OFMEM Letter to Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Building Official, and Fire Chief: Building Permits
December 19, 2014
Dear Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Building Official, and Fire Chief:
As of January 1, 2014, Ontario became the first province to require the retrofit of automatic sprinklers in all vulnerable occupancies, which include care occupancies, care and treatment occupancies and licensed retirement homes.
Mandatory sprinklers are just one of a comprehensive set of changes introduced by Ontario Regulation 150/13, which amended the Ontario Fire Code. There are a number of other building retrofits that are now required by the Fire Code in these occupancies.
The Fire Code provides requirements for upgrading existing buildings through retrofit to ensure a common minimum level of life safety. Due to the complexities often entailed in installing these systems in existing buildings, retrofit requirements are generally less stringent as those required by the Building Code for new construction.
Some of these retrofit requirements set out in the Fire Code are material alterations to a building and therefore will require a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 (“BCA”). As you know, building permits are generally required to be issued under the authority of the BCA unless the proposed construction contravenes the BCA, the Building Code or other applicable law. To address the issuance of building permits for construction required to meet Fire Code retrofit requirements, the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997 (“FPPA”) provides the following direction:
22.(2) If repairs, alterations or installations are carried out in compliance with an order made under subsection 21(1) or for the purposes of complying with the fire code, the repairs, alterations or installations shall be deemed not to contravene the building code established under the Building Code Act, 1992.
Chief Building Officials and building department staff unfamiliar with the FPPA and the Fire Code may not be aware of this provision. It is significant as it provides that construction carried out to comply with either orders made under the FPPA or with the Fire Code are not required to comply with the Building Code (but rather must comply with the FPPA order or Fire Code).
It is anticipated that building permit applications for work being undertaken to achieve Fire Code compliance will increase over the next several years as owners/operators of vulnerable occupancies work towards meeting Fire Code requirements. As such, Chief Building Officials are encouraged to dialogue with Chief Fire Officials to develop internal policies regarding administration of plan review and inspections for permit applications for construction to comply with either FPPA orders or to achieve Fire Code compliance. Additional information on this matter is outlined in a recent article published in the OBOA Journal (edition 103, September 2014).
Ontario will continue to support municipalities, local fire services, facility owners and operators by providing advice and assistance, training and ongoing communication about upcoming deadlines to ensure all care occupancies, care and treatment occupancies and licensed retirement homes are in compliance with the building retrofit provisions in the Fire Code. To learn more about the work that has been accomplished to date, visit the OFMEM website portal for Care Occupancies, Care and Treatment Occupancies and Retirement Homes or contact the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal and Emergency Management at 647-329-1100.
We all have a role to play in keeping vulnerable Ontarians fire safe.