New Fire Safety Guidelines for Wood Frame Buildings

On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, Ontario Regulation 191/14 was filed to amend the 2012 Building Code, Ontario Regulation 332/12.

These amendments increase the permitted height of certain wood frame buildings from four to six storeys, and will take effect on January 1, 2015.

Under the new Building Code provisions, residential (“Group C”) and office buildings (“Group D”) can be constructed using wood-frame construction up to six storeys.

These buildings may include other “mixed use” occupancies below the third floor, specifically, “Group A-2” and “Group E” uses such as restaurants and grocery stores, as well as parking garages.

To ensure that they meet Ontario’s high safety standards, these buildings will feature several additional safety provisions not currently required in four storey wood buildings, including:

  • enhanced automatic sprinklering to the NFPA 13 standard;
  • sprinklering of all balconies over 610mm deep;
  • building height limits including height limits to the fire access route;
  • a requirement for exterior cladding and roof covering to be noncombustible or combustion-resistant;
  • additional compartmentalization for large sprinklered spaces such as attics;
  • requiring at least 10% of the building perimeter to be within 15 meters of a fire safety access route;
  • requiring that exit stairwells have a 1.5 hour fire-resistant rating and be of noncombustible construction;
  • a requirement to meet a higher seismic load than similar noncombustible buildings; and
  • more robust occupancy permit requirements.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is working with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, responsible for the Office of the Fire Marshall, to develop guidelines for site fire safety during construction of five and six storey wood buildings.