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BCC Ruling No. 97-34-576

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #97-34-576

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) "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. John Langley, Project Director, Community Services Department, City of Mississauga, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Agris Robeznieks, Chief Building Official, City of Mississauga, Ontario, to determine whether a required fire alarm system should sound in the theatre space of a concert building in accordance with Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) of the Ontario Building Code at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Mr. John Langley, Project Director
Community Services Department
City of Mississauga
300 City Centre Drive
Mississauga, Ontario,

RESPONDENT

Mr. Agris Robeznieks

Chief Building Official

City of Mississauga

PANEL

Mr. Roy Philippe (Chair)
Ms. Susan Friedrich
Mr. Lawrence Glazer

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

Tuesday, August 12th, 1997

APPEARANCES

Mr. John Langley
City of Mississauga
Mississauga, Ontario

The Applicant

Mr. Johnathan Rubes
Leber Rubes Inc.,
Mississauga, Ontario
Toronto, Ontario
Agent for the Applicant

Mr. Norman Collins
Captain Fire Prevention
City of Mississauga
For the Respondent

Mr. Frank Spagnolo
Manager, Building Inspections
City of Mississauga
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. John Langley, Project Director, City of Mississauga is a person to whom a building permit was issued under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a new visual and performing arts centre, known as the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, in Mississauga, Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Mississauga Living Arts Centre is a multi-purpose facility. Its two principal functions are performing arts and visual arts. For performing arts there are two main theatre spaces, the concert and recital theatres. The concert theatre provides fixed seating for 1,171 persons on three levels and 104 box type seats. The legitimate stage and fly tower of the concert theatre is separated from the auditorium seating area by 1 h fire separation and a proscenium opening that is protected by a fire curtain. The stage and fly tower a equipped with a mechanical smoke exhaust.

The recital theatre contains 400 fixed seats on three levels, however it does not possess a legitimate stage and fly tower. Both the recital and concert theatres are separated from the remainder of the building by 1 h fire separations. As well, both theatres are accessed through sound and light locks.

The visual arts facility in the building includes ceramic, sculpture, glass, wood, welding, digital arts, painting, drawing, fibre arts and print making studios. There are also classrooms, display and exhibition spaces and a gift shop. The ancillary spaces in the building include a restaurant, a kids centre and two levels of underground parking.

The building is described as 3 storeys in height, approximately 7,800 m2 in area, and made of noncombustible construction. The structure is equipped with a sprinkler system and a standpipe and hose system. It also contains a two stage fire alarm system that has a control unit/annunciator panel at the fire department/staff entrance which is located adjacent to the buildings security office. The fire alarm system is also continuously monitored and supervised.

The building is classified as having Group A, Divisions 1 and 2 major occupancies.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent is whether the alert signals of the fire alarm system in the Mississauga Living Arts Centre should sound in the subject building's two performing arts spaces, the recital and concert theatres. Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) of the OBC requires that audible signal appliances must be intelligibly heard throughout the floor area on which they are installed. The sequencing for audible signalling operation is not addressed in this provision. The Applicants are proposing that the first stage alert signals, intended to notify supervisory staff, not sound in the concert and recital theatres, unless the alarm initiating device is located within either theatre.

  1. Provisions of the Building Code

Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) Audibility of Alarm Signals

(1) Audible signal appliances forming part of a required fire alarm system shall be installed in a building so that alert signals, alarm signals and voice messages can be heard intelligibly throughout the floor area in which they are installed.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed alarm sequencing operation provides for consistency with OBC Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1). In their view this provision is not intended to prohibit the proposed sequencing of the two stage fire alarm signalling.

The basic sequencing of the alarm signalling operation, as proposed by the Applicant, is if a fire detection device or manual pull station is activated in any area other than the concert or recital theatres, the first stage alert signal would not sound in either theatre. If a fire detection device or manual pull station in either the concert or recital theatre is activated, the first stage alert signal would sound in the theatre of origin but not the other. In either of these two scenarios the stage/house manager may be called upon to make announcements informing the audience of the alert signal elsewhere in the building or in the other theatre since the alert signal would not be sounding.

The second stage evacuation signal would sound throughout the entire building, including the two theatres, if the evacuation timer in the fire alarm control unit expired, or if an evacuation switch was activated.

The Applicant believes that the above described alarm operation is a logical sequencing in order to prevent unnecessary confusion or panic within either theatre, while at the same time alerting supervisory staff to investigate the origin of the initial alarm and to advise them to prepare for possible evacuation. This method, they argue, also allows for orderly, direct and in-person handling of the emergency instructions only if they are considered necessary. It would also avoid performance disruption.

The Applicant also points to the National Building Code, which they feel supports their position. Provision A-3.2.4.19.(1) of the NBC states that the first stage alert signal of a two stage alarm system may be restricted to a location in the building which is continuously staffed. Their proposed alarm operation sequencing would not be as restrictive as allowed in the NBC, since the alert signal would sound everywhere in the building except the two theatres.

Finally, the Applicant also argues that this sequencing of alarm systems has been installed in other theatres in Ontario recently.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed alarm sequencing does not conform to Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1). In their view the requirements of this provision clearly state that even the first stage alert signals should sound throughout the entire building, including both the concert and recital theatres.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the current design of the 2 stage fire alarm system to sound the alert in all areas, except the concert and recital theatres, unless a fire is detected in these areas, provides sufficiency of compliance with Sentence 3.2.4.19.(1) of the Building Code provided that the automatic initiation of the 2nd stage evacuation signal occurs after 3 minutes, if the first stage signal is not acknowledged.

  1. Reasons

i) The building operators have indicated that the building will be staffed by security personnel on a 24 hour/7 day basis.

ii) That there will be additional staff during performance periods.

iii) Duties and responsibilities of supervisory staff, including evacuation procedures, will be part of the fire safety plan.

iv) The building is sprinklered throughout and smoke and/or fire separations are provided at studio locations.

Dated at Toronto this 12th day in the month of August in the year 1997 for application number 1997-38

Roy Philippe, Chair

Susan Friedrich

Lawrence Glazer