proposal.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the stair lift with a width of 1,220 mm when in operation proposed to be located in an existing stair 1,675 mm wide does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.5.(1) and Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) of the Ontario Building Code.

  1. Reasons

(i) Adequate measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance were not provided.



Dated at Toronto this 4th day in the month of November in the year 1999 for application number 1999-57.



____________________________

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. Donald Pratt





__________________________

Mr. James Lischkoff