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BCC Ruling No. 97-50-592

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #97-50-592

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) and Article 9.8.3.4. 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. Scott Paris, President, Rosemount Development Ltd., 125 Norfinch Drive, Downsview, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Bruce Ashton, Chief Building Official, City of York, Ontario, concerning whether the stairs, as constructed, provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Ontario Building Code (OBC) and whether OBC Article 9.8.3.4. requires that the minimum headroom for stairs in a dwelling unit stipulated in the Building Code must be provided for the full width of the stairs at Weston Mews, 50 Church Street, City of York, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Scott Paris, President
Rosemount Development Ltd.
125 Norfinch Drive
Downsview, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Bruce Ashton
Chief Building Official
City of York

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Mr. Rick Florio
Mr. Douglas Clancey

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

Thursday, November 13th, 1997

APPEARANCES

Mr. Scott Paris, President
Rosemount Development Ltd.
Downsview, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Claude Lacombe
E.I. Richmond Architect Inc.
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Allister Graham
Manager of Inspections
City of York
For the Respondent

Mr. Sherban Pavelescu
Building Inspector
City of York
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Scott Paris, President, Rosemount Development Ltd., 125 Norfinch Drive, Downsview, Ontario was recently issued a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct 42 new residential townhouses at Weston Mews, 50 Church Street, City of York, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicant proposes to construct 42 townhouses, grouped into five buildings. The five buildings range in building area from 332 m2 (building no. 4) to 421 m2 (building no. 3). As such, all buildings were built according to Part 9 of the Building Code. The project consists of five different unit types, all of which are three storeys in building height plus a basement level. The units are generally long and narrow, ranging in width from 4.1 m (A and B units) to 6 m (E units). The buildings are constructed of noncombustible construction.

The Applicant constructed the stairs in many units between the ground floor and basement level so that the guard separating the ground floor from the basement stairs projects vertically from the wall within the stair well. The result of this arrangement is that width of the stair has been reduced by the presence of the vertical pickets the top rail of the guard. The stair widths vary between units, but the narrowest identified was 838 mm (2 ft 9 1/8 in).

Further, the Applicant has constructed the stairs in unit types A and B between the ground and second floors with the stringer of the above stairs protruding up to 190 mm (7 1/2 in) into the headroom of the ground to second floor stairs. The obstruction occurs over the convergence point of the winders of the subject stairs.

  1. Dispute

The issues at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent are whether the stairs, as constructed, provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) regarding minimum stair width and whether Article 9.8.3.4. requires that the minimum headroom for stairs in a dwelling unit stipulated in the Building Code must be provided for the full width of the stair tread. Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) states that at least one stair way between floor levels in a dwelling unit shall have a minimum width between wall faces of not less than 860 mm (2 ft 10 in). The stairs of many of the units, measured at 838 mm (2 ft 9 1/8 in), are 22 mm (7/8 in) less than the required minimum width. Article 9.8.3.4. requires that the headroom for stairs in a dwelling unit shall be 1,950 mm (6 ft 5 in) measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosings. Due to the 190 mm (7 1/2 in) headroom obstruction at the convergence point of the winders in certain stairs in the A and B units, the required headroom is not provided over the full width of the stairs.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code

Sentence 9.8.3.3. Stair Width

(2) At least 1 stairway between each floor level in a dwelling unit shall have a minimum width between wall faces of not less than 860 mm (2 ft 10 in).

Article 9.8.3.4. Headroom. The headroom measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosing shall be at least 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in) for stairs located in dwelling units and 2.05 m (6 ft 9 in) for all other stairs.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that regarding the stair width issue, the stairs, as constructed, provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2). They argue that the landing between the ground floor and the basement level is, on average, 920 mm by 1,020 mm where only 860 mm by 860 mm is required under Article 9.8.4.1. Following this argument, the Applicant also notes that the hallway on the ground floor is, on average, 840 mm in width whereas the requirement under OBC 9.5.8.1. allows for hallways as narrow as 710 mm (2 ft 4 in) in dwellings not exceeding 4.3 m (14 ft 1 in). They believe that this additional space on the landing and in the ground floor hall compensates for the 22 mm deficiency in the width of some of the stairs.

Concerning the issue of the stair headroom, the Applicant believes that the stairs, as constructed, meet the intention of Article 9.8.3.4. They note that this provision does not state that the minimum height must be provided for the entire width of the stair tread. As they note, the obstruction in question occurs over the convergence point of the winders where the steps will not likely be used.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the subject stairs do not provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) due to the vertical pickets and top rail of the guardrail which reduce the stair width. They do not share the Applicant's view that the wider landing and ground floor hall mitigate the stair width deficiency. In their view, Article 9.5.8.1. is not applicable because it deals with hallway widths and the situation at hand is a stairway.

The Respondent's opinion on the headroom dispute is that Article 9.8.3.4. requires a minimum headroom for the full width of the stair tread. In their interpretation of this provision the obstruction below the stringer and above the convergence point of the winders does not comply with OBC 9.8.3.4. They believe the width is measured between wall faces and/or guards. Using this measurement, the headroom is 190 mm (7 1/2 in) less than that required. To illustrate their point, they reference the Guide and Illustrations - Part of the Ontario Building Code (Page 29)which states that "headroom over winders must be measured over the narrow portion of the stair to ensure compliance with minimum headroom clearances."

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the clearance between the wall face and the guard provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.8.3.3.(2) of the Building Code,

AND

the headroom measured vertically at the outside edge of the stringer at 1765 mm provides sufficiency of compliance with Article 9.8.3.4. of the Building Code.

  1. Reasons

i) The guard obstruction is minimal as a result of the configuration at the guard (within 3% of the maximum) at limited locations.

ii) This obstruction applies only to the first run of the stair to the basement.

iii) The headroom obstruction occurs only above a small section of the winder. The stair treads at this location are not negotiable.

iv) Illumination is provided within the stair so that the obstruction is clearly visible.

Dated at Toronto this 13th day in the month of November in the year 1997 for application number 1997-58.

Roy Philippe, Chair

Rick Florio

Douglas Clancey