by Rob Shaw/Special to the Langley Advance
B.C.’s Housing Minister says he’ll move to make balcony sprinklers mandatory in smaller wood-construction buildings, after a blaze at a Langley condo complex sparked calls for reforms from B.C.’s fire chiefs.
Rich Coleman said Tuesday he’ll change B.C.’s building code to mandate sprinklers on balconies for any new wood buildings of four storeys or smaller. It was recommended by Ottawa as part of national building-code requirements, but B.C. will do it anyway, he said.
“In the future, absolutely we’ll put sprinklers on balconies,” said Coleman. “That’s a no-brainer for me.”
The Fire Chiefs Association of B.C. said balcony sprinklers could have prevented extensive damage Sunday to a Langley condo complex, called Paddington Station, that displaced dozens of residents.
Five- and six-storey, wood-construction buildings in B.C. are required to have sprinklers on balconies and in attic spaces. B.C. approved six-storey, wood-frame construction in 2009.
But four-storey buildings and smaller haven’t required sprinklers on balconies. Coleman said he doesn’t think that’s been the source of many fires, and “some fire chiefs have differing opinions” on whether they’re necessary. He’s asked ministry staff to compile figures about how many balcony fires have occurred in different types of buildings.
The changes wouldn’t be retroactive, because that would force potentially unreasonable costs onto strata corporations and owners who would have to rip open suites, said Coleman.
“Municipalities have not asked me to do that for existing buildings,” he said. “It would be very difficult to require it.”
B.C. is trying to standardize the building code, and so municipalities are no longer allowed to use local bylaws to make code changes, said Coleman. The province also wants to harmonize with the federal building code, he said.
“If the feds decide to put it in, we’ll implement it,” he said of sprinklers. “If not, I’m going to look at implementing it anyways.”
– Rob Shaw is a reporter with the Vancouver Sun.
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