BCAB #1804

January 18, 2018

Re: Required Guards

Project Description

The project is a multi-unit residential building constructed with retaining walls which surround the exterior patios of three of the lowest level suites. The retaining walls create wells for the patios similar to a window well. The top of the retaining walls is about 900 mm above the surface of the patios.

There is a 3.70 m wide landscape strip, planted with trees and grass, running parallel to the building between the retaining and the building’s parking area. There is no designated pedestrian walkway within the landscape strip. There is a designated pedestrian walkway directly from the parking area to the building entrance, located at least 3.5 m from the closest retaining wall. The parking area is at least 3 m from the retaining walls.   

Applicable Code Requirement

Sentence of Division B of the 2012 British Columbia Building Code Except as provided in Sentences (2) and (3), every surface to which access is provided for other than maintenance purposes, including but not limited to flights of steps and ramps, exterior landings, porches, balconies, mezzanines, galleries and raised walkways, shall be protected by a guard on each side that is not protected by a wall for the length where

a) there is a difference in elevation of more than 600 mm between the walking surface and the adjacent surface, or

b) the adjacent surface within 1.2 m of the walking surface has a slope of more than 1 in 2.

Decision being Appealed (Local Authority’s Position)

The local authority has determined that a guard is required at the top of the retaining walls. The local authority considers there is a potential safety hazard to persons using the landscaped area adjacent to the retaining walls and that the vertical drop from the top of the retaining walls to the patio levels exceeds 600 mm. The application of Sentence is not limited to the examples given therein, and because the subject retaining walls exceed a 600 mm difference in elevation of adjacent surfaces, a guard is required.

Appellant's Position

The appellant maintains that the parking area and patio access door from the suite are each greater than 1.2 m from the retaining wall, and further that the Code does not regulate landscaping features such as retaining walls. As such, the Code does not require guards on the subject retaining walls surrounding the suites’ patios.

Appeal Board Decision # 1804

It is the determination of the Board that a guard is not required at the top of the retaining walls.

Reason for Decision

The Board considers the landscape strip was not designed or intended to be a walking surface and does not provide access to or egress from the building. The Board considers the retaining walls to be landscape elements and, as similarly described in BCAB # 1717, these landscape elements do not fall within the scope of the BC Building Code.

Lyle Kuhnert

Chair, Building Code Appeal Board