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BCC Ruling No. 98-18-623

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #98-18-623

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) 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. Paul Malin, Senior Fire Protection Engineer, Morrison Hershfield Ltd., 24 Lansing Square, Toronto (North York), Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Harold Bratten, Chief Building Official, City of Toronto (East York), Ontario to determine whether the recently installed drop ceiling, at a height averaging 2,088 mm, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at 1050 Broadview Avenue, Toronto (East York), Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Paul Malin, Senior Fire Protection Engineer
Morrison Hershfield Ltd.
Toronto (North York), Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Harold Bratten
Director of Building and By-Law Enforcement
City of Toronto (East York)

PANEL

Mr. Michael Lio (Chair)

Mr. James Lischkoff
Mr. Ross Thomson

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF HEARING

April 9, 1998

DATE OF RULING

April 9, 1998

APPEARANCES

Mr. Paul Malin, Senior Fire Protection Engineer
Morrison Hershfield Ltd.
Toronto (North York), Ontario

The Applicant

Mr. Douglas Walker
Manager, Building Inspections
City of Toronto (East York)
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Paul Malin, Senior Fire Protection Engineer, Morrison Hershfield Ltd., has been issued an order under the Building Code Act, 1992 to raise the subject ceiling to 2,100 mm (6 ft, 11 in) in conformance with Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at 1050 Broadview Avenue, Toronto (East York), Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant recently renovated a fifteen storey (plus parking garage) apartment building with a building area of 635 m2 (6,840 ft2 ). The building is constructed of noncombustible construction. It is equipped with a fire alarm system, a standpipe and hose system and an automatic sprinkler system in the garage level only. The building is classified as a Group C, residential occupancy.

The renovation included installing a new drop ceiling in certain portions of the building. The disputed areas where the ceiling heights are less than 2,100 mm (6 ft, 11 in) are the main entrance and the corridor leading to the elevators, the management office and the annunciator panel. In these locations the newly installed drop ceiling averages 2,088 mm (6 ft, 10 1/2 in) in height. In some places the ceiling is as low as 2,075 mm (6 ft, 10 in). As a result, an order to comply was issued on December 5, 1997 to raise the subject ceilings.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the subject ceilings, at a height averaging 2,088 mm (6 ft, 10 1/2 in), provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) of the Ontario Building Code. This provision requires a headroom clearance of 2,100 mm (6 ft, 11 in). At issue is whether the Applicant will be required to raise the ceiling height in the disputed area as per the order to comply.

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1)Headroom Clearance

(1) Except as provided in Sentences (2) to (4), every exit shall have a headroom clearance of not less than 2,100 mm (6 ft, 11 in).

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the recently installed drop ceiling at a height slightly lower than that required in Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) provides sufficiency of compliance. They argued that the variation was only minor and could be viewed as an acceptable construction tolerance.

The Applicant stated that the construction in dispute, as a basic renovation, where no new occupancy nor increase in occupant load is proposed, can be subject to Part 11 of the OBC. In particular, they pointed to Sentence 11.3.2.1.(1) which allows the renovation to match the existing conditions. As well, they noted that compliance alternative C45 (Table 11.2.3.C/Residential) allows existing headroom clearances of not less than 1,980 mm (6 ft 6 in).

Regarding Article 3.4.3.7., the Applicant indicated that the four sentences found within this Article allow for different ceiling heights for different situations such as headroom clearances in exits, on stairs, in doorways and below door closers. They argued that this represents a clear indication that different clearances are allowed in certain traffic areas. As a result, this slight variation is less significant. Further, the Applicant argued that the OBC headroom clearance standards are based on average population heights. In their view, this means that the standards are somewhat arbitrary in nature and not a precise science.

For these reasons, the Applicant argued that the slightly lower ceiling at issue still meets the intent of the Building Code.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the as built ceiling height does not meet Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) of the OBC. They noted that the deviation from the required standard was a much as 24 mm (1 in) in some places. They argued that since the construction in dispute is new, it does not fall within the scope of Part 11. The 2,100 mm (6 ft, 11 in) standard found in Sentence 3.4.3.7.(1) applies and, as the Respondent pointed out, the Code does not provide tolerances. As the requirements in the OBC are minimum stand ards, the Respondent stated that they cannot accept this variation.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the construction provides sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of the Building Code.

  1. Reasons

i)Removing the stairs improves the access to exit through the lobby.

ii)There has been no increase in hazard as occupancy classification and occupant load have not changed.

iii)Evidence submitted indicates the new ceiling has been installed at essentially the same level as the existing ceiling.

iv)Evidence submitted indicates that the new floor level at the elevators which has been extended through to the front doors, is at essentially the same level as the existing floor level at the elevators.

v)Raising the ceiling level is impracticable because of existing services within the ceiling space.

Dated at Toronto this 9th day in the month of April in the year 1998 for application number 1998-15.

Mr. Michael Lio, Chair

Mr. James Lischkoff

Mr. Ross Thomson