BCAB #1805

February 15, 2018

Re: Requirements for Sprinklers

Project Description

The project is an existing unsprinklered house, four storeys in building height, constructed in 2002 as a single family dwelling. An unauthorized additional dwelling unit was constructed in the building sometime after the date of initial construction. It is proposed to construct an approximate 3 m2 addition and to legalize/renovate the additional dwelling unit.

The house appears to have been constructed under Part 9 of the 1998 BC Building Code, though both parties involved in this appeal agree the house is four stories in building height. The Building Code’s determination of building height and grade does not differ between the 1998 BCBC (applicable at the time of the initial construction of the house) and the present 2012 BCBC. There has been no information provided to the Board that Section 2.5 Equivalents of the 1998 BCBC was applied to allow the house to be constructed under Part 9 of that Code.

Applicable Code Requirement

  • Sentence of Division A of the 2012 British Columbia Building Code Where a building is altered, rehabilitated, renovated or repaired, or there is a change in occupancy, the level of life safety and building performance shall not be decreased below a level that already exists. (See Appendix A.)

  • Sentence of Division B of the 2012 British Columbia Building Code

Note: Sentence 1998 BCBC had same construction requirements for a Group C up to 4 storeys sprinklered A building classified as Group C is permitted to conform to Sentence (2) provided

a) except as permitted by Sentences and, the building is sprinklered throughout,

b) it has not more than 6 storeys in building height,

c) it has a maximum height of less than 18 m measured between grade and the uppermost floor level of the top storey, and

d) it has a building area not more than

i) 7 200 m² if 1 storey in building height,

ii) 3 600 m² if 2 storeys in building height,

iii) 2 400 m² if 3 storeys in building height,

iv) 1 800 m² if 4 storeys in building height,

v) 1 440 m² if 5 storeys in building height, or

vi) 1 200 m² if 6 storeys in building height.

Decision being Appealed (Local Authority’s Position)

The local authority has determined that Article applies to the building including, but not limited to, the requirement for the building to be sprinklered throughout. As a Part 3 building, the additional dwelling unit cannot be considered as a secondary suite. The local authority considers the addition of another dwelling unit, without the building being provided with automatic fire sprinklers, will reduce the level of life safety below that of the initial construction of the house.

Appellant's Position

The appellant maintains that the construction of a secondary suite does not invoke the upgrading of the building to current BC Building Code requirements, including the requirement for automatic fire sprinklers. The appellant considers it to be impractical and cost prohibitive to install a sprinkler system in the existing building and that the level of life safety and building performance are not being decreased below the level that already exists.

Appeal Board Decision # 1805

It is the determination of the Board that without the application of Section 2.5 Equivalents of the Building Code at the time of the building’s initial construction, the applicable construction standards are those of Part 3 of the BC Building Code. This would include the application of Sentence and the requirements for automatic fire sprinklers.

Reason for Decision

The Board considers the inclusion of an additional dwelling unit in the building to reduce the level of safety below that of when the building was initially constructed. The measures necessary to mitigate this additional risk are prescribed in Part 3 of the Building Code, including those construction requirements of Sentence and the provisions for automatic fire sprinklers.

Variances from the applicable provisions of Part 3 could be developed through an Alternative Solution  (Subsection 2.3.1. Division C).

Lyle Kuhnert

Chair, Building Code Appeal Board