New four-storey wood-frame buildings must now have fire sprinklers on balconies

BACK in September 2016 the Province told The VOICE that it will consider making sprinklers mandatory on balconies for low-rise multi-residential construction in the next edition of the BC Building Code.

Following a third fire in three years in Surrey involving a multi-residential construction that started on a balcony and went up into the roof at Celeste at 8183 121A Street on August 20, 2016, Surrey Fire Assistant Chief Steve Robinson had told The VOICE: “We would like the Province to adopt NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] Code 13R and the requirements for balcony sprinklers for low-rise multi-residential construction … We need the legislation to change.”

Lindsay Byers, spokesperson for the Ministry Responsible for Housing, emailed The VOICE at the time: “When the current edition of the BC Building Code was adopted, it incorporated the most up-to-date version of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire sprinkler standards available at that time. When the 2010 editions of those standards became the national benchmark, British Columbia was one of the first provinces in Canada to adopt them into our Building Code.”

He added: “Since then, the 2013 editions of the fire sprinkler standards more directly address sprinklers on balconies and the Province will consider them in the next edition of the BC Building Code.”

On Wednesday, the Province announced that an update to the BC Building Code will require fire sprinklers to be installed on the balconies of all new four-storey wood-frame residential buildings.

Under the current BC Building Code, sprinklers generally are not required on balconies or in attics in residential buildings four storeys and under, but are generally required in residential buildings greater than four storeys.

The updated 2015 National Building Code, on which BC Building Code updates are based, requires sprinklers on balconies of four-storey residential buildings. Although the next edition of the BC Building Code is not scheduled to be adopted until late 2017, the Province is taking steps to adopt the new sprinkler standards sooner.

The new sprinkler requirements will take effect on July 20, 2017. The Province is providing a transition period to allow time for the industry to adapt to the new requirement.

Building codes and fire sprinkler standards apply at the time of construction and do not apply retroactively to require owners to upgrade existing buildings.

Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing, said: “B.C. is a leader in fire safety requirements, but we continually review those rules and update them. Although the next edition of our building code won’t be adopted until late 2017, we wanted to implement this change as soon as possible, in the interest of safety.”