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BCC Ruling No. 98-51-656

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #98-51-656

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.4.4.4.(6). of Regulation 403, as amended by O. Reg. 22/98, 102/98 and 122/98 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Stephen Martin, Project Manager, Colonnade Development Inc., Nepean, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Terry Dalkowski, Chief Building Official, City of Nepean, Ontario to determine whether the proposed installation of a security desk in a lobby area leading to an exit provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.4.4.(6) of the Ontario Building Code at 9 Auriga Drive, Nepean, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Stephen Martin, Project Manager
Colonnade Development Incorporated
Nepean, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Ms. Terry Dalkowski
Chief Building Official
City of Nepean

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Mr. Susan Friedrich
Mr. Cliff Youdale

PLACE

Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

December 15, 1998

DATE OF RULING

December 15, 1998

APPEARANCES

Mr. Marc Letellier, Principal
Callahan Potter Letellier
Design Consultants Inc.
For the Applicant

Mr. Frank Bidin
Manager of Permits
City of Nepean
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Stephen Martin, Project Manager, Colonnade Development Incorporated, 1 Antares Drive, Nepean, Ontario , has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate the interior of an existing, two storey office building at 9 Auriga Drive Nepean, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant is proposing to renovate the interior of a two storey structure, classified as having a Group D - Business occupancy, with a building area of 1,420 m2. The existing building is constructed of noncombustible construction, with non-rated fire separations. The structure is equipped with a fire alarm system, but the building is not sprinklered.

Currently, the main entrance to the building an existing two storey lobby. A portion of the second floor, including the second storey elevator lobby and its connecting corridor , is open to the two storey lobby. This second floor area is described as a mezzanine within the two storey lobby. There are two rooms with one door each that open directly into the second floor mezzanine. The remainder of the second floor is separated from the subject lobby by either glass or unrated partitions. An unenclosed stair at the south-east corner of the lobby, located opposite to the elevator, connects to the mezzanine area to the lobby.

Proposed for the ground floor of the lobby is a security control console to be constructed of fire-resistant materials, that would also act as a reception area.

There are two enclosed exit stairs. One stair is located at the west end of the building and it exits directly to the outside. The other exit stairs are located almost adjacent to the open stairs in the lobby. The entrance to the top of these stairs is from the open corridor, or mezzanine, on the second floor. At the bottom of the stairs, the path of egress leads through the south end of the lobby where the ground floor elevator lobby faces the bottom of the open stairs. From there egress is obtained by heading north past the security and reception areas to the centre exit doors.

The Applicant intends to use this front entrance two storey lobby, in conjunction with the enclosed centre stairs, as one of the two required exits from both floors areas.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed installation of the subject security console in the existing two storey exit lobby, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.4.4.(6) of the Ontario Building Code. Specifically, this provisions requires that exits, including the exit lobby of the subject building, be designed only for exiting. By installing a security desk in the exit lobby, the Applicant would, in effect, be using the lobby as a security area.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code

Article 3.4.4.4.(6) Integrity of Exits

(6) An exit shall be designed for no purpose other than for exiting, except that an exit is permitted also to be designed to serve as an access to a floor area.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed design of the two storey lobby serving as exit route for the central stairs provides sufficiency of compliance with the relevant provisions of the OBC. He noted at the outset that the disputed exit shafts and the lobby have remained as they existed prior to the proposed renovation, except for the intended addition of the security area.

The Applicant disputed that fire separations were necessary for the ground floor of the lobby as per OBC 3.4.4.2.(2)(e). He argued that the lobby area, at 69.7 m2 (750 ft2) and two storeys in height, is a large "smoke separated" space which, in the unlikely event that a fire were to occur, the second storey portion of the lobby could contain enough smoke that occupants of the building could exit safely. The Applicant did, however, accept the suggestion that a fire separation with a one fire-resistance rating could be constructed on the second floor of the lobby's north wall. This would effectively prevent the spread of smoke in the lobby from entering into areas on the second floor via the mezzanine and would also protect the egress route for the central stairs.

Regarding the issue of the security desk/reception area, or the integrity of the exit, the Applicant argued that since the entire building is occupied by a single tenant, the lobby area acts as the main entrance into the tenant's space. It is here, in clear view of the main entrance, where security is necessary. In his view, this is a more appropriate location, not in a room off one side of the lobby.

The desk itself, which is to be built of fire-resistant materials, he described as a control system equipped with some computer hardware. Overall, there would be very little fire load in this room. Further, as a security area it would be occupied by at least one security staff person 24 hours a day. The Applicant noted that the on-duty security staff would monitor the control panels, as well as operating as the warden responsible for initiating fire emergency and evacuation procedures.

For the above reasons, the Applicant concluded by stating that the proposed installation of a security desk in the building's exit lobby provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.4.4.(6).

  1. Respondent's Position

The Respondent submitted that the use of the lobby as a security/reception area does not comply with certain provisions found in OBC Articles 3.4.4.2. and 3.4.4.4. They argued that as the subject lobby is an exit lobby, acting as an egress route for the central stairs, Clause 3.4.4.2.(2)(e) is applicable. This provision states that the lobby must conform to the requirements for an exit found in Articles 3.4.4.2. and 3.4.4.4. In particular, the Respondent noted that Subclause 3.4.4.2.(2)(e)(ii) expressly requires control and supervision rooms to be separated from the lobby by a non-rated separation. Conversely, they pointed out that if such a room was located in the lobby then it must be an area exempt from a fire-resistance rating requirement, but this is not the case in the subject lobby.

As far as the installation of the security console in the lobby, the Respondent noted that Sentence 3.4.4.4.(6) does not permit anything other than exiting or access to a floor area in an exit lobby. Among the problems caused by this proposal, according to the Respondent, is the increase in fire load from the furniture and computer equipment in the lobby. Another issue is the proposed staffing of the security desk to monitor for possible occurrences of fire, i.e. the proposed "fire watch". As far as they are concerned, the staffing of the security desk to provide a "fire watch" does not exempt the building from the other relevant requirements. Even if they viewed the "fire watch" as an equivalent, the Respondent noted that they do not have the power to bind the Applicant to a continuous provision of such supervision. Because the building is equipped with a fire alarm system that provides early warning to occupants, they disputed that a "fire watch" would make the building safer in terms of fire protection.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the installation of the security desk in the lobby provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 3.4.4.4.(6) of the Building Code provided the lobby is separated at the second floor by a separation having a one hour fire resistance rating along the north wall.

  1. Reasons

i) The control desk shall be the only furniture permitted in the space.

ii) The control desk is staffed and monitored 24 hours a day.

iii) The Building Code under Article 3.4.4.2.(2)(c) permits occupancies opening onto a lobby.

iv) The lobby is permitted to be used as an exit under Article 3.4.4.2.

v) The fire separation on the second floor improves the exit design.

Dated at Toronto this 15th day in the month of December in the year 1998 for application number 1998-61.

Mr. Roy Philippe, Chair

Ms. Susan Friedrich

Mr. Cliff Youdale