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BCC Ruling No. 98-32-637

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #98-32-637

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.1.5.11. of Regulation 61, as amended by O. Reg. 400/91, 158/93, 160/93, 383/94, 20/95 and 395/96 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. John Lambe, President, Better Beef Ltd., Guelph, Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Bruce Poole, Chief Building Official, City of Guelph, Ontario to determine whether the subject EPS Thermoplastic Panels on an exterior wall and some interior freezer walls are permitted in a sprinklered building required to be of noncombustible construction when considering Article 3.1.5.11. of the Ontario Building Code at the Better Beef Freezer Warehouse, 180 Watson Parkway South, Guelph, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. John Lambe, President
Better Beef Ltd.
Guelph, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Bruce Poole
Chief Building Official
City of Guelph

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Mr. Ross Thomson
Mr. Lawrence Glazer

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

July 16, 1998

DATE OF RULING

July 16, 1998

APPEARANCES

Mr. Randy Brown, President, Randal Brown and Associates
Toronto (North York), Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Rob Reynen, Senior Building Inspector
City of Guelph, Ontario
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. John Lambe, President, Better Beef Ltd., is the holder of a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a new, two storey, freezer warehouse facility known as the Better Beef Freezer Warehouse at 180 Watson Road, Guelph, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant recently constructed a two storey, 12,278 m2 (132,111 ft2) freezer warehouse facility, classified as a Group F, Division 3 - low hazard industrial occupancy. The building is equipped with an electronically supervised sprinkler system, but not a standpipe and hose system nor a fire alarm system. It is constructed of noncombustible construction and is considered to face one street. The building permit was issued under the 1990 version of the Ontario Building Code.

In order to provide better insulating properties in the subject freezer facility, as part of the construction the Applicant installed 12.2 m (40 ft.) high factory assembled EPS Thermoplastic Panels on an exterior wall and certain interior walls. The subject walls, manufactured by Isowall Ltd., are composed of expanded polystyrene insulation with a 0.38 mm (0.015 in.) thick sheet steel skin adhered to both sides. The EPS wall assembly does not rely on the rigidity of the insulation for structural support, this is provided independently. Some of the EPS walls installed in the freezer warehouse are 190 mm (7 1/2 in.) thick, while others are 254 mm (10 in.). One interior wall assembly combines 102 mm (4 in.) of 1 hour rated Isoroc with 153 mm (6 in.) of EPS Thermoplastic Panelling.

The insulation component of the EPS panels is combustible. It melts at 205oC (400oF) and when in liquid form has a flash point of approximately 425oC (800oF). The insulation has a flame-spread rating of 115. The panels are to be protected on all interior sides by overhead sprinklers mounted in the ceiling that will activate automatically at 141oC (286oF).

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the installed combustible EPS Thermoplastic Panels on several interior walls and one exterior wall of the Better Beef Freezer Warehouse are permitted in a building required to be of noncombustible construction that is equipped with a sprinkler system. Sentence 3.1.5.11.(6) of the Ontario Building Code permits thermoset foamed plastic insulation on exterior walls of a building required to be of noncombustible construction under certain conditions. The Applicant has installed, however, the thermoplastic, not the thermoset, type of insulation. As well, theyhave used these wall panels on mainly interior walls.

OBC Sentences 3.1.5.11.(3) and (4) permit combustible insulation, including thermoset and thermoplastic, in noncombustible buildings for exterior and interior walls respectively both with the condition that the insulation be protected by either a standard thermal barrier, or that the thermal barrier be tested in conformance with CAN4-S101-M, "Standard Method of Fire Endurance Tests of Building Construction and Materials." If the subject EPS Thermoplastic Panel exterior and interior installations are found to be ineligible regarding the conditions for thermoset plastic insulation found in Sentence 3.1.5.11.(6), the Applicant may be required to provide a thermal barrier as per Sentences 3.1.5.11.(3) and (4). Such thermal barriers, as part of a complete wall assembly, may also need to be appropriately tested.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Article 3.1.5.11.Combustible Insulation and its Protection

(3) Combustible insulation having a flame-spread rating of more than 25 but not more than 500 on any exposed surface or any surface that would be exposed by cutting through the material in any direction, is permitted in the exterior walls of a building required to be of noncombustible construction provided the insulation is protected from adjacent space in the building, other than adjacent concealed spaces within the attic or roof spaces, crawl spaces, and wall assemblies, by a thermal barrier as described in Sentence (2), except that in unsprinklered buildings more than 18 m (59 ft 1 in) high or in unsprinklered buildings regulated by the provisions of Subsection 3.2.6., the insulation is protected by a thermal barrier consisting of

(a)gypsum board not less than 12.7 mm (1/2 in) thick, mechanically fastened to a supporting assembly independent of the insulation and with all joints either braced or taped and filled,

(b)lath and plaster, mechanically fastened to a supporting assembly independent of the insulation,

(c)masonry or concrete not less than 25 mm (1 in) thick, or

(d)any thermal barrier that, when tested in conformance with CAN4-S101-M, "Standard Methods of Fire Endurance Tests of Building Construction and Materials", will not develop an average temperature rise of more than 140øC (252øF) or a maximum temperature rise at any point of more than 180øC (324øF) on its unexposed face within 10 min.

(See also Sentence 3.2.3.7.(3).)

(4) Combustible insulation having a flame-spread rating of more than 25 but not more than 500 on any exposed surface or any surface that would be exposed by cutting through the material in any direction, is permitted in the interior walls of a building required to be of noncombustible construction provided the insulation is protected fromadjacent space in the building, other than adjacent concealed spaces within attic or roof spaces, crawl spaces, and wall assemblies, by a thermal barrier as described in Sentence (2), except that in unsprinklered buildings more than 18 m (59 ft 1 in) high or in unsprinklered buildings regulated by the provisions of Subsection 3.2.6., the insulation is protected by a thermal barrier consisting of

(a)Type X gypsum board not less than 15.9 mm (5/8 in) thick conforming to CSA A82.27-M, "Gypsum Board Products", mechanically fastened to a supporting assembly independent of the insulation and with all joints either backed or taped and filled,

(b)non-loadbearing masonry or concrete not less than 50 mm (2 in) thick,

(c)loadbearing masonry or concrete not less than 75 mm (3 in) thick, or

(d)any thermal barrier that, when tested in conformance with CAN4-S101-M, "Standard Methods of Fire Endurance Tests of Building Construction and Materials", will not develop an average temperature rise of more than 140øC (252øF) or a maximum temperature rise at any point of more than 180øC (324øF) on its unexposed face within 20 min and will remain in place for not less than 40 min.

(6) Thermosetting foamed plastic insulation having a flame-spread rating of not more than 500 which forms part of a factory-assembled exterior wall panel that does not incorporate an air space is permitted to be used in a building required to be of noncombustible construction provided

(a)the foamed plastic is protected on both sides by sheet steel not less than 0.38 mm (0.015 in) thick which will remain in place for not less than 10 min when the wall panel is tested in conformance with CAN4-S101-M, "Standard Methods of Fire Endurance Tests of Building Construction and Materials",

(b)the flame-spread rating of the wall panel, determined by subjecting a sample including an assembled joint to the appropriate test described in Subsection 3.1.12., is not more than the flame-spread rating permitted for the room or space which it bounds,

(c)the building does not contain a Group B or Group C major occupancy, and

(d)the building is not more than 18 m (59 ft 1 in) high, measured between grade and the floor level of the uppermost storey.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that while EPS thermoplastic is designed differently, it is no more hazardous than thermoset plastic in terms of fire conditions in a fully sprinklered building. As a result, they argued that Sentence 3.1.5.11.(6) and the conditions contained therein were applicable.

In terms of meeting the requirements, or at least the intent, of this provision of the OBC it was their opinion that the automatic sprinkler system would provide adequate fire and life safety protection for the building and its occupants. The Applicant indicated that the 141o C (286oF) sprinkler heads will activate early enough in the development of a fire that they will prevent the insulation from melting, or will serve to re-solidify it if melting has begun. Testing of the subject wall assembly was, in their view, therefore not necessary.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the EPS Thermoplastic Panels should not be considered under Sentence 3.1.5.11.(6) of the OBC since, as they noted, the insulation in question is not thermoset but thermoplastic. As a result, the Respondent argued that both Sentences 3.1.5.11.(3) and (4) were applicable. These provisions set out requirements for combustible insulation (within a certain flame-spread range), including EPS thermoplastic, for both interior and exterior wall assemblies.

In terms of meeting the specific conditions of Sentences (3) and (4), the Respondent indicated that the 0.38 mm (0.015 in.) sheet steel skin most likely did not meet the thermal barrier requirements. Further, if such a wall assembly could be considered as having a thermal barrier, it would need to undergo relevant testing to prove that the sheet steel was adequate as a thermal barrier. They noted that the installed wall panels had not been properly tested. If the panels were found to have inadequate thermal barriers, the Respondent stated that these would have to be added. Moreover, even assuming the subject wall panels could be subject to the requirements of Sentence 3.1.5.11.(6), they would still need to be tested.

Lastly, the Respondent countered the Applicant's arguments concerning meeting the intent of the OBC by sprinklering the building by pointing out that according to Article 3.2.2.61., under which the building was constructed, sprinklers are required in any case.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the E.P.S. Thermoplastic interior and exterior wall panels do not provide sufficiency of compliance with 3.1.5.11.(6) of the Ontario Building Code.

  1. Reasons

i)The provisions of 3.1.5.11.(6) are for thermosetting plastic insulation sandwich panels and not thermoplastic insulation.

ii)The 1997 Building Code has a provision for the use of foam plastic panels under 3.1.5.11.(7). No evidence was provided to the Commission that tests prescribed in 3.1.5.11.(7) have been met.

Dated at Toronto this 16th day in the month of July in the year 1998 for application number 1998-32.

Mr. Roy Philippe, Chair

Mr. Ross Thomson

Mr. Lawrence Glazer