BCAB #1494 - Exit Signs, Article 3.4.5.1

August 17, 1999

BCAB #1494

Re: Exit Signs, Article 3.4.5.1

Project Description

The project in question is an existing office building with mostly open floor areas divided by acoustic partitions approximately 1500 mm high.

Reason for Appeal

Sentence 3.4.5.1.(1) requires exit signs over exit doors in buildings over two storeys high, buildings with an occupant load more than 150 or a room or floor area served by a fire escape. Sentence 3.4.5.1.(2) states, in part, that the exit signs be visible from the exit approach. Sentence 3.4.5.1.(5) states that, "if necessary," exit signs be provided in public corridors and passageways giving direction to exits.

Appellant's Position

The appellant contends the exit signs currently installed are more than adequate to indicate the location of and direction to the exits.

Building Official's Position

The building official maintains that, based at least partially on previous Appeal #1227, the entire floor area is part of the "exit approach" as intended by Clause 3.4.5.1.(2)(a) and sufficient signs must be provided so that an exit sign is visible from anywhere within the exit path (not from within every cubicle). This results in an additional ten signs being requested.

Appeal Board Decision #1494

Appeal decision #1227 was based on the 1985 BC Building Code but the Board considers it to still be valid and would apply to this case. However, it would appear that some clarification is necessary regarding the location of egress directional signs. Appeal #1227 also dealt with requirements for emergency lighting and in that context referred to "principle routes providing access to exit in open floor areas" which is not applicable to exit sign requirements.

The Board considers the term "exit approach" in Clause (2)(a) to mean the portion of the floor area in the vicinity of the exit door from which the sign at the exit door is visible. It is not the entire floor area. Sentence (5), requiring directional egress signs "if necessary" can only be applied with judgement and the Board can only provide guidance as to the intent of this Sentence. For instance, it is not considered necessary to have egress directional signs visible from the entrance to every private office or cubicle. However, where a choice of direction is presented in a path of travel and the exit sign at the exit door is not visible from that point, a directional sign may be warranted.

George R. Humphrey, Chair