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BCC Ruling No. 98-09-614

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 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. Mike Ralph, Property Manager, Ellis Don Construction Ltd., 1390 Prince of Wales Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Terry Dalkowski, Chief Building Official, City of Nepean, Ontario, to determine whether a standpipe and hose system is required to be installed in accordance with Article of the Ontario Building Code at Brittania 12-Plex Theatre, 3090 Carling Avenue, Nepean, Ontario.


Mr. Mike Ralph, Property Manager
Ellis Don Construction Ltd.
Ottawa, Ontario


Ms. Terry Dalkowski
Chief Building Official
City of Nepean


Mr. Michael Lio (Chair)
Mr. Ross Thomson
Mr. Lawrence Glazer


Toronto and Ottawa, Ontario


Wednesday, February, 25th, 1998


Wednesday, February, 25th, 1998


Ms. Judy Jeske, Senior Associate
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Ottawa, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Ms. Terry Dalkowski
Chief Building Official
City of Nepean
The Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Mike Ralph, Property Manager, Ellis Don Construction Ltd., has applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a twelve cinema, movie theatre complex, known as the Britannia 12-Plex Theatre at 3090 Carling Avenue, Nepean, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to construct a two storey (plus mezzanines), multi-theatre, movie complex containing twelve cinemas. The structure has a building area of roughly 6, 350 m2. It is proposed to be circular in shape, with the cinemas located at the p erimeter surrounding a central lobby with three entrances and an intermediate mezzanine level between the first and second storeys. The lobby contains ticket taking areas, concession facilities and ancillary games and party rooms.

Access to the six larger cinemas, is via the mezzanine level, whereas access to the smaller theatres is obtained directly from the lobby. For all cinemas, access is through entrance vomitories from either the lobby or mezzanine. The second storey is use d as the common projection level for all cinemas.

The larger cinemas have occupant loads ranging from 300 persons to just over 400 persons. The smaller ones have occupant loads of slightly over 200 persons. The occupant load for the entire building is approximately 3,000 persons.

The building is constructed of noncombustible construction. All of the cinemas are fire separated from the rest of the building, including the projection level by a 1 hour rated fire separation. The common projection level is separated by a two hour fir e separation from the lobby area.

The building is equipped with a sprinkler system and a two-stage fire alarm system. The structure is classified as having Group A - Division 1 - (motion picture theatres) major occupancy.

The Applicant is also proposing that the central lobby of the subject structure, unlike the surrounding cinemas, have no suspended ceiling. It is proposed that the roof structure remain fully exposed to enhance the impression of the size of the lobby. A s a result, the lobby is to have a high ceiling, measured at 16.7 metres above grade. The rest of the building generally has a ceiling height of 14 metres.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and the Respondent is whether the proposed multi-theatre complex is required to install a standpipe and hose system in accordance with Article of the Ontario Building Code. This provision requires that structures with a ceiling height of more than 14 metres be equipped with a standpipe and hose system. For buildings that have a building area greater than 4,000 m2, as in this case, the OBC standards for standpipe systems further require that 65 mm hose connections for the use of Fire Departments and 38 mm connections with 30 metres of hose be installed as well. In the subject building, most of the height between grade and the ceiling is roughly only 14 metres, however, the lobby area does exceed the p ermitted height.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code Where Required

(1) Except as provided in Article, a standpipe and hose system, shall be installed in every building that

(a) is more than (i) 3 storey in building height, or (ii) 14 m (45 ft 11 in) in height measured between grade and the ceiling of the uppermost storey,(b) is greater in building area than the area shown in Table 3.2.9.A. for the applicable building height shown in the Table where the building (i) is not sprinklered, and (ii) is not more than 14 m (45 m 11 in) high measured between grade and the ceiling of the top storey, or(c) contains more than one storey below grade

  1. Applicant's Position

In order to provide sufficiency of compliance with Article, the Applicant proposed to install a standpipe and hose system for the lobby of the theatre complex only. The proposal calls for the installation of hose connections consisting of 65 mm connections with 38 mm adaptors at each of the three lobby entrances. This would mean that all areas of the lobby would be within 33 metres of one of the three hose connections. In the Applicant's view, the proposal to provide a standpipe and hose system for this area only is justified since if they were to provide a suspended ceiling at a height of 14 metres in the lobby, they would be able to avoid the requirement for a standpipe system altogether.

By way of rationale for this proposal, the Applicant argues that since only the lobby area exceeds 14 metres in height, it should be the only portion of the building to be equipped with a standpipe system. The standpipe connections in the lobby area wil l be placed at each of the three entrances, one of which has a two hour fire resistance rating, thus providing easy access for fire fighters. Since the entrances are equally spaced access to all parts of the lobby may be possible during a fire. The sta ndpipe system in the lobby, the Applicant claims, will therefore act as a supplement to the sprinkler system to combat the spread of fire.

In the cinemas, which, under the proposed partial standpipe system, would not be covered, the Applicant argues that the standpipe system would be less effective. As Fire Department personnel prefer safe staging to prepare for fire attack, entering the ci nemas from the lobby is less desirable than obtaining fire fighting access directly from the exterior, which all of the cinemas have. This exterior access is made possible by the Fire Department access route which completely encircles the building. Again, within the cinemas the sprinkler system would also do much of the fire combatting.

The Applicant also noted that the option of lowering the lobby ceiling has its drawbacks in terms of fire safety as well. They point out that the suspended ceiling would act as a large concealed space not readily accessible for fire fighting. Lowering t he ceiling would also reduce the volume of space within which smoke can accumulate. As well, lowering the ceiling does not reduce the combustible load or potential fire hazards in the lobby area. Further, all interior finishes have a flame spread rating less than the allowed maximum found in the OBC. The combustible load in the lobby, therefore, is relatively low compare d to other single storey, high bay buildings such as warehouses, the Applicant noted.

Finally, the Applicant noted that the theatre staff will be trained in emergency evacuation procedures and first stage fire fighting. The staff will be trained to abandon fire fighting, however, when the fire develops beyond fire stage, which would mean that the reduced diameter hoses would not likely even be used.

It is for these reasons that the Applicant believes that the proposal provides sufficiency of compliance with Article of the OBC.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed ceiling height of 16.7 metres in the lobby area necessitates that the building be equipped with a standpipe and hose system in accordance with As far as the Applicant's sufficiency of compliance proposa l was concerned, the municipality rejected it on the basis that the Building Code does not offer a mechanism that would allow for a relaxation or relief of the requirements for a standpipe and hose system.

Further, the Respondent believed that the Applicant's proposal could not be considered as providing equivalency because no rational nor other evaluations were submitted to establish past performance that might have enabled the municipality to determine wh ether the level of performance would be decreased.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that not providing a standpipe and hose system in the theatre complex provides sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of the Building Code.

  1. Reasons

i) Hose connections consisting of 65 mm connections with 38 mm adapters at each of the three lobby entrances will be provided.

ii) The Building Code requirement for a standpipe and hose system for buildings with grade to ceiling heights more than 14 m, is exceeded only in the lobby (at a height of 17 m). All other areas within the theatre complex do not exceed 14 m in height.

iii) Evidence submitted suggests the proposed lobby ceiling height increases time occupants are not exposed to smoke by approximately 11%.

iv) All cinema areas are separated from the rest of the building by 1 hour fire separations.

v) Exits are provided from the cinemas directly to grade.

vi) The building is fully sprinklered.

vii) The building is equipped with a 2-stage fire alarm system, with all alarm systems connected to a central station.

Dated at Toronto this 25th day in the month of February in the year 1998 for application number 1997-84.

Michael Lio, Chair

Ross Thomson

Lawrence Glazer