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BCC Ruling No. 97-60-602

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #97-60-602

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) of "the Building Code" (Ontario Regulation 419/89 as amended by Ont. Reg. 183/88, 581/88, 11/89 and 115/89).

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Cary Green, 1231 Yonge St. Development Ltd., 20 Eglinton Avenue W., Toronto, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Ms. Pam Coburn, Chief Building Official, City of Toronto, Ontario, concerning whether the proposed closely spaced sprinklers designed to protect an unprotected opening area exceeding the permitted limit provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Orion Condominium, 1231 Yonge Street, Toronto,Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Cary Green
1231 Yonge St. Development Ltd.,
20 Eglinton Avenue W
Toronto, Ontario,

RESPONDENT

Ms. Pam Coburn
Chief Building Official
City of Toronto

PANEL

Ms. Susan Friedrich (Chair)
Ms. Lesia Beznaczuk
Mr. Douglas Clancey

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

Thursday, December 18th, 1997

APPEARANCES

Mr. Cary Green
Manager
1231 Yonge St.
Development Ltd
The Applicant

Mr. Jon Winton
Senior Associate
Leber/Rubes Inc.
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Peter Chan
Building Engineer
City of Toronto
The Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Cary Green was issued a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate an existing commercial building and to construct an addition on the subject structure with the intention of convert the building to residential condominiums at The Orion, 1231 Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to build 37 residential condominiums by renovating and converting an existing three storey commercial building and by constructing a new four storey addition to the subject building. The structure is to be a mixed use building with limited Group D (retail) and Group E (commercial) occupancies proposed for the ground floor. The building is constructed of noncombustible construction and has a building area of approximately 1,911 m2 (19,000 ft 2). The building is equipped with a fire alarm system, a standpipe and hose system, and a sprinkler system in the basement level only.

The Applicant is proposing to maintain the existing east elevation, currently standing 1.574 m from the property line. The unprotected openings proposed for the east elevation will, however, exceed the allowable limits in Article 3.2.3.1. and Table 3.2.3.A. The proposed increase in unprotected openings ranges from approximately four to eight times the permitted percentage limit. In order to provide protection, the Applicant proposes to install closely spaced sprinklers on all windows and doors on the east elevation to reduce the amount of heat transmitted through the openings.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and the Respondent is whether the proposed closely spaced sprinklers provide sufficiency of compliance with the allowable maximum openings permitted in Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) and Table 3.2.3.A. Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) determines that the area of unprotected opening in an exposing building face shall not exceed the standards found in Table 3.2.3.A. This Table sets out the maximum area of an exposing building face that is permitted to be unprotected openings as a percentage of the entire building face. Table 3.2.3.A. uses a formula for determining the percentage of allowable openings which includes the area of the wall, its ratio of height versus length, and the limiting distance to the nearest property line, or centre of a street, lane or public thoroughfare.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code

Sentence 3.2.3.1. Limiting Distance and Area of Unprotected Openings

(1) Except as provided in Articles 3.2.3.9. to 3.2.3.11, the area of unprotected openings shall not be more than that set forth in Tables 3.2.3.A. or 3.2.3.B. for the limiting distance applicable to the exposing building face under consideration.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed installation of closely spaced sprinklers at all windows and doors on the east elevation provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1). They argue that the water curtain provided by this sprinkler system has proven effective at controlling the spread of fire through openings. Three separate testing agencies (the British Joint Fire Research Organization, the National Fire Prevention Association, and the National Research Council of Canada) were cited and their research regarding closely spaced sprinklers as a system to protect openings was discussed. Based on this independent analysis, and installation according to the NFPA-13 standards, the Applicant believes that such a sprinkler system would adequately protect the openings.

The Applicant argues that the tests show that the water curtain provided by closely spaced sprinklers significantly reduces the incident radiation passing through the opening. In fact, some tests demonstrated that the sprinkler system prevented combustible material located 3 m from the test opening from igniting. As the Applicant also noted, at this distance, any theoretical building constructed only 3 m away (or 1.426 m from the property line on the adjacent property) would be required to constructed of noncombustible construction, thus further eliminating any chance that a fire may spread from one building to the other.

The Applicant also notes that the adjacent property abutting the subject east elevation is a public transit (subway) right-of-way roughly 39 m wide, the surface of which is designated by municipal by-law as common outdoor space and is being used by another neighbouring property owner to satisfy their municipal zoning requirements for landscaped open space. In fact, the municipality is currently discussing the idea designating the area as a public park. As such, the construction potential of this outdoor space is severely limited, which means that the proposed increase in unprotected openings would have little impact on an adjacent structure since it appears likely that no building would ever be erected.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed window areas on the east exposing face will greatly exceed the maximum permitted openings in the OBC. They argue that the proposed closely spaced sprinklers do not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) of the Code. In their opinion, the OBC does not recognize this form of protection because this system of closely spaced sprinklers has not been evaluated nor tested by an accredited testing agency. They argue that the research regarding closely spaced sprinklers referenced by the Applicant is inconclusive and perhaps may not fit the present situation exactly from a testing point of view. As a result, it is their position that the unprotected openings should be designed and built to comply with the Ontario Building Code.

The municipality also recognizes the situation regarding the abutting property. They admit that while construction potential is limited, the Code does not recognize public transit right-of-ways, nor municipally designated outdoor spaces for the purposes of determining limiting distances. As a result, they recommend that the Applicant reach a covenant with the adjacent owner to limit future construction on the neighbouring property.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed closely spaced sprinkler system designed to protect the window openings does not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.3.1.(1) and Table 3.2.3.A.

  1. Reasons

1) No evidence was provided that this specific sprinkler system has been tested for the proposed exterior wall assembly by a recognized testing agency.

2) Other Code complying options are available to the Applicant to provide protection to these enlarged unprotected openings.

Dated at Toronto this 18th day in the month of December in the year 1997 for application number 1997-69.

Susan Friedrich, Chair

Lesia Beznaczuk

Douglas Clancey