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BCC Ruling No. 99-72-728

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #99-72-728

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Clause 3.8.3.4.(1)(f) 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. Peter Moy, Peter Moy Architect, Nepean, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Tom Gallagher, Chief Building Official, Town of Carleton Place, Ontario to determine whether the as built guard, installed on the exterior barrier-free ramp with a maximum height of 865 mm and which includes a lower, parallel rail 660 mm above the ramp surface, provides sufficiency of compliance with Subclauses 3.8.3.4.(1)(f)(i) and (ii) respectively of the Ontario Building Code at Carlton Place District Hospital, 211 Lake Avenue East, Carlton Place, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Peter Moy
Peter Moy Architect
Nepean, Ontario

RESPONDENT
Mr. Tom Gallagher
Chief Building Official
Town of Carleton Place

PANEL
Mr. Kenneth Peaker (Chair-Designate)
Mr. Robert De Berardis
Mr. James Lischkoff

PLACE
Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING
December 2, 1999

DATE OF RULING
December 2, 1999

APPEARANCES
Mr. Peter Moy
Peter Moy Architect
Nepean, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Tom Gallagher
Chief Building Official
Town of Carleton Place
The Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Peter Moy, Peter Moy Architect, Nepean, Ontario has received a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate an existing structure known as the Carlton Place District Hospital, 211 Lake Avenue East, Carlton Place, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant has recently constructed a new barrier-free access ramp at the main entrance of the Carleton Place District Hospital. The building is described as two storeys in building height (plus basement) and is classified as having a Group B, Division 2 - care and treatment occupancy.

The subject ramp is approximately 18 m in running length with two 1800 double back turns. From grade level at the sidewalk to the top of the ramp the height is 915 mm. Adjacent to the ramp is a set of stairs containing six risers.

The construction in dispute involves the guard built to serve the ramp. The guard consists of a concrete curb running along the entire edge of the ramp that projects 254 mm above the ramp surface. A tubular metal railing with a total height of 865 mm, as measured vertically from the ramp surface, runs above the curb. A lower tubular metal rail, parallel to the top one and set at 660 mm, also comprises part of the guard. The two rails are supported by tubular metal posts set approximately 0.9 m on centre that are mounted into the curb.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the as built guard, installed on the exterior barrier-free ramp with a maximum height of 865 mm and which includes a lower, parallel rail 660 mm above the ramp surface, provides sufficiency of compliance with Subclauses 3.8.3.4.(1)(f)(i) and (ii) respectively of the Ontario Building Code. Clause 3.8.3.4.(1)(f) stipulates that ramps located in a barrier-free path of travel must have a wall or guard on both sides. In the case where a guard is provided, Subclauses (i) and (ii) set out the requirements regarding height and climbability. Specifically, the height of the guard must be at least 1070 mm as measured vertically from the ramp surface to the top of the guard and the guard must also not be designed in such a way that any member, attachment, etc. between 140 mm and 900 mm above the ramp could facilitate climbing.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Clause 3.8.3.4.(1)(f) - Ramps<

(1) Ramps located in a barrier-free path of travel shall:

(f) except as provided in Sentence (2), have a wall or a guard on both sides and where a guard is provided the guard shall
(i) be not less than 1070 mm (3 ft 6 in) measured vertically to the top of the guard from the ramp surface; and
(ii) be designed so that no member, attachment or opening located between 140 mm (5? in) and 900 mm (2 ft 11 in) above the ramp surface being protected by the guard will facilitate climbing.

  1. Applicant's Position

At the outset, the Applicant acknowledged that the subject railings do not meet the prescriptive requirements for guards found in OBC 3.8.3.4.(1)(f). Nevertheless, the ramp design was not intended to meet these standards because, in his interpretation, a guard is not required under the Building Code. He based this view on the design of the ramp which, when examined in cross-section, shows that between the entrance level at the top, the three differing levels of the ramp (as it doubles back) and the sidewalk level, there is no vertical drop of more than 600 mm. The principle of not requiring a guard where there is less than a 600 mm difference in elevation between a ramp and its adjacent surface is established in Sentence 3.4.6.5.(3), the Applicant noted. The ramp, he argued, serves as an exit, and it was the exit requirements found under OBC Subsection 3.4.6. "Types of Exit Facilities" according to which the ramp was designed.

In addition, the Applicant noted that the CSA Standard, CAN/CSA-B651-95, "Barrier-Free Design" makes no specific mention of guards at ramps, which he argued implies that guards should not be construed as a specific need of physically challenged individuals. Guards as they apply to ramps, he asserted, should be done in accordance with usual exit facility requirements. In the instance at hand a guard is not necessary, only a railing. And in the present design, far more than a railing was included, he noted.

The Applicant also argued, using a previous decision, that the BCC has in the past (1996) allowed a ramp without guards where the difference between the ramp and adjacent surface was less than 100 mm.

Assuming a guard was required, the Applicant then offered arguments regarding the three specific aspects of the disputed construction; penetrability, climbability and height, of which the safety has been questioned. Prior to this, however, he indicated that the as built railing is safe and does not pose a hazard to the public, both able bodied and physically challenged.

On the issue of penetrability, the Applicant noted that between the curb and the lower rail and between the vertical posts there are openings measuring 360 mm by 838 mm respectively. Handicapped individuals, the principle users of the ramp, would not be able to fall through this opening, he argued. Moreover, the vertical drop, if someone were to fall, is not a significant height. In the Applicant's view, therefore, penetrability is not a serious concern.

Regarding the aspect of climbability, the Applicant argued that the guard was not an attractive feature to climb for children. However, any child that has the dexterity to mount the curb and duck under the lower rail has the ability to manage themselves well and do not need legislation to protect them. Certainly, handicapped persons would not attempt climbing, he stated.

The Applicant recognized that, if viewed as a guard, the height does not comply. Nevertheless, he argued that the ramp was not an area where people would linger. They would simply use it to pass through, thereby reducing the danger of a lower guard.

Lastly, the Applicant stated that he thought that the Code is moving away from common sense and has become too rigid. Alternative designs should be allowed and encouraged. The subject ramp, he reiterated, is safe and will benefit the ambulatory and non-ambulatory public.

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that while the subject ramp, in his view, does not present a danger to the public and complies with the OBC standards for exits, it does not meet the barrier-free path of travel requirements for guards as found in Clause 3.8.3.4.(1)(f). In particular, he noted that the height of the guard, at 865 mm, did not meet the required 1070 mm and that the lower rail, at 660 mm, must be considered a climbable member. He declined to comment on the issue of the penetrability of the guard.

The Respondent concluded by indicating that he hoped to learn from the Commission whether a guard was required in this instance.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the as built guard, installed on the exterior barrier-free ramp with a maximum height of 865 mm and which includes a lower, parallel rail 660 mm above the ramp surface does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Subclauses 3.8.3.4.(1)(f)(i) and (ii) respectively of the Ontario Building Code at the Carleton Place District Hospital, 211 Lake Avenue East, Carleton Place, Ontario.

  1. Reasons

1) Adequate compensating measures have not been provided.

2) Guards are required for barrier-free ramps regardless of differences in elevation.

3) The guard height of 865 mm does not meet the requirement of 1070 mm.

4) The design of the guard offers opportunities for climbing.

Dated at Toronto this 2nd day in the month of December in the year 1999 for application number 1999-76.





____________________________

Mr. Kenneth Peaker, Chair-Designate





_______________________

Mr. Robert De Berardis





__________________________

Mr. James Lischkoff