BCAB #1291 - Building Height, First Storey and Grade, Subsection 1.3.2.

August 19, 1992

BCAB #1291

Re: Building Height, First Storey and Grade, Subsection 1.3.2.

Project Description

The project in question is an apartment/condominium comprising four storeys of suites. The building elevations were dictated by the elevation of the below ground services in the adjacent street which required that the lowest floor be set .46 m above the existing grade on the lowest side of the site. The finished grade around the building combines fill to keep the second floor not more than 2 m above finished grade and areas where the existing grades were lowered to provide adequate light to the first floor.

Along the rear of the building are eleven side by side parking spaces under the second floor with direct access to the surface parking area. These stalls are below the level of the outdoor surface parking so there is a ramp across almost the entire rear side of the building and about five feet of this ramp is beyond the face of the building. This configuration means the second floor is more than 2 m above the grade immediately adjacent to this face of the building.

Reason for Appeal

In order to determine "building height" for classification purposes the "first storey" of the building must be determined based on its relationship to "grade." The "first storey" is defined as the "...uppermost storey having its floor level not more than 2 m above grade." The word "grade" is defined as "...the lowest of the average levels of finished ground adjoining each exterior wall of the building, except that localizes depressions such as for vehicle or pedestrian entrances need not be considered in the determination of average levels of finished ground."

Appellant's Position

The appellant considers the .46 m of fill used to build up the finished grade at one end of the building to be acceptable because he feels that, by definition, grade allows for both addition and deletion to existing ground. He feels the adjustment to grade is reasonable and necessary due to the shallow elevation of the street service.

Regarding the level of grade at the under building parking he notes that within 1.8 m of the building face the finished grade is less than 2 m below the second floor level and fire trucks can get to within the minimum 3 m distance from the building face (as required in 3.2.5.2.(2)) and still be at the permissible elevation of 2 m below the first storey.

Building Official's Position

The building official has a uniform policy of determining the first storey of a proposed building. Grades are based on the existing topography of the lot. The footprint of the proposed building is located on the lot and the first storey must be within 2 m of the lowest average existing grade. Filling of ground above this level could constitute false grading. The official feels this approach not only meets the requirements of the building code but is also fair and consistent for all designers.

Appeal Board Decision #1291

It is the determination of the Board that the definition of "grade" clearly refers to finished ground which allows the existing grade to be altered by fill and excavation, with "building height" measured from the finished grade. Regarding the ramp which provides access to the row of parking spaces the Board does not consider this to be a "...localized depression..." within the intent of the definition of "grade" and there is no basis in the Code for measuring grade at a point 1.8 m from the building face.

George R. Humphrey, Chair