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BCC Ruling No. 97-16-558

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 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. Stephen Roth, General Manager, Waterloo Stage Theatre, 24 King Street North, Waterloo, Ontario, for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Anthony Krimmer, Chief Building Official, City of Waterloo, concerning whether the performance area is a stage and thus subject to the requirements of Article of the Ontario Building Code, at the Waterloo Stage Theatre, Waterloo, Ontario.

Mr. Stephen Roth, General Manager
Waterloo Stage Theatre
24 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario

Mr. Anthony Krimmer
Chief Building Official
City of Waterloo

Mr. Michael Lio, Chair
Ms. Susan Friedrich
Mr. Ross Thomson

Toronto, Ontario

Wednesday, May 28th, 1997

Mr. Stephen Roth
General Manager
Waterloo Stage Theatre
The Applicant

Mr. Peter Ciuciura
L. Alan Grinham Architects &
Mr. Johnathan Rubes
Leber Rubes Inc.
Agents for the Applicant

Mr. Anthony Krimmer
Chief Building Official
City of Waterloo
The Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Stephen Roth, General Manager, Waterloo Stage Theatre, is a person who has applied for a permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate an existing 500 seat cinema for live theatre productions. The building is 1 storey with a partial mezzanine at one end that had previously been used as a projection booth and a small basement for mechanical equipment. The building contains a fire alarm system and has sprinklers servicing the stage area.

  1. Description of Construction

The proposed renovation would erect a new stage. Across the rear portion of the stage would be a small open mezzanine space. The seating capacity would be reduced to 252. Some modifications are to be made to the existing projection booth to allow for light and sound control.

  1. Dispute

The issue under dispute between the Applicant and the Respondent is whether the proposed performance area is a stage as defined by the 1990 Ontario Building Code (OBC) and whether the subject area is required to be designed in accordance with OBC Article

  1. Provisions of the Building Code Stages for Theatrical Performances

1. Stages for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, such as workshops, dressing rooms and storage areas shall be sprinklered.

2. A fire separation with a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 h shall be provided between every stage for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, such as workshops, dressing rooms and storage areas.

3. Every stage for theatrical performances and ancillary spaces, such as workshops, dressing rooms, and storage areas, shall be separated from the seating space by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating of not less than 1 h, except for a proscenium opening which shall be protected with

(a) a sprinkler deluge system conforming to the requirements of paragraph 4-4.20 of NFPA 13 "Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems",

(b) an unframed fire curtain when the opening is not more than 20 m (65 ft 7 in) wide, or

(c) a semi-rigid fire curtain when the opening is more than 20 m (65 ft 7 in)

4. Every fire curtain as required by Sentence (3) shall be designed to close

(a) automatically by heat-actuated devices,

(b) automatically upon the actuation of the sprinkler system,

(c) automatically upon the actuation of the fire alarm system, and

(d) manually by remote control devices located at the curtain control panel and at each side of the stage.

5. Not less than 2 vents for the purpose of venting fire and smoke to the outside of a building shall be provided above every stage designed for theatrical performances and shall

(a) have an aggregate area of not less than one eighth of the area of the stage behind the proscenium opening, and

(b) be arranged to open automatically by means of

(i)heat-actuated devices, or

(ii) actuation of the sprinkler system. Definitions of Words and Phrases

Stage means a space designed primarily for theatrical performances with provision for quick change scenery and overhead lighting, including environmental control for a wide range of lighting and sound effects and which is traditionally, but not necessarily, separated from the audience by a proscenium wall and curtain opening.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the performance area of the Waterloo Stage Theatre does not meet the OBC definition of a stage. Accordingly, they believe the provisions of Article should not apply. This view is based on the fact that while the subject stage does include lighting equipment, it does not contain facilities to provide quick change scenery, especially side stages, a fly tower and accompanying equipment. The lack of these facilities means that ancillary space is limited and any fire would be quite noticeable by the audience. Further, the exit capacity is approximately double the occupant load, the farthest travel distance is 20 m, and the stage is currently sprinklered.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed performance area should be considered a stage under the OBC and therefore should be designed to meet the full requirements of Article As a result the stage should include 1 h rated proscenium opening, either a "fire curtain" or deluge sprinkler system, and a fire and smoke venting system.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the stage provides sufficiency of compliance to the requirements of the Building Code provided:

  1. quick response sprinklers are installed over the stage and ancillary areas,

  1. smoke detection, connected to an alarm system, is installed over all stage areas including the ancillary room at the rear of the stage and below the mezzanine area, and

  1. the area under the stage is sealed such that it cannot be used for storage.

  1. Reasons:

  1. The theatre, stage and back of the house areas are of limited size.

  1. The theatre has limited seating capacity.

  1. A sprinkler system will be provided.

  1. Adequate exits will be provided.

  1. The maximum travel distance does not exceed 20 m.

  1. There are no provisions for quick change scenery or fly towers, which limits the combustible load on the stage.

Dated at Toronto this 28th day in the month of May in the year 1997 for application number 1997-19.

Michael Lio, Chair
Susan Friedrich
Ross Thomson