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BCC Ruling No. 95-14-434

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Sentences and Sentence of the Revised Regulation of Ontario 1990, Regulation 61, as amended by O.Regs. 400/91, 158/93, 160/93 and 355/94 (the "Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Ian Sunderland, PCL Constructors Eastern Inc. for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. John Fisher, Chief Building Official, City of St. Catharines, concerning whether sprinkler protection is required for the bus lanes drive through portion of a city and inter-city bus terminal attached to an eleven storey fully sprinklered high-rise office building at 301 St. Paul Street (10 King St.), St. Catharines, Ontario.


PCL Constructors Eastern Inc.
Mississauga, Ontario


Mr. John Fisher
Chief Building Official
City of St. Catharines


Mr. Demir Delen, Panel Chair
Mr. Remus Tsang
Mr. Kenneth Bacon


Toronto, Ontario


April 6th, 1995


Mr. Paul F. Svastal, Project Manager
Paul & Douglas Automatic Sprinklers Ltd.
Mississauga, Ontario
For the Applicant


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Ian Sunderland, PCL Constructors Eastern Inc. is the holder of a permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct an eleven storey fully sprinklered office building that includes a city and inter-city bus terminal at 301 St. Paul Street (160 King St.), St. Catharines, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The subject building is an eleven storey fully sprinklered high-rise office building. A portion of the sprinklered ground floor consists of office areas, loading docks and truck maneourvering bays. The building also includes a city and inter-city bus terminal comprised of a donut shop, waiting area, ticket office and washrooms located between two bus lanes and a service lane. The bus terminal is an integral part of the building in that it is surrounded by the eleven storey office building.

The bus terminal area consists of two open-end covered bus lanes and a service lane that are not sprinklered. The designer has based his sprinkler design on "Measure A" Fully Sprinklered Building, as detailed in Chapter Three of the Supplement to the National Building Code of Canada 1990, to satisfy the required smoke control measures as indicated in Subsection 3.2.6. of the Building Code.

  1. Dispute

The dispute between the Applicant and Respondent concerns the technical interpretation of Sentences and of the Building Code. At issue is whether sprinkler protection is required for the bus lanes drive through portion of a city and inter-city bus terminal attached to an eleven storey fully sprinklered high-rise office building.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Sentence Repair and Storage Garages

  1. Except for open-air storeys, every storey of a storage garage or repair garage located below grade shall be sprinklered.

Sentence Automatic Sprinkler System

  1. Except as provided in Sentence (2) and (3), where a sprinkler system is required, it shall be designed, constructed, installed and tested in conformance with NFPA 13, "Installation of Sprinkler Systems".

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that sprinkler protection was not provided for the bus lanes and service lane because the Building Code does not require this protection and there are numerous identical projects that are not protected by a sprinkler system.

The Applicant submitted that the open-end covered bus lanes and service lane are considered an open-air storey and meet the 25% perimeter wall unenclosed criteria defined in Part 1 of the Building Code. In addition, the Applicant indicated that NFPA 13, 4- waives the required sprinklering where exterior roofs or canopies are constructed with non-combustible construction and no combustibles are stored or handled under the roofs or canopies.

  1. Chief Building Officials Position

The Respondent submitted that the building will not be considered fully sprinklered unless the bus lanes are sprinklered. If the sprinklers over the bus lanes are omitted from the design, then the "Measure A" design will need to be re-evaluated.

The Respondent submits that the intent of Sentence of the Building Code is to address storage garages or repair garages not bus terminals. In a storage garage vehicles are parked and the engines are shut off. There is movement of vehicles only when the vehicles are entering and exiting the garage. The only movement of people consists of people going to and from the vehicles and few people, if any, will be sitting in an idling vehicle.

In addition, the first floor of this building is not an open air storey because less than 25% of the perimeter wall of this storey is open to the out doors in a manner that will provide cross ventilation.

The Respondent further submitted that the bus terminal operation will be quite different from the operation of a storage garage. The buses will be stopped for a few minutes at a time with their engines running and then they depart and are replaced by other buses.

The St. Catharines Transit Commission anticipates that the engines on the buses will never be turned off. The buses are diesel powered. Diesel engines are more efficient when kept running. People will be moving to and from constantly as they seek out their bus and people will be sitting in the idling buses as they wait for their bus to depart.

The Respondent reported that the Applicant wishes to use the exception for sprinklers provided for in N.F.P.A. 13, Sentence 4- "Spaces under Ground Floors, Exterior Docks and Platforms", which states:

"Exception: Sprinklers shall be permitted to be omitted when all of the following conditions prevail;

  1. The space is not accessible for storage purposes and is protected against accumulation of wind-borne debris;

  1. The space contains no equipment such as steam pipes, electric wiring, or conveyors;
  2. The floor over the space is of tight construction;

  1. No combustible or flammable liquids or materials that under fire conditions may convert into combustible or flammable liquids are processed, handled, or stored on the floor above the space".

The Respondent submitted that this exception is not available to the Applicant in this case for the following reasons:

    1. In the context of the NFPA, the term space is used as the most general term to describe an area of a building. When the NFPA seeks to describe a particular type of space (i.e. a space for which a particular function can be described) a more specific term is employed, such as "compartment", "floor area", or "small room". "Space" is employed to denote an area of a building which people enter rarely if at all.

The exception itself supports this interpretation of the term "space". The exception requires that the space be inaccessible for storage and that it contain no equipment such as steam pipes, electrical wiring, or conveyors. This implies an empty area or void in a building. The term does not imply an area in which people are present and activities are carried out.

It is clear that the term " Concealed Space" as it appears in Section 4- refers to "spaces" as areas in which human activity will take place.

    1. The Respondent submitted that its interpretation of the exception is supported by the title of the Sentence in which the exception appears. "Exception: Spaces under Ground Floors, Exterior docks and Platforms". It is highly unlikely that any activity is going to take place underneath a loading dock or a platform.

    1. The Respondent submitted that this section was intended to address situations such as

a. A space is created between the ground floor of a building and the ground itself for the location of duct work and plumbing.

b. A space is created under an exterior loading dock.

c. A space is created under a platform. (For example, in a retail store where there is an area which is essentially a raised area of the floor where the management offices of the store are housed... a grocery store. The area between the floor of the platform and the floor of the building is the space contemplated by this exception).

    1. The Respondent submitted that the reference in the exception to the exterior loading dock indicates that the exception is intended to be read narrowly. Without this exception a dock which extends out from a building and is exposed to the weather, would be required to be sprinklered.

    1. The area that the Applicant contends is a space will contain electrical wiring so the exception cannot apply.

    1. The bus lanes are at grade. There is no space under the ground floor which is the floor of the bus lanes.

The Respondent noted that the Applicant proposes to sprinkler the truck maneourvering bay located to the south of the service lane which seems to be the same sort of area as the bus lanes.

The Respondent submitted that not sprinklering the bus lanes will compromise the safety of the occupants of the office tower in that the smoke control measures as required in the Building Code have not been provided. The potential of a fire in the bus lanes is far greater than in any other part of the building since there will be twelve buses each carrying approximately 100 gallons of diesel fuel moving in and out of this confined area every 15 minutes.

None of the alternative smoke control measures required by Section 3.2.6 of the Building Code have been employed in the design of this building, therefore smoke from a fire in the bus lanes may penetrate the office tower.

In conclusion, the Respondent submitted that the Building Code requires the two bus lanes, the service lane and the platform area to be sprinklered in order to comply with 3.2.6. "Additional Requirements of High Buildings".

    1. Commission Ruling:

In favour of the Respondent. It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that Sentence is not applicable to the Bus Terminal.

    1. Reasons:

Sprinkler protection is required because of "Measure A" high rise requirements. NFPA-13, Article 4- is not relevant to this issue. NFPA Sentence 4- applies without the exception because combustibles will be handled in the Bus Terminal.

Dated at Toronto, this 6th day, in the month of April, in the year 1995, for application number 1995-08.

Demir Delen

Remus Tsang

Kenneth Bacon