BCAB #1830

August 27, 2019

Revised: September 9, 2019

Re: Exterior Guards

Project Description

The project is a single family dwelling (house) constructed on a lot with grade changes resulting from landscape features and retaining walls. The subject of this appeal is limited to the requirement for guards at two specific locations, being:

  1. A walkway at the bottom of the building’s front entrance stairs, which is adjacent and runs parallel to the front building face.

The walking surface of the walkway is “paving bricks”, and there is a level landscape strip adjacent the paving brick surface for the full length of the walkway. The landscape strip terminates at a retaining wall, where the difference in elevation between the landscape strip and ground level at the retaining wall base is greater 600 mm.

At one end (north end) of the walkway, a planter (not conforming with required guard dimensions), has been located to impede access to the end of the walkway that also terminates at a retaining wall with a difference of elevation of greater than 600 mm. About midway thru the walkway’s length is a stairway perpendicular to the walkway, with 11 risers down to the elevation of the base of the retaining wall. Within the stairway there is a lower landing about midway, with the landing’s walking surface about 600 mm above the adjacent grade. Planters, which do not comply with guard dimensions, have been placed on the landing to impede access to the ends of the landing.

  1. A rear entry door stairwell with its base about 700 mm below the elevation of an adjacent concrete on grade patio. There is a stairway with 4 risers in a stairwell down to the rear entry door landing. There are planters, which do not comply with guard dimensions, placed on the patio around two sides of the stairwell to impede access to the edge of the stairwell.

Applicable Code Requirements

Sentence of Division B of the British Columbia Building Code 2018.   Except as provided in Sentence (2), every surface to which access is provided, 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 guards are required at certain exterior locations; access provided to the front door and rear door of the house require handrails and guards as the difference in elevation of adjacent surfaces is more than 600 mm and is within 1.2 m of the walking surface.

Appellant's Position

The appellant maintains that guards are not required for the walkway as the retaining wall is more than 1.2 m from the normal walking path. The north end of the pathway has a heavy planter arranged at least 1.2 meters from edge of the retaining wall which impedes access to the edge of the retaining wall.

At the rear stairwell the appellant considers the heavy planters placed at the edge of the stairwell impede access to the stairwells edge, and guards are not required.

Appeal Board Decision #1830

It is the determination of the Board that:

  1. A guard is not required along the walkway parallel to the front of the house provided the edge of the walking surface (brick pavers) is at least 1.2 meters from the edge of the retaining wall. A guard is required at the north end of this pathway. A guard is required on the lower landing of the stairway coming off the walkway if the distance from its walking surface to grade exceeds 600mm.
  2. A guard is not required around the edge of the rear entry stairwell.

Reason for Decision

Walkway:  The Board considers the edge of the brick pavers delineates the edge of the walking surface.  With the distance between the edge of the walking surface to the edge of the retaining wall greater than 1.2 meters (this area with plantings and being near level), would comply with Sentence

The planters which are not of guard dimensions, placed on the walking surface at the north end of the walkway and the stair landing do not comply for BCBC requirements for guards.

Rear Stairwell: The Board considers the concrete patio on grade at the rear stairwell to be landscaping and outside the scope of the BC Building Code. Although not regulated, the heavy planters place around the two edges of the stairwell will reduce the risk of falls from persons using this landscape (patio) area.

Lyle Kuhnert

Chair, Building Code Appeal Board