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BCC Ruling No. 95-05-425

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BUILDING CODE COMMISSION DECISION ON B.C.C. #95-05-425

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

AND IN THE MATTER OF Article 3.4.2.3., Sentences 3.4.4.1.(1) & 3.4.4.2.(2) 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. Michael Moxan, Dunlop Farrow Inc. Architects for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Mel Brown, Chief Building Official, City of Niagara Falls, concerning whether the proposed utilization of an open stair, descending from the Second Floor through a two storey high lobby to the Ground Floor level, as a required egress facility, sufficiently complies with the technical interpretation of the Building Code, at 4342 Queen Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

APPLICANT

Dunlop Farrow Inc. Architects
Toronto, Ontario

RESPONDENT

Mr. Mel Brown
Chief Building Official
City of Niagara Falls

PANEL

Mr. Demir Delen, Panel Chair
Mr. Rick Florio
Mr. Kenneth Bacon

PLACE

Toronto, Ontario

DATE OF RULING

February 9th, 1995

APPEARANCES

Mr. Allan E. Larden, Principal
Larden Muniak Consulting Inc.
Toronto, Ontario

Mr. Michael Moxan, Partner
Dunlop Farrow Inc. Architects
Toronto, Ontario
For the Applicant

Mr. Roger Pigeon
Senior Plan Examiner
City of Niagara Falls
For the Respondent

RULING

  1. The Applicant

Mr. Michael Moxan, Dunlop Farrow Inc. Architects is the holder of a permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to construct a new six storey Group D office building at 4342 Queen Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

  1. Description of Constrution

The subject building is a six storey Group D occupancy.

The building height is 20.52 m from the ground floor level to the sixth floor level. It has a building area of approximately 2,800 m² and is fully sprinklered with an electrically supervised sprinkler system connected to the fire department by a central station facility. Article 3.2.2.41. of the Building Code requires the building to be of noncombustible construction and structural assemblies must have a 1 hour fire resistance rating. The building structure is reinforced concrete.

The second floor is open to the ground floor lobby. The second floor is provided with two enclosed exit stairs in the central core of the building and one exterior exit stair leading from an open-air patio/play area for a day care facility.

There is also an open stair which descends from the second floor corridor to the ground floor lobby. The stair ends at the ground floor level approximately 3 m from the doors leading to the exterior.

  1. Dispute

The dispute between the Applicant and Respondent concerns sufficiency of compliance with the technical requirements of Article 3.4.2.3., Sentences 3.4.4.1.(1) & 3.4.4.2.(2) of the Building Code. At issue is whether the proposed utilization of an open stair, descending from the second floor through a two storey high lobby to the ground floor level, as a required egress facility sufficiently complies with the Building Code.

  1. Provision of the Building Code

Article 3.4.2.3.: Distance Between Exits

  1. Except where a floor area is divided by a fire separation so that it is necessary to pass through it to travel from one exit to another exit, the least distance between 2 required exits from a floor area shall be

    1. one half the maximum diagonal dimension of the floor area, but need not be more than 9 m (29 ft 6 in) for a floor area having a public corridor, or
    2. one half the maximum diagonal dimension of the floor area, but not less than 9 m (29 ft 6 in) for all other floor areas.

  1. The minimum distance between exits referred to in Sentence (1) shall be the shortest distance that smoke would have to travel between the required exits, assuming that the smoke will not penetrate an intervening fire separation.

Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1): Fire-Resistance Rating of Exit Separations

Except as provided in Article 3.4.4.3. and Sentences (2), 3.3.5.5.(3) and 3.4.4.2.(2), every exit shall be separated from each adjacent floor area by a fire separation having a fire-resistance rating not less than that required for the floor assembly above the floor area and, where there is no floor assembly above, not less than that required by Subsection 3.2.2. for the floor assembly below, but in no case shall the fire resistance rating be less than 45 min.

Sentence 3.4.4.2.(2): Exits Through Lobbies

Not more than 1 exit from a floor area is permitted to lead through a lobby provided

  1. the lobby floor is not more that 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in) above grade,
  2. the path of travel through the lobby to the outdoors is not more than 15 m (49 ft. 3 in),
  3. he adjacent rooms or premises having direct access to the lobby do not contain a Group C or F occupancy,
  4. except as required in Clause (g), the lobby is not located within an interconnected floor space other than as described in Sentence 3.2.8.2.(6),
  5. the lobby conforms to the requirements for exits, except that

i. rooms other than service rooms and storage rooms may open onto the lobby,

ii. the fire separation between the lobby and a room used for the sole purpose of control and supervision of the building need not have a fire-resistance rating, and

iii. the fire separation between the lobby and adjacent occupancies that are permitted to open onto the lobby need not have a fire-resistance rating when the lobby and adjacent occupancies are sprinklered,

    1. the fire separation required in Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) shall be maintained between the exit and the lobby, and
  1. hat if the exit serves a hotel, the lobby is not located within an interconnected floor space.

  1. Applicant's Position

The applicant submitted that incorporating the subject unenclosed stairs as contributing to the required means of egress and exit capacity from the second floor, demonstrates sufficiency of compliance with the level of safety intended by the Building Code on the bases described below:

A. Building Code 3.4.2.3. Distance Between Exits

  1. Although Article 3.4.2.3. of the Building Code restricts the proximity of exits serving one floor based on their serving the entire floor area, the city draws an analogy between the upper lobby space and meeting room area on the one hand, and the floor area on the other hand in respect of this Code concept.

Doors will be provided in the fire separation between the corridor and adjacent office space to provide access to enclosed stair No. 2 for meeting room occupants and to enclosed stair No. 1 or unenclosed stair No. 3 for office occupants. Directional exit signage will be provided to clearly indicate that this path of travel constitutes access to an exit; signage will be provided within the office space to guide persons utilizing this route to enclosed stair No. 2. This will satisfy the application of Article 3.4.2.3. of the Building Code with respect to the meeting room area.

B. Building Code 3.4.4.1.(1). Fire Separation of Exits

1. The requirement for fire separation of exit stairs from the adjacent storeys which they serve is based on concern that fire will spread into an exit and affect the ability of persons in storeys above or below to use that exit. The separation also preserves the floor-to-floor fire separation between storeys.

These concerns do not apply in respect of the two-storey-high lobby at 4342 Queen Street stair. Unenclosed stair No. 3 serves only the second floor and the second floor is already within the same fire compartment as the ground floor.

2. The total travel time required to leave a meeting room, traverse unenclosed stair No. 3 and then leave the building is considerably less than the maximum travel time the Code would permit for all occupants to gain access to an enclosed exit.

C. Building Code 3.4.4.2.(2). Egress Through Lobby

  1. The prohibition against more than one exit from a floor area leading through a lobby is intended to apply to storeys above or below the lobby where there is a chance that the lobby could become affected by the fire and persons seeking to leave the building from such other storeys could have to leave the protection of the enclosed exit stair to cross the lobby floor. This concept does not apply in this case, persons utilizing unenclosed stair No. 3 are not in ignorance of lobby conditions once they commence using stair No. 3. They are in the same fire compartment to begin with.

  1. It is incidental that persons utilizing enclosed stair No. 2 to leave the second floor meeting room area enter into an enclosed exit stair shaft which then opens to the lobby below. Enclosed stair No. 1 is designed in respect of the lobby to conform to Sentence 3.4.4.2.(2) of the Building Code to satisfy the level of safety the Code demands for the basement and for the storeys above the second floor. Again, the second floor occupants who access enclosed stair No. 1 are already in the same fire compartment as the lobby before they enter the stair.

In establishing sufficiency of compliance for the design of the two storey lobby and egress from the Second Floor, the following general factors were also presented for consideration:

  1. The building is fully sprinklered with an electrically-supervised sprinkler system, activation of which causes the fire alarm to sound and a signal to be sent to the fire department through an independent central station facility.

  1. The fire alarm system will be automatically activated by sprinkler flow and by smoke detectors required in stair shafts and re-circulating air-handling systems.

  1. The lobby is separated from the adjacent ground and second floor areas by an unrated fire separation which will be expected to restrict smoke spread from a fire originating elsewhere in the ground or second floors.

  1. The lobby is essentially sterile space, as far as fire load is concerned. There is no occupancy designed for the corridor which would entail a fire load of any consequence. Wall and ceiling finishes conform to Code requirements for noncombustible construction.

  1. The lobby has a clear height from the finished ground floor level to the ceiling of the second floor of some 7.7 m (25.25 ft), the resultant volume of the lobby will provide a large reservoir in which the smoke from an incipient fire not yet fully extinguished by the sprinkler system will be considerably diluted, unlike what may be expected in the narrower confines of a typical public corridor or even the interior of an exit stair shaft into which smoke may migrate during a fire.

  1. Chief Building Officials Position

The respondent submitted that Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) of the Building Code requires every exit to be separated from an adjacent floor area by a fire separation. The open stair descending from the second floor through a two storey high lobby to the ground floor level is not fire separated. Therefore, it must be considered a convenience stair and not a required exit.

Sentence 3.4.4.2.(2) of the Building Code states that only one required exit can lead through a lobby. If the open stair was considered to be a required exit, there would be two exits leading through the lobby.

  1. Commission Ruling:

In favour of the Applicant. It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that the egress system from the second floor of the building provides sufficiency of compliance with the technical requirements of the Building Code, subject to the following conditions:

    1. An egress door to office area # 228 will be introduced opposite to bridge # 215, at the fire separation of corridor # 213.

    1. An exit sign will be installed above the aforementioned egress door, and an unobstructed path of travel 1100 mm wide will be maintained, with appropriate signage leading occupants to
      stair # 2.

    1. The use of the lobby for temporary exhibits which might increase the fire load will be addressed in the Fire Safety Plan.

  1. Reasons:

  1. Stair # 3 is the most direct and familiar egress route from the second floor.

  1. The performance level for exiting the second floor will be increased by using stair # 3 since the total evacuation time would be reduced when compared to the Building Code conforming situation for stair # 4.

Dated at Toronto, this 9th day, in the month of February, in the year 1995, for application number 199-05.

Demir Delen

Rick Florio

Kenneth Bacon