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BCC Ruling No. 99-66-722

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-66-722

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.5.(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. D. W. Durant, Plant Services Controller, District School Board of Niagara, St. Catharines, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Christel Meyer, Chief Building Official, Township of West Lincoln, Ontario to determine whether the second storey sound and lighting booth, as constructed, with a pull-down ladder and a lockable access hatch provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at South Lincoln High School, 260 Canborough Road, Smithville, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Mr. D. W. Durant, Plant Services Controller
District School Board of Niagara
St. Catharines, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Ms. Christel Meyer
Chief Building Official
Township of West Lincoln

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. Peter Colquhoun, Consultant
Arencon Inc.
Mississauga, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Ms. Christel Meyer
Chief Building Official
Township of West Lincoln
The Respondent



RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. D. W. Durant, Plant Services Controller, District School Board of Niagara, St. Catharines, Ontario has received an order under the Building Code Act, 1992, to address certain deficiencies in an addition to the South Lincoln High School, 260 Canborough Road, Smithville, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant has recently constructed an addition onto an existing high school. The addition contains extra classroom space, a gymnasium, staff offices, changerooms and a sound and lighting booth overlooking the gymnasium. The existing building had a building area of 3,300 m2, and together with the 2,077 m2 addition, the total building area of the current structure is 5,377 m2. The building is further described as having a Group A, Division 2 - (high school) assembly occupancy, one storey in building height, and is of noncombustible construction. It is equipped with a sprinkler system and fire alarm system.

The construction in dispute involves the small (6.5 m2) sound and lighting booth that overlooks the new gymnasium. In order to function effectively as a room to control sound and lighting for theatre arts productions, the booth was constructed in the opposite wall from the stage and on top of the single storey phys. ed. staff offices that adjoin the gymnasium. The booth is accessible only through an access hatch complete with a pull down ladder that is located in the phys. ed staff offices. When the booth is not in use, the ladder is pushed up and out of the offices below and the access hatch is closed. (Currently, the access hatch has been removed due to a hardware problem.) A door leading directly to the roof is provided within the booth. The parapet around the building's perimeter extends 750 mm above the level of the roof.

The addition to the building is designed to accommodate a future second floor which would incorporate the recently built sound and lighting booth. When the second floor is constructed, there will be direct access to the sound and lighting booth from the second storey corridor, which in turn will be served by two separate exit stairs.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the second storey sound and lighting booth, as constructed, with a pull down ladder and a lockable access hatch provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code.

The first provision stipulates that an exit facility for a floor area intended for occupancy must comply with the exit standards of Section 3.4. of the Building Code, including the dimensional, guards and handrails requirements. Further, Article 3.3.1.13., in particular Sentence (1), states that except under a few circumstances ramps and stairs shall also conform to Section 3.4. Sentence (2) of that Article, however, is an exception. It states that ramps and stairs that serve service rooms and spaces and industrial occupancies and that are used infrequently need not comply with Sentence (1) and thereby Section 3.4.

The definition of a service room as found in Article 1.1.3.2. of the OBC is found below. It indicates that to be considered a service room, a space must contain equipment associated with the building services, such as heating, air conditioning or electrical equipment. It also states that such rooms are usually separated by an increased level of fire separation from the rest of the building. A room dedicated to the control of sound and light of a theatre production cannot be considered as an area devoted to containing building services equipment. Moreover, the booth is not provided with an enhanced or even continuous separation from the gymnasium.

As a result, the as constructed sound and light booth does not qualify for the exemption under Sentence 3.3.1.13.(2) and must therefore meet the requirements of Sentence (1) and Section 3.4. The as built pull down ladder and access hatch, however, do not conform to this Section. At dispute therefore, is whether the booth, as constructed, provides any compensating measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.13.(1).

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.4.1.1. - Scope

(1) Exit facilities complying with this Section shall be provided from every floor area which is intended for occupancy.

Article 3.3.1.13. - Ramps and Stairways

(1) Except as permitted by Sentence (2), Article 3.3.4.7., ans Subsection 3.3.2., ramps and stairways shall conform to the dimensional, guard and handrail requirements in Section 3.4. for exit ramps and stairways.

(2) Ramps and stairways that do not conform to the requirements of Sentence (1) are permitted to serve service rooms and service spaces and in industrial occupancies, provided the ramps and stairways are intended only for occasional use for service equipment and machinery.

Article 1.1.3.2. - Definition of Service Room

Service room means a room provided in a building to contain equipment associated with building services. (See Appendix A.)

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant acknowledged at the outset that the pull down ladder and access hatch does not conform to the exit requirements of Section 3.4. He also recognized that the sound and lighting booth does not fit the definition of a service room in the Code. He explained that the situation regarding the ladder and the access hatch came as result of the building official's advice at the plan review stage that the booth was a service room. Nevertheless, he argued that the booth does provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.13.(1) and that it should not be considered as a hazardous space. He offered several reasons.

Prior to making any sufficiency of compliance arguments however, the Applicant offered a possible Code interpretation of the situation. He stated that under the NFPA 101B standard, "Code for Means of Egress from Buildings and Structures", it was plausible to view the booth as a "lighting and access catwalk". Such catwalks are cited in Exception No. 4 to provision 3-4.1, which deals with the number of means of egress from balconies, mezzanines, stories, etc. Specifically, Exception No. 4 states that a second means of egress is not required from a lighting catwalk and that ladders are permitted as a means of escape.

In terms of compensating measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance, the Applicant indicated that the booth will only be used for two or three times a year when the school's drama department stages a theatrical performance. For the rest of the year the booth will not be in use and will not be accessible. In fact, he argued that there are two levels of security ensuring that the booth remains inaccessible except under supervision of a phys. ed. teacher. The first is that the hatch in the ceiling of the phys. ed. office is locked and remains so unless the booth is being used under appropriate supervision. Second, the phys. ed. office is locked at all times when not occupied by a phys. ed teacher. Access to the booth therefore is strictly controlled and monitored, he argued.

The Applicant also argued that the booth itself should be considered a safe space. It is sprinklered and will be tested to ensure audibility of the fire alarm. (If found lacking, an audible device will be installed in the booth, he noted.) The controls for the sound and lighting will utilize electronic and/or solid state controls. There will be no movie projection equipment or spot lights located in the booth. As well, he indicated that there are openable windows between the booth and the gymnasium. The Applicant also added that a door equipped with free egress hardware is also provided from the booth onto the roof of the building. The door will be monitored by the school's security system and will always be unlocked from inside and locked from outside.

The Applicant offered that specific procedures would be added to the fire safety plan to address access and use of booth. He also stated that he would be willing to add emergency lighting to the booth and the phys. ed. office below to ensure sufficient lighting for safe emergency evacuation.

If the use of the booth was prevented, this would force the school to rent temporary scaffolding and platforms, which would require access by ladders, and would not provide the control and safety offered by the existing, permanent booth. The Applicant argued that this would create a more dangerous situation than anything posed by the access ladder.

The installation of an access and egress stair is not possible due to space limitations, the Applicant noted. Moreover, constructing an exterior stair to access the booth is not feasible because of security concerns. As a result, short of building the future second floor, the Applicant argued that the pull down ladder and lockable hatch are the best possible solutions given the situation.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that because the main function of the booth is to operate sound and lighting for theatrical performances in the gymnasium, it does not conform to the definition of a mechanical or service room as found in the OBC. Besides, the use of the equipment within the room will be by students and not service personnel, she added. As a result, the booth cannot be exempted from the requirements of Section 3.4 as permitted in Sentence 3.3.1.13.(2), and must therefore comply with the exit requirements of Section 3.4. She noted that the as constructed ladder and lockable hatch do not meet these requirements.

The Respondent explained that, in their view, the dispute originated because the construction drawings did not label the rooms and indicate their use. Instead, the rooms were numbered and the numbers were listed in a schedule to the drawings.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the second storey sound and lighting booth as constructed, with a pull down ladder and a lockable access hatch, does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.1.1. and Sentence 3.3.1.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at South Lincoln High School, 260 Canborough Road, Smithville, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

1) The sound control room does not fall within the description of a service room.
2) Adequate compensating measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance were not demonstrated.



Dated at Toronto this 4th day in the month of November in the year 1999 for application number 1999-66.



____________________________

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. Donald Pratt





__________________________

Mr. James Lischkoff