BCAB #1846

June 18, 2020

Re: Determination of Grade

Project Description

The building is an existing single family house situated on the high portion of a steeply sloping lot. A two storey addition consisting of a garage with living space above was constructed at the low portion of the lot. The south exterior wall at the garage includes an overhead door and a swing door for vehicle and pedestrian access. The ground level immediately adjacent the south wall slopes down to the street. The lowest floor elevation in the addition (garage) is approximately 2 meters higher than the street and the existing house approximately 7m higher than the street. There is a stepped planter/retaining wall at the west side of the building and a stair on at the east side of the building. These are constructed against the sides of the building and follow the grade from the low to the high portions of the lot.

Applicable Code Requirements

Definition of grade from Sentence 1.4.1.2.(1), and related Appendix Note, of Division A of the British Columbia Building Code 2012.

Grade means the lowest of the average levels of finished ground adjoining each exterior wall of a building, except that localized depressions need not be considered in the determination of average levels of finished ground. (See First storey and Appendix A.)

A-1.4.1.2.(1) Defined Terms

Grade

Localized depressions that need not be considered in the determination of the elevation of grade include such features as vehicle and pedestrian entrances and other minor depressions that do not affect accessibility for firefighting or evacuation.

The definition of grade is used in determining a building’s first storey, and thus determines the height of a building in storeys.

Decision being Appealed (Local Authority’s Position)

The local authority has determined that the south wall does not constitute a localized depression and that grade shall be determined based on the average of the finished ground adjoining the south wall. The garage is at the first storey and the total number of storeys in building height is four.

Appellant's Position

The appellant maintains that the whole of the south wall is a localized depression and that it need not be considered in the determination of grade. The garage is a basement, the living space above it is the first storey and the total number of storeys in building height is three.

Appeal Board Decision #1846

It is the determination of the Board that the south wall does not constitute a localized depression and grade is determined based on the average of the finished ground adjoining the south wall.  The garage is the first storey and the total number of storeys in building height is four.

Reason for Decision

  • The term localized depression is not defined.Division A, Sentence 1.4.1.1.(1) indicates that words and phrases used in the Building Code that are not defined in Article 1.4.1.2 shall have the meaning commonly assigned to them in the context in which they are used.Therefore, localized means restricted to a specific area and depression means a place that is lower than the surrounding area.
  • Typical localized depressions for vehicle and pedestrian access include vehicle ramps into basement parking garages and ramps or stairs leading to doors for pedestrian entry where the vehicle or pedestrian entries are lower than the surrounding area.
  • The Building Code definition of grade describes separate measurements of average grade at each side of the building, it is not the average around the perimeter.Based on the elevation drawings, the south side determines the number of storeys.
  • The site plan includes topographical information, and this indicates that the elevations at the street, the driveway and the ground along the south wall are all lower than the elevation of the garage floor in the addition.

Frankie Victor

Vice-Chair, Building Code Appeal Board