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BCC Ruling No. 97-44-586

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #97-44-586

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

MATTER OF Sentence 9.9.9.1.(1), Articles 3.3.4.4., 9.10.19.3. and Subsection 3.2.5. 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. Harvey Fruitman, Executive Vice President, Torresdale Construction Ltd., City of North York, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Leo Grelette, Chief Building Official, City of Aurora, Ontario, to determine whether the proposed renovations provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 3.2.5.5.(1), 3.2.5.6.(4) and Article 9.10.19.3, Articles 3.3.4.4. and 9.9.9.1., and Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) and Article 9.9.4.4. of the Ontario Building Code at the Countryland Townhomes, 101 MacDonald Drive, Aurora, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. Harvey Fruitman, Executive Vice President
Torresdale Construction Ltd.
City of North York
4800 Dufferin Street, Suite 200
North York, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Leo Grelette
Chief Building Official
Town of Aurora

PANEL

Mr. Michael Lio (Chair)
Ms. Lesia Beznaczuk
Mr. Ross Thomson

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

Thursday, October 9th, 1997

APPEARANCES

Mr. Phillip Marsland
Torresdale Construction
North York, Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Randal Brown
Randal Brown & Assoc. Ltd.
Willowdale, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Thom Vandenbussche
Senior Building Inspector
Town of Aurora
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Harvey Fruitman, Executive Vice President, Torresdale Construction is a person to whom a building permit was issued under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate existing rental townhouse units into residential condominiums, at Countrylane Townhomes, Aurora, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Countryland Townhomes is a 38,707 m2 (9.565 acres) site, divided into twelve blocks, with a total of 200 rental townhouse units, consisting of 28,182 m2 (303,363.18 ft2) of building area.

There are three types of townhouse suites; 100 A3 suites, 81 B3 suites, and 19 C3 suites. The approximate sizes of A3, B3 and C3 units are 145 m2 (1,558.32 ft2), 130 m2 (1,398.32 ft2) and 168 m2 (1,803.54 ft2) respectively. All suites are 3 storeys in building height.

The townhouse units are constructed of combustible construction. There are 2 parking spaces provided in the front of all A3 units at grade level. These parking spaces are intended for both the A3 suites as well as the adjoining B3 or C3 units, which are attached to the A3 units on the side opposite to the parking facilities. The subject parking areas are currently covered by a concrete deck and are separated by concrete block walls into garage-like car bays that can accommodate two vehicles. Both the A3 suites and the attached B3 or C3 units have an exit into this open-ended garage area. For the A3 units, this is the only exit currently provided.

The other unit types have an additional exit on their side of the building. The deck space above the parking area, which is attached to the second floor of the A3 suites, is currently used as a series of narrow patios which are abutted by a long, open-air corridor.

The proposed renovation would convert the townhouse units into residential condominiums. The work planned would divide the existing double car bays with 1 h fire separations into single vehicle garages which would also have steel overhead garage doors added to the openings to completely enclose the parking space. Drywall on the ceiling of all garages would be upgraded as well. The narrow patios and the long, external corridors would be replaced by larger patios that would cover the full concrete deck areas. It is proposed that pairs of A3 units share an exterior exit stair that would be accessible from the second storey patio area of both units. To maintain the continuity of the existing outside passageway for the exterior exit stairs, it is also proposed that bi-swinging gates be installed between the patios of the A3 units. This would allow the occupants of each A3 suite the option of choosing between several exit stairs in an emergency. The Applicant is also proposing to install hard-wired smoke detectors in all Countrylane Townhome units.

Countrylane Townhomes are classified as having a Group C - residential major occupancy. Many of the blocks and townhouse units are subject to Part 9 of the Building Code, however some portions of certain blocks exceed 600 m2 in building area and are therefore subject to Part 3.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the proposed renovations provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentences 3.2.5.5.(1), 3.2.5.6.(4) and Article 9.10.19.3., Articles 3.3.4.4. and 9.9.9.1., and Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) and Article 9.9.4.4. of the Ontario Building Code. The partition of the double bays into single car garages and the placement of garage doors at their openings blocks the only exterior exit door for the A3 suites. The proposed blocking of this exit creates three issues.

The first issue revolves around whether there is appropriate fire department access. Sentence 3.2.5.5.(1) requires that buildings over 600 m2 in building area provide access routes for fire department vehicles to the principle entrance and to each building face with required access openings. Sentence 3.2.5.4.(6) requires that a portion of a building that is cut off without access from the remainder of the building be not more than 45 m from fire fighting vehicle to the entrance of the remote area. Article 9.10.19.3. provides similar requirements for Part 9 buildings. It reiterates that access for fire fighting equipment shall be provided to each building by a street, private roadway or yard. The blocking of the A3 unit's parking level entrances has meant that the fire department access has been limited, and in the case of some buildings suites are farther than the permitted 45 m.

The second issue regarding the installation of the garage doors is the provision of a means of egress through the construction of a new second storey, shared exterior stairs proposed for the A3 units. Articles 3.3.4.4. and 9.9.9.1. of the OBC set out the egress standards from a dwelling unit in Part 3 and Part 9 buildings respectively. In particular, Article 3.3.4.4 requires that an egress door be provided on the uppermost and lowest storey of a dwelling unit unless certain conditions are met. As well, the "stacked" nature of the townhouses may not satisfy Sentence 9.9.9.1.(2), which requires that the travel distance be not more than one storey if there is no dwelling unit above or below. The proposed exit doorways are also higher than the 1.5 m allowed in both Articles 3.3.4.4. and 9.9.9.1. Also in dispute is Sentence 3.3.4.4.(2) which requires that a dwelling unit's exit door shall open directly into a public access to an exit. The proposal to replace the long corridors fronting the narrow patios with enlarged, connected patios may not be consistent with a public access to an exit.

The third issue is that the proposed new shared exterior egress stairs pass within roughly 1 m of the garage door openings and may result in dangerous exposure to a fire originating in a garage. Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) requires that openings in the exterior wall of a building located within 3 m horizontally of an unenclosed stair serving that building which may cause a hazard to such stairs shall be protected with wired glass or glass block. Article 9.9.4.4. provides the same standards for Part 9 buildings.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code

Sentence 3.2.5.5.(1) Access Routes

(1) Every building which is more than 3 storeys in building height or more than 600 m2 (6460 ft2) in building area shall be provided with access routes for fire department vehicles

(a) to the principal entrance, and
(b) to each building face having access openings for fire fighting as required in Articles 3.2.5.1. and 3.2.5.2.

Sentence 3.2.5.6.(4) Location of Access Routes

(4) Where a portion of a building is completely cut off from the remainder of the building so that there is no access to the remainder of the building, the access routes required by Sentence (2) shall be located so that the unobstructed path of travel from the vehicle to one entrance of each such portion is not more than 45 m (147 ft 8 in).

Article 9.10.19.3 Fire Department Access to Buildings

(1) Access for fire department equipment shall be provided to each building by means of a street, private roadway or yard.

(2) Where access to a building as required in Sentence (1) is provided by means of a roadway or yard, the design and location of such roadway or yard shall take into account connection with public thoroughfares, weight of fire fighting equipment, width of roadway, radius of curves, overhead clearance, location of fire hydrants, location of fire department connections and vehicular parking.

Article 3.3.4.4. Egress from Dwelling Units

(1) Single storey dwelling units in apartment buildings need not lead to a public corridor or exterior passageway on the same storey provided the dwelling units are served by private stairways leading directly to a public access to exit on the storey

(a) immediately above, and (b) immediately below. (2) Except as provided in Sentences (3) and (4), every dwelling unit containing more than 1 storey shall have an exit door or an egress door opening directly into a public access to exit from the uppermost storey and from the lowest storey of the dwelling unit so that the floor level of each such storey is served by an exit or egress door located not more than 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) above or below the floor level.

(3) A single exit is permitted from a dwelling unit provided the exit is an exterior doorway not more than 1.5 m (4 ft 11in) above adjacent ground level and (a) it is not necessary to travel up or down more than 1 storey to reach the exit door, or (b) the uppermost floor level opens to a balcony not more than 6 m (19 ft 8 in) above adjacent ground level.

(4) An a egress door from either the uppermost storey or the lowest storey in a dwelling unit, as required in Sentence (2), need not be provided

(a) where that storey is served by a stairway that

(i) leads to a public access to exit,

(ii) has not direct access to any other storey in the dwelling unit, and

(iii) is separated from the other storeys in the dwelling unit by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 45 min, or

(b) where a smoke alarm conforming to Article 3.2.4.21. is installed

(i) on the uppermost storey of a dwelling unit having not more than 2 storeys above the first storey of the building, or

(ii) on each storey of the dwelling unit provided it is not necessary to travel either more than 18 m (59 ft 1 in), or more than 1 storey up or down to reach the egress door.

(5) In buildings of residential occupancy not more than 3 storeys in building height, a doorway from a dwelling unit is permitted to open directly into an exit stairway provided such dwelling unit has a second and separate means of egress.

(6) A doorway from a dwelling unit may open onto an interior corridor served by a single exit, or an exterior balcony served by a single exit stairway, or an exterior passageway served by a single exit stairway provided each dwelling unit has a second and separate means of egress.

Article 9.9.9.1 Travel Limit to Exits or Egress Doors

(1) Except as provided in Sentences (2) and (3), every dwelling unit containing more than one storey shall have a sufficient number of exits of egress doors so that it shall not be necessary to travel up or down more than 1 storey to reach a level served by

(a) an egress door to a public corridor, enclosed exit stair or exterior passageway, or (b) an exit doorway not more than 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) above adjacent ground level. Sentence 3.2.3.13.(2) Protection of Exit Facilities (2) Where an unenclosed exterior exit stair or ramp may be exposed to fire from openings in the exterior walls of the building it serves, the openings in the exterior walls of the building shall be protected with wired glass in fixed steel frames or glass block conforming to Article 3.1.8.14. where the openings in the exterior walls of the building are within 3 m (9 ft 10 in) horizontally and

(a) less than 10 m (32 ft 10 in) below the exit stair or ramp, or (b) less than 5 m (16 ft 5 in) above the exit stair or ramp. Article 9.9.4.4. Openings Near Unenclosed Exit Stairs and Ramps.

Where an unenclosed exterior exit stair or ramp provides the only means of egress from a suite, and is exposed to fire from openings in the exterior walls of another fire compartment, the openings in the exterior walls of the building shall be protected with wired glass in fixed steel frames or glass block conforming to Articles 9.10.13.5. and 9.10.13.7. when the openings in the exterior walls of the building are within 3 m (9 ft 10 in) horizontal

  1. Applicant's Position The Applicant submitted that the proposed renovations provide sufficiency of compliance with the above listed provisions. Regarding the issue of fire department access, for the Part 3 buildings they recognize that the 45 m limit between the entrance of a cutoff unit and a fire department vehicle may not be met. Instead, they rely on Sentence 11.3.5.1.(1). This provision deals with extended buildings and it would allow them to utilize compliance alternative C22.

This alternative states that for "buildings 6 storeys and less, existing access to existing occupancy is acceptable..." This would permit the Applicant to close over the garage entrances and construct new exit stairs without providing additional measures to compensate for the lesser access. Considering the Part 9 buildings under the same extended buildings provision, the Applicants propose to employ compliance alternative C153 to the same effect. In their view, the extended buildings meet the intent of the OBC, and roughly 90 per cent of the units meet the literal requirements of the Code.

Since the issue of providing an exit from the A3 suites requires the construction of new exterior exit stairs, the Applicant relies not upon compliance alternatives but new construction provisions in Parts 3 and 9. To address the requirement of providing an exit from the uppermost and lowest floors of the unit found in Sentence 3.3.4.4.(2), the Applicants propose to install a hard-wired 120 volt interconnected smoke alarm on each floor of all dwelling units as per Subclause 3.3.4.4.(4)(b)(i). In their view, this would preclude the necessity for uppermost and lowest floor exits.

For the Part 9 buildings, they argue that egress could be accommodated under Clause 9.9.9.1.(1)(b) or Sentence 9.9.9.1.(2). The first provision allows dwelling units with more than 1 storey to have a sufficient number exits so that it is not necessary to travel up or down more than 1 storey to reach a level served by an exit doorway that is not more than 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) above the adjacent ground. (The Applicant does admit however that the proposed second level exit door is higher than 1.5 m. This issue is not addressed.) The Applicant also notes that Sentence 9.9.9.1.(2) allows travel distance to be greater than 1 storey if the floor level is served by openable windows. This should afford them some greater flexibility in interpreting the exiting arrangements they have provided. Further, these units will also have the interconnected, hard-wired smoke alarm system.

Concerning the issue of the door opening into an access to exit as required under 3.3.4.4.(2), the Applicants argue that having two dwelling units share an exit stair to the ground level is similar to many exiting arrangements in older buildings. They also argue that the continuity of the exterior passageway will be maintained due to the bi-swinging gates that are proposed to be installed between the patios. This continuity of the passageway will give occupants access to two or more exterior exit stairs. Overall, it is their opinion that the exiting as designed meets the intent of the Code.

The Applicants believe that they have addressed the issue of exposure to the exterior stair as well. They note that the new exiting arrangements would offer occupants many escape options in an emergency, thereby avoiding stairs that may present hazards. The garages will be divided with 1 h fire separations and will have upgraded drywall on the ceilings. The new garage doors, they argue, will also offer some protection. Lastly, they point to the concrete block fire separations between the units and the proposed smoke alarm system which they feel will give the entire site a good level of fire protection.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed renovations did not provide sufficiency of compliance with the provisions discussed and in some instances place the buildings into situations of non-compliance. They reject compliance alternatives C22 and C153 which depends on maintaining the existing access because, in their view, the proposed addition of garage doors blocks off the existing access. While adding garage doors may be deemed to be "extending the building", the Respondent argues however that this particular extension substantially changes the existing access that the alternative allows as acceptable.

The municipality believes that the exiting requirements have not been satisfied. For the Part 3 buildings, they hold that the proposed second floor door does not open into an access to an exit. In their opinion, the linked patios do not constitute an access to an exit, nor a passageway. In fact, they are concerned that the balconies may support potential obstacles for exiting such as bar-be-ques, furniture and other accessories. In the Part 9 structures the Respondent does not believe that travel distances allowed in Sentence 9.9.9.1.(2) due to openable windows can be considered legitimate due to their contention that as stacked townhouses there are dwelling units above and below other units.

The Respondent also argues that the stairs do not meet the provisions regarding exposure to exterior exit stairs. The creation of the external stairs only serves to add to the non-compliance of the townhouse suites. The result of this proposal would be a reduction in safety due to potential fire exposure. They also feel that the stairs, as external exits, present dangers during inclement weather such as wind, rain and ice. This would be especially an issue for visitors unfamiliar with the stairs and who will often not be able to use the garage entrance.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the proposed renovations provide sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 9.9.9.1.(1), Articles 3.3.4.4., 9.10.19.3. and Subsection 3.2.5.

  1. Reasons

i) Additional exterior stairways will be provided to improve fire department access and exiting from the 3A dwelling units.

ii) Hard-wired smoke alarms will be provided on every level and interconnected within each dwelling unit.

iii) Garages within each dwelling unit will be separated from each other by construction having a 1 hour fire resistance rating.

iv) Occupant safety is not reduced consistent with the intent of Part 11 of the code.

Dated at Toronto this 9th day in the month of October in the year 1997 for application number 1997-51.

Michael Lio, Vice-Chair

Lesia Beznaczuk

Ross Thomson