BCAB #1361 - Enclosure of Exterior Balconies on Hi-Rise, Sentence - Measure 'M'

July 12, 1994

BCAB #1361

Re: Enclosure of Exterior Balconies on Hi-Rise, Sentence - Measure 'M'

Project Description

A hi-rise apartment building incorporating Smoke Control Measure 'M' from Chapter 3 of the Supplement to the National Building Code of Canada in order to conform to Article

Reason for Appeal

Article (Measure M) requires exterior balconies of a given minimum size accessible from each suite above grade to provide safe, smoke free refuge in case of a fire.. The appellant wishes to enclose some of these balconies with glazing and openable windows in a manner not acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction.

Appellant's Position

The appellant contends that the balcony enclosure design in question does not violate the requirement of Measure M that each suite have access to an exterior balcony. The appellant argues that the proposed enclosed balcony will provide the same degree of protection as an unenclosed balcony in terms of providing a satisfactory smoke refuge area because:

  1. the existing sliding glass door from the suite will remain to ensure the balcony remains separate from the interior space and a satisfactory smoke barrier remains between the interior space and the balcony and

  2. the design includes four sliding windows which provide 46.45square feet of open area for ventilation.

The enclosure design addresses four important points raised in previous Appeal #644 in that it continues to provide temporary sanctuary open to the outside air, is visible from the ground, provides for possible rescue and provides a certain degree of protection from a fire in the building. Appeal #644 also observed that complete enclosure removes the feature from being classified as a balcony but the appellant contends that complete enclosure means conversion of the exterior space to interior space which, as explained above, this design does not do.

In answer to a contention of the building official that an enclosed balcony would be no different than a bedroom the appellant counters that the bedroom is not as completely separated from the remainder of the dwelling as a balcony with the patio door closed. Also, the ratio of openable window area to room size is very unlikely to approach that possible with an enclosed balcony.

Finally, the appellant submits that the ventilation features of the enclosure design in question (with windows open and door closed) would provide the same ventilation as the existing unenclosed balcony.

Building Official's Position

The building official maintains that the at least the minimum area of the balconies required by Subclause must remain unenclosed. Both the National Research Council and the B.C. Building Standards Branch agreed with this interpretation.

Appeal Board Decision #1361

The issue of enclosure of exterior balconies on Measure 'M' buildings has been dealt with previously in Appeal # 644 and #1210 (copies attached). The Board can find no reason to alter these previous decisions and still considers an exterior balcony to be unenclosed and open to the outside air. The balcony design under appeal is in contravention of Clause and is, therefore, unacceptable.

George R. Humphrey, Chair