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BCC Ruling No. 99-67-723

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-67-723

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.2.2.40. and Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and (2) and Article 3.1.2.5. 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 Ms. Sheila O'Donovan, owner, Lisaard House Charitable Foundation, Cambridge, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Larry Simonato, Director of Building Enforcement Services, City of Cambridge, Ontario to determine whether the proposed sprinkler system, designed according to NFPA 13R, and intended for use in a Group B, Division 3 occupancy provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.40. and Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Lisaard House, 950 Speedsville Road, Cambridge, Ontario.

APPLICANT
Ms. Sheila O'Donovan, owner
Lisaard House Charitable Foundation
Cambridge, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Larry Simonato
Director of Building Enforcement Services
City of Cambridge

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. Rick Reichard, Architect
Snider Reichard March Architect
Waterloo, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. David Carroll
Supervisor of Building Inspectors
City of Cambridge
Designate for the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Ms. Sheila O'Donovan, owner, Lisaard House Charitable Foundation, Cambridge, Ontario has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a new palliative care facility for cancer patients known as the Lisaard House, at 950 Speedsville Road, Cambridge, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The Applicant is proposing to construct a new care facility intended as a hospice for the use of patients terminally ill with cancer. The building is described as one storey in building height (with a partial basement and two separated crawl spaces), 562 m2 in building area, and is of combustible construction. The building is classified as having a Group B, Division 2 (care and treatment) occupancy under the 1997 Ontario Building Code. 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 building is to have a total of six bedrooms, each with their own bathroom facilities. The bedrooms are arranged on the outer side of a ring corridor, the centre of which contains a nurses station, administrative offices and a bathing facility. The building is also to contain a kitchen/dining area, several lounges and a reception room. Storage space and mechanical and electrical equipment will be located in the partial basement. A total of five exits that lead directly to the exterior at grade level are proposed for the hospice. As well, each of the six bedrooms will have a set of inward swinging, double-leaf doors that also lead directly to the exterior.

The separations provided in the floor assembly between the basement and ground floor, and in the wall assemblies between the individual bedrooms and between the bedrooms and the ring corridor will have a 3/4 hour fire-resistance rating. The floor assembly above the crawl space has not been separated due to the fact that it will not be used as a plenum and any flues will be fully ducted.

The building is intended for six cancer patients. Staff will be present in the facility 24 hours a day. During the day the staffing level will be up to 3 or 4 full time persons, including home care nurses that are to drop by on a periodic basis. This number is to be reduced to two overnight, with one of these being a practical nurse. A senior physician that also acts as a house manager will be present at all times. In case of emergency, some persons (depending on the health of residents at the time of the emergency) would require assistance to evacuate.

Since the residents of the proposed building will be persons in the final stages of life, they would have abandoned most treatment. Some medication will be provided, however, but this would only be to reduce suffering and make the residents more comfortable. In many cases, patients will be equipped with pain pumps in order to administer medication themselves. Staff is available in this regard if needed. The average length of stay for the residents will be approximately three to four weeks.

The construction in dispute involves the proposed sprinkler system. The Applicant is proposing that the sprinkler 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." (The Applicant is proposing, however, that the entire ground floor of the building be supplied with sprinkler protection conforming to NFPA 13, which would include concealed spaces such as closets and all washrooms [even those less than 5.1 m2].)

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed sprinkler system, designed according to NFPA 13R, and intended for use in a Group B, Division 2 occupancy provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.40. and Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code.

Article 3.2.2.40. requires that a B2 occupancy must be sprinklered even though it may be of combustible construction. 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. Specifically, the NFPA 13 standard requires that all spaces of a building be protected with sprinklering. This includes unoccupied areas of the building such as closets and concealed spaces, for example, attics and crawl spaces. The NFPA 13R standard, on the other hand, stipulates that such a sprinkler system need only be designed and installed for all occupied rooms.

Nevertheless, since the subject building is classified as a B2 occupancy under the 1997 OBC the sprinkler system must be installed in accordance with NFPA 13 standard, not NFPA 13R. This is due to the fact that the structure cannot be considered as having a residential occupancy. While certain buildings classified as having a Group B occupancy are permitted to be considered residential occupancies in the appropriate circumstances and under various conditions, this particular building does not qualify as such for several reasons.

First, residential consideration of a Group B occupancy is only available for B3 buildings under certain conditions as set out in Article 3.1.2.5. Because the residents will require treatment, albeit limited, the Commission regards the hospice as classified as a B2 occupancy. Further, some of the treatment at the facility will be administered by qualified medical personnel. Secondly, even if the proposed building were classified as B3, it is doubtful that it would meet the conditions stipulated in Article 3.1.2.5. These conditions are that the occupants operate as a single housekeeping unit, that there is sleeping accommodation for no more than ten persons and that no more than two persons would require assistance to evacuate in case of an emergency.

On the first two items, it is recognized that the hospice, with only six proposed bedrooms, is small, and since these individual sleeping rooms are not to be equipped with cooking facilities it is conceivable that the facility could operate as a single housekeeping unit. Regarding the issue of assistance in an emergency, however, it is not clear how this condition would be met on a consistent basis, especially considering the deteriorating health of the residents. This is, after all, a cancer hospice for terminally ill patients, and while at times no more than two people would require assistance to evacuate, there would certainly be other occasions where more than two would need help. There would be no way to enforce such a condition either. To do so would be inconsistent with the purpose of the facility, which is to give dying cancer patients the dignity and comfort they deserve. As a result, the subject building, if classified as a B3 occupancy, could not be considered as residential as per Article 3.1.2.5.

At issue therefore, is whether the proposed B2 building offers any compensating measures to achieve sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.40. and Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1), which require that the sprinkler system be built according to NFPA 13.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Article 3.2.2.40. - Group B, Division 2 or Division 3, up to 2 Storeys, Sprinklered

(1) A building classified as Group B, Division 2 or Division 3 is permitted to conform to Sentence (2) provided:
(a) except as permitted by Sentence 3.2.2.7.(1), the building is sprinklered;
(b) it is not more than 2 storeys in building height; and
(c) it has a building area not more than: (i) 2,400 m2 (25,800 ft2) if 1 storey in building height; or
(ii) 1,600 m2 (17,200 ft2) if 2 storeys in building height.(2) The building referred to in Sentence (1) is permitted to be of combustible construction or noncombustible construction used singly or in combination; and
(a) floor assemblies shall be fire separations with a fire-resistance rating not less than 45 min,
(b) mezzanines shall have, if of combustible construction, a fire-resistance rating not less than 45 min; and
(c) loadbearing walls, columns and arches shall have a fire-resistance rating not less than that required for the supported assembly.

Sentences 3.2.5.13.(1) and (2) - Automatic Sprinkler Systems

(1) Except as permitted by Sentences (2), (3) and (4), an automatic sprinkler system shall be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA 13, "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems". (See Appendix A.)

(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.

Article 3.1.2.5. - Group B, Division 3 Occupancies

(1) Group B, Division 3 occupancies are permitted to be classified as Group C major occupancies provided:
(a) the occupants live as a single housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit with sleeping accommodation for not more than 10 persons; and
(b) not more than 2 occupants require assistance in evacuation in case of an emergency.

  1. Applicant's Position

Prior to submitting arguments about sufficiency of compliance, the Applicant described the project and its purpose and why in her view it could still be considered residential (and possibly a B3, and not a B2, occupancy). She argued that the building, set on a large rural lot, is designed to create a homelike environment where families would be encouraged to stay as long as they wanted. She noted that the residents would not be "supervised" insofar as the Code uses that concept. As well, there would most likely not be more than two persons requiring assistance to evacuate in an emergency. She also noted that the level of medication that residents would receive would be no more than they would get in their own homes. Anyone needing more treatment than this would have to return to the hospital.

At the outset of his presentation, the Agent for the Applicant indicated that he had recently been to the Building Code Commission on six previous applications regarding similar projects. In his view, the subject building, consistent with his previous BCC applications, could appropriately be considered as a B3 facility (and under Article 3.1.2.5. as having a residential occupancy) under the OBC, thereby allowing the proposed NFPA 13R sprinkler system to be installed. The Agent 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. 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.

If the proposed hospice could not be considered as a B3 or residential occupancy, however, the Agent offered various compensating measures beyond minimum construction requirements to achieve sufficiency of compliance with the OBC. Specifically, he noted that the interconnected, hard-wired smoke detection system proposed for not only the occupied areas but also areas such as the crawl spaces goes beyond minimum Code requirements. He argued that while there may be no suppression of fire in spaces such as the crawl spaces, there will be a detection system to provide early warning. The Agent also indicated that the proposed wall assembly separations are not required by Code. Such separations, he asserted, would provide a higher level of fire compartmentation than normally found in a building of this size. He argued that the separations provide clear and direct compensation to the omission of sprinklers from certain areas. As well, the Agent noted that the number of exits serving the building, in addition to the six access doors in the bedrooms, provides a level of exiting far in excess of Code requirements.

Considering that the ground floor would be sprinklered (according to NFPA 13), that fire separations would be provided between floors and bedrooms, that hard-wired interconnected smoke detectors would be installed in most areas of the hospice, and that evacuation would be quick, the Agent stated that the life safety of the residents would be adequately protected without relying upon the more rigorous NFPA 13 requirements for the entire building.

Lastly, the Agent indicated that, in his view, the primary benefit of installing a fully compliant NFPA 13 sprinkler system would be enhanced property protection. He stated that with respect to the subject cancer hospice he has tried to focus his design efforts on cost effective life safety features.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the subject cancer hospice should be classified as a B2 - care and treatment - occupancy. As a result, he indicated that, in accordance with Article 3.2.2.40., the proposed hospice was required to be sprinklered in conformance with NFPA 13. He rejected the Applicant's arguments that the building could be viewed as a B3 or even a residential use. As he noted, the intended purpose of the structure is to provide comfort and treatment to dying cancer patients.

The Respondent also rebuffed the Agent's arguments that the present application to the Building Code Commission was analogous to his previous ones. Those buildings were much smaller in area and were subject to the construction requirements of Article 3.2.2.41. Moreover, as group homes, a credible argument could be made that most of the residents of the Agent's earlier projects were ambulatory. This is not the case in the present situation, the Respondent argued. Regardless, he stated that he was aware that the Commission was not bound by their previous decisions and viewed each issue on a case-by-case basis.

Nevertheless, the Respondent did state that he was sympathetic to the Applicant's proposal and the dilemma facing them with respect to their classification under the OBC. He also added that while he supported the proposed compensating measures, in particular those relating to enhanced early warning and upgraded compartmentation offered by the Agent, he felt he did not have the authority to accept such a deviation from Code.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed sprinkler system intended to serve a B2 occupancy does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.2.2.40. and Sentence 3.2.5.13.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Lisaard House, 950 Speedsville Road, Cambridge, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

1) As a building of care and treatment, i.e., a B2 occupancy, the sprinkler system must be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA 13.

2) While certain compensating measures were proposed, they were not adequate to achieve the same level of protection offered by fully sprinklering the building.

Dated at Toronto, this 4th day, in the month of November, in the year 1999, for application number 1999-72.





____________________________

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. Donald Pratt





__________________________

Mr. James Lischkoff