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BCC Ruling No. 99-68-724

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-68-724

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 9.8.3.3.(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. Victor Heinrichs, Principal, V. J. Heinrichs Architect, Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Anthony Krimmer, Chief Building Official, City of Waterloo, Ontario, to determine whether the as constructed single stair serving a second storey loft measuring 813 mm in width between wall faces provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Ontario Building Code at Block A - Luther West Village, 1 Sunshine Avenue, Waterloo, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Victor Heinrichs, Principal
V. J. Heinrichs Architect
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Anthony Krimmer
Chief Building Official
City of Waterloo

PANEL
Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. James Lischkoff
Mr. John Guthrie

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
November 18, 1999

DATE OF RULING
November 18, 1999

APPEARANCES
Mr. Rick Mori
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Mike McKean
Fire/Building Official
City of Waterloo
Designate for the Respondent



RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Victor Heinrichs, Ontario, has received an order to comply under the Building Code Act, 1992 to remedy certain deficiencies regarding the as built stairways within three of the recently constructed residential units at Luther Village West - Block A, 1 Sunshine Avenue, Waterloo, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant has recently constructed a townhouse complex consisting of seven buildings (Blocks A to F [Block A contains two buildings separated by a firewall]). Blocks A and B contain model units known as the "Lilac" and "Iris" suites, both of which come in two versions, a one storey unit and a one storey with loft unit. The ground floor area for these units is approximately 150 m2, with the lofts having roughly 35 m2 of floor area.

The construction in dispute involves three of the seven newly constructed, and occupied, two storey Lilac and Iris units in Block A, which is described as combustible construction, two stories in building height, 900m2 in building area and having a Group C (townhouse condominium) residential occupancy. Specifically at issue is the width of the single stair serving the loft area. The stairs of these three units have a clear width of 813 mm between wall faces, and only 711 mm between the wall and the projecting handrail. The subject stairs run straight and begin in the foyer of the main floor and terminate to the side of the loft area.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the as constructed single stair serving a second storey loft measuring 813 mm in width between wall faces provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Ontario Building Code. This provision stipulates that at least one stairway between each floor level in a dwelling unit should have a width of not less than 860 mm between wall faces. Minimum width requirements are established in the Building Code so that stairs will be able to serve the double function of allowing for the movement of people, in particular as a means of egress for occupants if required, and the movement of furniture. The stairways at issue have a clear width of only 813 mm between wall faces, which in turn has been reduced to 711 mm by a handrail fixed on one side of the stair. Sentence 9.8.7.6.(1), it should be noted, allows handrails to project up to 100 mm into the required width of a stair.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) - Stair Width

(2) At least 1 stairway between each floor level in a dwelling unit shall have a width between wall faces of not less than 860 mm (2 ft 10 in).

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the width of the as built stair provides sufficiency of compliance with the minimum stair width of 860 mm as specified in Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2). He argued that the OBC allows an exit stair under Clause 3.4.3.1.(2)(b) to have a minimum width of 900 mm, which can be further reduced to 700 mm by the encroachment of handrails on both sides that are permitted to project into the required width by 100 mm each. Thus, for exit purposes the Code allows a clear width of 700 mm between handrails. In the present situation, the clear width between the single handrail and the opposite wall is 711 mm, he noted. Further, a minimum width of 660 mm is permitted as a means of egress for a spiral stair serving a floor area with an occupant load of not more than five persons under NFPA 101, Section 5-2.2.2.4.

Moreover, the Code also allows doors in the exit path to be narrower than the 860 mm required in Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2).

If one were to examine the situation based on the relationship between occupant load and width of the exit, the stairs would be more than adequate, the Applicant also argued. He indicated that a 700 mm wide exit stair is permitted to serve an occupant load of 76 persons, however the 35 m2 loft has only 17 m2 useable space which, based on 0.95 m2 /p, would equate to an occupant load of 18 people. Nevertheless, he noted that if the loft is classified as a bedroom then the OBC would determine the occupant load to be 2 persons. The Applicant did acknowledge, however, that in most residential suites the width of an interior stair is governed by the occupant load.

The Applicant indicated that it was interesting to note that the wording of Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) refers to "at least one stairway" and "between wall faces" which is different from the text used in Part 3 which describes width of exits. While he conceded that the as built stair does not meet the prescriptive width requirements of Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2), he argued, based on the above discussion, that if they were viewed as an exit and not as a "stairway" then the width requirements and thus the exit standards have been met. The Applicant therefore indicated that for Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) at least, the intent of the Code's minimum dimensions relates more to a functional requirement with respect to the movement of furniture and/or equipment and not the egress of people.

Concerning the movement of furniture, he argued that since the subject stairs have a straight run they provide an easier path for the transportation of furniture than stairs that contain a bend. In addition, the Applicant argued that because the lofts overlook the living/dining rooms below this would allow large furniture and equipment to be lifted over the guards through the openings from the floor levels below without using the stairs.

Finally, the Applicant stated that it would be exceedingly difficult to remedy this situation to widen the stairs.

Based on the above considerations, the Applicant concluded by stating that, in his view, the subject stairs provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.8.3.(2).

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the stair widths in the subject two storey units do not meet the minimum width of 860 mm from wall face to wall face as required by Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Building Code. He noted that the as constructed width is 813 mm. The municipality's position is that it cares not whether the Code standard is for the movement of people or furniture. The Code requirement is clear.

The Respondent also indicated that the plans submitted and approved by the municipality showed a stair width in conformance Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2). The deficient width was only discovered during an inspection in the latter stages of construction.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the single stair serving a second storey loft measuring 813 mm in width between wall faces provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Ontario Building Code at Block A - Luther West Village, 1 Sunshine Avenue, Waterloo, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

i. The current stair width will not pose a life safety problem.

ii. The loft is a small area and if large furniture is required it can be lifted over the openings to the loft.

iii. The problem is limited to three units of a 70 unit complex and was corrected as soon as it was made known.



Dated at Toronto this 18th day in the month of November in the year 1999 for application number 1999-70.





____________________________

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. John Guthrie





__________________________

Mr. James Lischkoff