BCAB #1789 - Fire Separation between Major Occupancies...

September 15, 2016

BCAB #1789

Re: Fire Separation between Major Occupancies, Fire Separation of Exits

Project Description

The project is an existing 2 storey, combustible building of multiple major occupancies that is now within the scope of Part 3 of the BC Building Code.  There is a one storey restaurant on one side of the building and a 2 storey Group E retail occupancy on the other.  Due to an increase in occupant load, there has been a change in occupancy of the restaurant from Group D to Group A.

The second storey mercantile floor area is served by an exit stair that is located between and partially separates the two major occupancies.   There is a concrete block wall that separates one side of the exit stair and extends beyond and separates the two major occupancies.   At the bottom of the exit stair is a door which opens on to an exterior landing and stair, and discharges on to a patio.  The patio is an uncovered area in an exterior alcove of the building, primarily used as outdoor seating for the restaurant, and is located near grade.  The patio is directly connected to a public thoroughfare.

Reason for Appeal

The local authority has decided that the restaurant,  now classified as Group A, Division 2, requires a fire separation from the Group E major occupancy and that this fire separation must provide a 2 hour fire resistance rating extending across the entire building.

Additionally, the local authority has decided that the exit stair is not permitted to discharge directly on to the patio and the egress/exit path through the patio is required to be fire separated.

Appellant's Position

The appellant considers that an existing concrete block wall provides the required 2 hour fire separation between occupancies.  The fire resistance rating of the exit stair from the adjacent occupancies is at least one hour, and is compliant.  The exit stair is permitted to discharge on to the patio provided a separate path of travel is maintained for the exit.  A gate dividing the patio and the exit path is proposed for that purpose.

Local Authority’s Position

The building official maintains that the existing concrete block wall does not provide a complete major occupancy fire separation as it terminates at the patio area and does not extend through the alcove.    Further, the fire separation of the exit stair terminates at the patio, and is therefore incomplete. The exit must be enclosed and protected by a fire separation continuing to the open public thoroughfare.

Appeal Board Decision #1789

It is the determination of the Board that the major occupancy separation is only required where the two major occupancies are adjacent to each other, and is not required to be continued where the major occupancy is adjacent to the exit stair. Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1) stipulates the requirements for the fire separation between the occupancies and the exit stair.

The Board does not consider the proposed egress/exit path through the exterior patio area to be an exterior open space protected from fire exposure from the building. Therefore it is the determination of the Board that further measures are necessary to protect the exit/egress travel from the hazards of the building.  These could include the measures requested by the building official, or other measures provided for within the code.

Reason for Decision

Sentence 3.1.3.1.(1) requires a fire separation only for adjoining major occupancies that are directly adjacent each other.

The exterior exit/egress path is not required to be fire separated from the patio, as the patio is not considered to be part of the building, as described in Sentence 3.4.4.1.(1).

The hazards of the building imposed on exits and the exit/egress path can also be dealt with by other provisions of the code, such as Article 3.2.3.13. Protection of Exit Facilities, and Article 3.2.3.14. Wall Exposed to Another Wall.

Lyle Kuhnert
Chair, Building Code Appeal Board

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