Critique of Milstein Hall: Fire Safety

Jonathan Ochshorn

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contact | homepage | index of selected writings | Critique of Milstein Hall contents and introduction

Fire safety contents: 1. introduction | 2. floor area limit | 3. fire barrier | 4. crit room egress | 5. Sibley egress | 6. mezzanine | 7. Rand occupancy | 8. conclusions | 9. summary and appeal | 10. variance application

This summary of code violations is an excerpt from a formal "Application for Variance or Appeal" that I filed with the New York State Division of Code Enforcement and Administration (DCEA) on May 28, 2013. All required documents and exhibits along with the full appeal can be viewed/downloaded as follows:
Application (pages 1-54): screen resolution pdf 3.4 MB or print resolution pdf 15.9 MB
Addenda (pages 55-81): screen resolution pdf 1.6 MB or print resolution pdf 19.3 MB
Notice of Hearing (July 18, 2013): screen resolution pdf 209 KB or print resolution pdf 1.3 MB
Notice to Reopen Hearing (September 19, 2013): screen resolution pdf 192 KB or print resolution pdf 1.3 MB
Hearing Results: summarized on this page | Latest developments: Blog updates | Official transcript of hearing (pdf)
Background reading: my papers on Designing Building Failures and A Probabilistic Approach to Nonstructural Failure

Hearing results: findings, transcript, and additional commentary


Introductory remarks


Exhibit 1: Inadequate exits from "crit room" assembly space


Exhibit 2: Noncompliant protruding objects in egress


Exhibit 3: Inadequate fire barrier between Milstein and E. Sibley


Exhibit 4: Improper mezzanine designation


Exhibit 5: Milstein-Sibley-Rand Halls exceed Table 503 floor area limits, based on Appendix K


Exhibit 6: Improper occupancy class designation


Exhibit 7: Inadequate exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall


Exhibit 8: Noncompliant A-3 library occupancy of Rand Hall, third floor


Introductory remarks

Ochshorn: Before describing the eight Code violations itemized in this Appeal, I would like to provide a bit of background information so that my complaint can be understood in a proper context.

If you examine the site plan on p. 9 of the appeal [page numbers refer to the "Application" and "Addenda" linked in the box above], you'll see that Milstein Hall is a 50,000 square foot building that connects two existing buildings on the Cornell campus — Sibley and Rand Halls — and so it counts as an addition to those two buildings, as it is not separated from them by a fire wall. It was constructed between 2009 and 2012.

A building permit for Milstein Hall was filed on May 18, 2007, under the 2002 NYS Building Code, which was about to expire and be replaced by the 2007 Code. However, the first actual building-permit construction documents that I could locate pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request made at the Ithaca Building Department are dated Dec. 5, 2008. This is a full year and a half after the filing of the permit: if the permit had been filed with these Dec. 5, 2008 drawings, the new 2007 Code would have applied, and the proposed building would have been clearly noncompliant — this fact is admitted by all parties, and shows up in the minutes of meetings conducted between the architects and building department representatives. This 1-1/2 year gap between the filing of the permit and the submission of detailed drawings is in itself of concern, as it is quite clear from documentation in the building department file that the intention was to circumvent more stringent fire safety requirements in the 2007 Code.

The issues I raise are not isolated errors, but rather are part of a pattern of violations that began almost seven years ago when Milstein Hall in its current form was first formally unveiled to the public on Sept. 19, 2006. This pattern is characterized by a systematic misreading of the Building Code of NYS in order to justify formal architectural design ideas that were conceived without accounting for fire-safety requirements embedded in the Code. In some cases, as we shall see, particular phrases or sections are taken from the Code out of context; in other cases, explanations given by the architects or Code officials are either nonexistent or incoherent.

I am at a bit of a disadvantage here, as I have had no official access to meetings, drawings, or specifications concerning Milstein Hall. I am also confronting a moving target, as official rationalizations and explanations for Code violations in Milstein Hall seem to be continually changing. My presentation today, and the formal appeal I have filed, are based on observations of the building (in which I work and teach), conversations with both Code Enforcement officers and representatives of Cornell, and examination of the half-size "issued for construction" set of drawings for Milstein Hall that was placed in Cornell's Fine Arts Library. As a licensed architect, I believe that I have a responsibility to bring Code violations to the attention of responsible parties.

These are not trivial violations. Rather, they involve the most fundamental requirements for fire safety that have evolved over the last several centuries and that constitute the basis for fire-safety provisions in all modern Building Codes: having adequate numbers of exits where large numbers of people are confined; and providing adequate fire walls and fire barriers to limit the quantity of combustible material available in any given fire area, based on the occupancy and construction of the building.

This is the reason I have filed this appeal concerning eight Code violations in Milstein, Sibley, and Rand Halls. I would now like to discuss them individually, and in more detail.

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EXHIBIT 1 — Inadequate exits from "crit room" assembly space: transcript

Ochshorn: Exhibit 1 involves the "crit room" assembly space in the lower, below-grade level, of Milstein Hall. It can be seen in plan on p. 59 and 60 of the appeal document, and in section on p. 25. Photographs showing it in use are on p.13. It has a floor area of approximately 4,580 square feet and yet has been built with only one code-compliant exit. A second potential exit stair in the space is only 12 feet from the first exit, and so is noncompliant with Section 1004.2.2.1 of the 2002 Code which requires two exits to be separated by 1/3 of the greatest diagonal distance. With a diagonal distance of over 100 feet, the 12-foot separation is clearly inadequate.

Furthermore, Table 1003.2.2.2 of the Code states that either 5 or perhaps 7 square feet needs to be assigned to each occupant of such an assembly space without fixed seats — the 15 square foot option for tables and chairs does not apply to this space — and Section 1003.2.2 requires that the number of exits be determined by the number of calculated occupants. Even assuming 7 square feet per occupant, we get 654 occupants in that space. Section 1008.2 of the Code states that for 350 to 700 occupants, three exits are required, an even more stringent requirement (for NYS only) than is stipulated in Table 1005.2.1 of the Code (which requires 3 exits for 501 - 1000 occupants). With 5 square feet per occupant, and therefore 916 occupants, 4 exits would be required.

Furthermore, common path of egress travel distances, per Section 1004.2.5, limited to 75 feet, are exceeded in this space.

In summary, three separate Code requirements are violated in this "crit room" space: there are not enough exits, the two exits provided are not separated from each other by the proper distance; and common path of egress travel distances are exceeded.

Instead of fixing this egregious Code violation by providing additional exits, the architects for Milstein Hall, Cornell officials and staff architects, and City of Ithaca Code officials have attempted to justify this dangerous and noncompliant room in the most outlandish manner. First, the Dec. 2008 "issued-for-construction" permit drawings claimed that the space qualified as an accessory assembly space under Section 303.1 of the 2002 Code, completely misreading the requirements of that section in order to claim that the space had only 49 occupants because it was accessory to a Group B space, so that only 1 exit was needed. Second, when I talked to Cornell's project manager in 2011, he claimed that the stair in the crit room counted as a second exit because the room actually extended down the corridor, which increased its distance from the primary exit, thereby making it compliant. Third, after I pointed out that this explanation was entirely spurious, the City of Ithaca Deputy Building Commissioner told me on March 7, 2012 that only one exit was needed in the Crit room because common path of egress travel distances were met in the space and, because of that, other provisions in the Code requiring multiple exits were no longer applicable. This latter email was sent to me after I had forwarded to the Deputy Commissioner a notice from the Dean of the College of Architecture advertising an event that was being planned for this very crit room space in which "well over 350" people were expected. Neither the Dean, Cornell's staff and consulting architects for the Milstein Hall project, nor the Deputy Building Commissioner of the City of Ithaca found anything wrong in continuing to occupy an assembly space holding hundreds of people with only a single compliant exit.

The crit room space has subsequently been re-designed in a way that makes it even worse: permanent, moveable 8-foot-high walls have been added to the space — these can be configured in ways which create smaller, noncompliant, rooms which themselves have inadequate exits.

The only remedy for this space is to either increase the number of compliant exits, or to physically reduce the size of the space so that its floor area is consistent with the number of exits provided. The Building Code does not allow insufficient exits simply by posting an occupancy sign showing some smaller number of occupants than the number determined under Section 1003.2.2. While such a strategy seems to be used in existing buildings, it is explicitly prohibited in new construction.

Niechwiadowicz: Exits are compliant; originally designed as a B occupancy with 100 square feet per person to display art work and critique the work; the design "evolved." Now considered assembly occupancy with exit at end of corridor; common path of egress travel less than 75 feet.

Wilhelm: Referred to KHA Architects response in handout in which the space is considered assembly with unconcentrated occupancy. Use of space has evolved over time. At present, it is used as a B occupancy for the critique of work.

Niechwiadowicz: Corrected Wilhelm; said it is not a "B" occupancy but is an assembly occupancy.

Ochshorn: To consider the corridor as part of the room is absurd, and has been discredited already by a technical Code Expert from the ICC whom I consulted on this question. If it is accepted that a room requiring two remote exits can have only one exit as long as a fictitious second exit is placed far enough down the corridor, than every room requiring such remote exits could use this bogus strategy.

Cornell's Handout: Ochshorn No. 1: Exits from Milstein Hall "Crit Room" (with Architect of Record [KHA] comments italicized):

Cornell Summary Response: "The 'Crit Room' is designed as assembly occupancy with a total population of 350 people. The 350 people require two exits from the space. Two exits are provided at a distance of 73' feet [sic] apart which is greater than 1/3 the room distance of 136' required by code. The current design complies."

plan of Milstein Hall crit space exits

"Architect's diagram" from Cornell handout, p.1.

Explanation: Occupancy is B: Educational occupancies above the 12th grade, but is also used for A-3: Un-concentrated Assembly without fixed seats. The net area is calculated at between 3400 and 4000 sf depending on the layout (227 to 267 occupants). The higher total is 350. Overall exit access distance is less than 250' for both exit paths. Common path of travel with the movable wall stored is less than 75 feet. The moveable wall is only deployable by Building Facilities staff using tools and approved configurations.

The Crit space is used as a B occupancy when the movable wall is authorized to be deployed for use during critiques of student work. At these times 49 or fewer persons occupy the space.

Floor plans of Sibley Milstein Rand are included as Attachment 1. Three photos and Layouts A, B, and C for unconcentrated assembly without fixed seats are included as Attachment 1a.

EXHIBIT 1 — Inadequate exits from "crit room" assembly space: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

1. Inadequate exits from Crit room assembly space, the Board sustains the appeal for the Petitioner and, therefore, reverses the determination of the Code Enforcement Official.1

EXHIBIT 1 — Inadequate exits from "crit room" assembly space: additional commentary

I had suggested the following remedies for the violations outlined in Exhibit 1: either reduce the floor area so that the calculated occupancy does not exceed 50 persons; or add additional, remote exits from the space corresponding to the calculated occupancy. To simply post an occupancy sign with a lower limit than what would be required by the Code, leaving everything else as is, is not an acceptable remedy.

[Updated Aug. 6, 2013] Cornell, in its "explanation" transcribed above, claims that the crit room, when "used as a B occupancy," can be designed with an occupant load of 100 square feet per occupant, as is permitted for "business uses" in Table 1003.2.2.2 of the 2002 Building Code of NYS. This is how they arrive at their figure of "49 or fewer persons" and their conclusion that, in such cases, only one exit is required. This is a fundamental misreading of the Code: it confuses the occupancy class (in this case Group "B") with the actual use of the space. The 2009 IBC Code and Commentary confirms the importance of this distinction: "Table 1004.1.1 [Table 1003.2.2.2 in the 2002 Code] establishes minimum occupant densities based on the function or actual use of the space (not group classification)... While an assumed normal occupancy may be viewed as somewhat less than that determined by the use of the table factors, such a normal occupant load is not necessarily an appropriate design criterion. The greatest hazard to the occupants occurs when an unusually large crowd is present." (emphasis added)

In other words, the use of 100 square feet per occupant — a number appropriate for actual "business use" — is not appropriate for a classroom/critique space, where the density of occupants is far greater. Whether a value is chosen based on "classroom" use (20 square feet per occupant), unconcentrated assembly use (15 square feet per occupant), or some other rational value, it is clear that more than 50 people can occupy the space, and that at least two exits are needed, even when the space is configured for critiques.

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EXHIBIT 2 — Noncompliant protruding objects in egress: transcript

Ochshorn: Exhibit 2 concerns protruding objects in the egress path in Milstein Hall's upper level. In fact, most of the sloping structural elements I document in my complaint as noncompliant with the requirements of Sections 1003.2.5.1 were actually supposed to have so-called "cane-detection" barriers, at least according to the Dec. 5, 2008 permit drawings, but those barriers were not fully provided. And the protruding guard rail at the sloped seating area on that same floor also presents a hazard for people with visual disabilities, or just distracted students, and is clearly noncompliant with the requirements of Section 1003.2.5.3, which state unambiguously that "structural elements, fixtures or furnishings shall not project horizontally from either side more than 4 inches over any walking surface between the heights of 27 and 80 inches above the walking surface."

Niechwiadowicz: The protrusions start below 27 inches and so can be any amount, per ICC/ANSI. The architect hired Dominic Marinelli who went through the building and cited certain problems that were corrected; he did not consider the perimeter sloping structural elements to be in the egress path.

Wilhelm: Provided a copy of the Marinelli report.

Cornell's Handout: Ochshorn No. 2: Protruding Objects in egress Path (with Architect of Record [KHA] comments italicized):

Cornell Summary Response: "ANSI A117 states that cane detection is required at circulation paths when a protruding object above 27" extends greater than 4" horizontally into the circulation path. The current design complies. Milstein Hall was reviewed by Dominic Marinelli with Accessibility Services of the United Spinal Association. Dominic Marinelli reviewed all these locations and found them to be in compliance."

Explanation: Ochshorn's Figure 7 identifies an area that was reviewed by United Spinal Association accessibility services. In this and other locations noted, the elements adjacent to the exterior wall are not within the accessible path. The projection of the elements is parallel to the path, the edges of the wide flange steel beams are vertical.

Ochshorn's Figure 8 itself shows that this guard rail projection is compliant as it does not project more than 4 inches from the point 27" above the floor. It was similarly found to be in compliance by Dominic Marinelli.

See list of items reviewed and comments, included as Attachment 2.

EXHIBIT 2 — Noncompliant protruding objects in egress: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

2. Noncompliant protruding objects in egress path, the Board sustains the appeal for the Petitioner and, therefore, reverses the determination of the Code Enforcement Official, however, it has been testified today and submitted with information from an expert in the field of handicapped accessibility that these items are being corrected or have been corrected, and, although in favor of the Petitioner, the building will be in compliance with the Code.2

EXHIBIT 2 — Noncompliant protruding objects in egress: additional commentary

While it is possible to imagine that the sloping structural elements along the perimeter of Milstein Hall's upper studio level are on the edge of the egress path, and therefore do not count as protruding objects in that path, as is claimed by Marinelli, I still believe that this definition of the egress path presumes that a person is neither visually impaired nor momentarily distracted; otherwise, its "edge" or "boundary" cannot be so easily determined and the sloping elements may well present a hazard. The ruling that the guard at the bleacher seating is compliant makes more sense, based on the diagrams in ANSI A117.1 (See 307 Protruding Objects), as annotated and adjusted in the image below.

ANSI A117.1 protruding object annotated diagram

Annotated image by J. Ochshorn based on ANSI A117.1 "Detectable reach for a long cane user," adjusted to make scale consistent with dimensions.

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EXHIBIT 3 — Inadequate fire barrier between Milstein and E. Sibley: transcript

Ochshorn: Exhibit 3 concerns the fire barrier put in place between Milstein and Sibley Halls. According to Section 706.6, openings in such barriers are limited to 25 percent of the length of the wall; the openings in this fire barrier exceed 25% of the wall length. When I pointed this out to representatives at Cornell, they responded by providing a special sprinkler system for just enough of the openings so that the 25% limit would not be exceeded. However, the sprinkler system provided does not meet the standards of exception 3 in code Section 706.6, which permits openings tested per ASTM E 119 to be treated as walls rather than as openings. This noncompliance is clearly shown in documentation provided by the manufacturer of this sprinkler system, which I have included in this Exhibit. I have also confirmed this by speaking with a technical representative of the sprinkler company on March 9, 2012, who stated without equivocation that the installation, as I described it, would not satisfy the requirements of ASTM E 119.

Niechwiadowicz: Initially the specifications called for 1-hour-rated glazing meeting the requirements of ASTM E 119, but these were changed to E 119 45-minute ratings, so several of the panels needed a custom fix. The installed sprinklers do meet the E 119 test.

Wilhelm: Referring to Attachment 3, Proposal Request 129, the sprinklers were the most cost-effective solution; the Proposal Request states that this is an appropriate application.

Niechwiadowicz: The horizontal metal dividers are not mullions, but are muntins, which don't interfere with the water. Satisfies "legacy report" NER 516.

EXHIBIT 3 — Inadequate fire barrier between Milstein and E. Sibley: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

3. Inadequate fire barrier between Milstein and East Sibley Hall, the Board upholds the decision of the code enforcement official in light of information submitted and testimony given today that adequate code-compliant fire separation does exist, and the Board of Review will expect a submittal from the City of Ithaca on the testified approvals from the compliance testing lab.3

EXHIBIT 3 — Inadequate fire barrier between Milstein and E. Sibley: additional commentary

The so-called "legacy report" referred to in the testimony is available online (PDF accessed July 22, 2013). This report lists two separate requirements that are not met by the Sibley-Milstein installation:

  1. It reiterates the prohibition against using any horizontal mullions in the assembly: "7.3 The glazing assembly shall not have intermediate horizontal mullions." No distinction is made between mullions and muntins.
     
  2. Also prohibited are any combustible materials within 2 inches of the glazing (see "4.1 Sprinkler Orientation.") The combustible window frames and trim for the existing window are closer than 2 inches to the glazing.

The question of whether it is acceptable to sandwich one of the vertical sidewall sprinklers between the fire-rated glazing and the existing window is not explicitly covered in the sprinkler specifications. However, it may well be a questionable practice.

Additionally, the drawings supplied by Cornell as Attachment No. 3 show only one-sided sprinklers installed at the first floor and basement levels of Sibley Hall, rather than two-sided sprinklers. Evaluation Report No. NER-516, Section 3.1, referenced by Cornell in their remarks to the Hearing Board, states that: "The sprinklers shall be located on the inside of the glazing assembly located in exterior walls required to be rated for protection and on both sides of an interior non-load-bearing fire separation assembly" (emphasis added).

Even though the first floor and basement windows in Sibley are technically in "exterior walls," they are still considered to be separating two different building areas, one within Sibley Hall and the other in Milstein Hall. This is because Section 502.1 of the Building Code defines BUILDING AREA as follows: "...Areas of the building not provided with surrounding walls shall be included in the building area if such areas are included within the horizontal projection of the roof of floor above." The overhanging second floor of Milstein Hall therefore creates "building area" in all the covered spaces below.

In other words, since fire barriers are required to separate portions of the building between this covered area of Milstein Hall and the first and basement levels of Sibley Hall, then the sprinklers at those locations should correspond to the use of fire barriers at those levels. That fire barriers were installed at these locations means they are separating building areas on both sides (otherwise they would not be required); hence the sprinklers should be on both sides of the fire-rated glazing.

It is true that the Code language here provides no perfectly unambiguous choice. Single-sided sprinklers are to be used for "exterior walls," yet there are no applications for fire barriers in exterior walls, according to Section 706 of the 2002 Code (Fire Barriers). In other words, fire barriers are only used for the separation of two building areas, or fire areas, from each other, and not to provide fire-resistance ratings for exterior walls. On the other hand, double-sided sprinklers are to be used for "an interior... fire separation assembly," and the first floor and basement fire barrier walls, while they separate building areas, do not separate interior building areas. Given these two options, however, it seems clear that the better (and safer) choice is arrived at by examining the purpose of these fire-rated glazing elements: they are not intended to provide exterior wall fire-resistance, but rather to create a compliant fire barrier separating two building areas. Therefore, the double-sided application seems correct, and the single-sided application actually used appears to be noncompliant.

I spoke to Ken Dias, an Applications Specialist at Tyco, on July 23, 2013. He supported all of my objections to considering the sprinkler installation as satisfying the requirements of NER-516; i.e., he agreed that these openings do not count as 1-hour fire-resistance-rated walls per ASTM E 119. In an email to me dated July 24, 2013, he writes, with respect to item 1: "You have stated that there is a horizontal mullion projecting more than 5/8" from the glazing. It is likely that this horizontal mullion would impede the smooth continuous flow of water down the glazing and create unacceptable dry spots. Again, horizontal mullions are not allowed in accordance with the UL Specific Application Listing."

With respect to item 2, he writes: "You have stated that the wood framing from the original window is less than 2" from the new glazing. The UL Listing requires that all combustible material must be a minimum 2" from the face of glazing."

With respect to item 3, he writes: "Lastly, this installation is quite unique in nature as it encompasses a 'new' piece of glazing located off of an existing window, resulting in an 'enclosed' area between two pieces of glazing where one of the two WS sprinklers is located within. This arrangement was not considered in the UL testing nor is it addressed within the evaluation service reports. It should be understood that the intent of the WS Window Sprinkler is to realize activation in a timely enough manner to protect the associated glazing. The existence of two panes of glass on either side of the one WS sprinkler will result in the prevention of hot gasses to that sprinkler until such time that the original pane may rupture. Consideration should be given to what will happen to the rupturing pieces or sections of glass. Could large pieces somehow be propped up against the newer pane, causing an obstruction to the smooth flow of water down this pane?"

The Tyco specialist concludes his email as follows: "In conclusion, this installation does not appear to be in compliance with the UL Listing per Tyco data sheet TFP620, ESR-2397 or NER-516" (emphasis added).

I did not bring up the question of single- vs. double-sided applications, since this is a fire-barrier Code question rather than a "Tyco" question.

The Proposal Request (No. 129) included as Attachment No. 3 by Cornell, which is "stamped and signed by Architect and mechanical Engineer," does not qualify under the 2002 Code as acceptable documentation that this installation meets ASTM E 119. To meet the requirements of the Code, it is necessary that the "opening protective assembly has been tested in accordance with ASTM E 119 and has a minimum fire-resistance rating not less than the fire-resistance rating of the wall." (Section 706.6, Exception 3). Cornell, in its handout to the Hearing Board, states: "The fire-rated windows are installed by the manufacturer and comply with the testing and their installation requirements." Reading this, one would get the impression that the installed windows are compliant with the requirements of the 2002 Code. Of course, as was admitted in the same handout: "The Architect's Office made an error in submittal review and changed the rating of the fire-rated window assembly from 1 hour to 3/4 hour." Therefore, the claim that the windows "comply with the testing and their installation requirements" is only true for a 3/4 hour fire-resistance rating, and not for the required 1 hour rating. That is, the statement is both irrelevant to the issue being contested as well as being misleading, since it implies that the windows are compliant when they are actually noncompliant. When one combines this with unsubstantiated claims that the horizontal mullions used are somehow acceptable because they are "muntins" rather than "mullions," and the unsubstantiated claim that a mechanical engineer or architect has the power — without any testing — to certify compliance with ASTM E 119, one can only be puzzled at the determination by the Hearing Board that these assemblies comply with the 2002 Code.

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EXHIBIT 4 — Improper mezzanine designation: transcript

Ochshorn: Exhibit 4 concerns the improper designation of the ground floor lobby and bridge in Milstein Hall as a mezzanine within the crit room space. A mezzanine must meet two requirements, according to Section 505.2 of the Code.

First and fundamentally, a mezzanine cannot exceed 1/3 the floor area of the space it is in. However, the area of the mezzanine space in Milstein Hall greatly exceeds 1/3 of the maximum allowable crit room area. Assuming that the crit room had two legal exits, which it doesn't, the mezzanine's allowable area, per my discussion about Exhibit 1, would be computed as follows: first, multiply the 349-person 2-exit capacity of the crit room by 5 square feet per "standing" occupant. Then divide his allowable area by three to get the maximum allowable mezzanine area, which turns out to be 582 square feet. The actual lobby-bridge area is 1058 square feet, which exceeds the allowable area. In other words, this mezzanine is noncompliant even if the crit room were reconfigured with two exits. With one actual legal exit in the crit room space, it's not even close.

Second, a mezzanine must be in a room or space: the lobby of Milstein Hall is not within any other space; in fact, if you stand in the lobby, you are actually standing above the reinforced concrete ceiling of the crit room (see section on p. 25) — and a mezzanine must be between the floor and ceiling of the space it is in, not above the ceiling of that space.* Documents in the Building Department file from April 2007 show that the architects for Milstein Hall were designing the building as if a large non-continuous area on the below-grade floor level could be considered as the space or room in which the so-called mezzanines were located, even though some of the designated mezzanine spaces had no relationship at all to some of the spaces they were supposed to be in.

It should be emphasized that the crit room egress issue and the mezzanine issue are completely interconnected since the maximum allowable mezzanine area is determined by the crit room area, while the maximum allowable crit room area is determined by the number of exits provided. Both problems must be solved in an integrated manner (see sketch in my personal file).

If these problems are not solved, then the lobby of Milstein Hall cannot be considered as a mezzanine, and the building would be noncompliant, having three interconnected stories with neither required shaft enclosures nor atrium design features.

* Definition from Section 502.1 of the 2002 Code: MEZZANINE. An intermediate level or levels between the floor and ceiling of any story with an aggregate floor area of not more than one-third of the area of the room or space in which the level or levels are located.

Niechwiadowicz: The bridge and lobby are continuous. Yes, a portion of the lobby is on the ceiling of the crit room space. It does not matter whether the crit room space is compliant with required exits; the mezzanine only needs to conform to the space that is actually there currently.

Wilhelm: Provided photographs taken of mezzanine space.

EXHIBIT 4 — Improper mezzanine designation: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

4. Improper mezzanine designation, the Board upholds the decision of the code enforcement official.4

EXHIBIT 4 — Improper mezzanine designation: additional commentary

Whether the mezzanine lobby can be construed to be "in" the crit room space is admittedly ambiguous. However, the idea that a mezzanine within a noncompliant space is still compliant if it is no more than one third the area of the space it is in — even when the space it is in is illegally configured and too big based on the exits provided — is more than a bit puzzling. What is also puzzling is the claim by KHA Architects in a letter dated 15 July 2013 to Gary Wilhelm and submitted as Attachment No. 4 that the "Milstein Hall Floor 1 Lobby, bridge are considered a mezzanine to Floor B1 as the mezzanine is less than 1/3 the square feet of B1. The current design complies." In other words, KHA Architects, in defending the area allowance of the mezzanine, places it, not in a room or space as is required by the Code, but within the entire lower level of Milstein Hall ("Floor B1").

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EXHIBIT 5 — Milstein-Sibley-Rand Halls exceed Table 503 floor area limits, based on Appendix K

Ochshorn: Exhibit 5 challenges the idea that Appendix K in the 2002 Code allows Milstein Hall to use fire barriers as a substitute for fire walls, so that it counts as a separate building with its own construction type. I assume that Milstein Hall is being considered as a separate building since the building permit filed on May 18, 2007 classifies it as "new building" rather than as an addition. Since only a fire wall can create separate buildings where an addition is physically connected to existing construction, this assumption — that Milstein Hall is being considered as a separate building — is the only plausible assumption that I can make. I believe that this assumption has no basis in the Building Code and that therefore Milstein Hall exceeds the allowable floor area permitted for a single building. The calculations for allowable area, based on Table 503 of the 2002 Building Code, can be found on page 28 of my appeal: in summary, the allowable total per-floor area based on Type V-B construction and group B occupancy is, at most, 33,750 square feet, while the actual total area is approximately 41,600 square feet.

Although there is absolutely no Code analysis anywhere in the drawings or specifications for Milstein Hall that explains how an addition can be considered as a separate building without being separated by a fire wall, I have been told by City of Ithaca Code officials that such an assumption is justified based on Appendix K of the 2002 Building Code.

Specifically, Section K902.2 of the 2002 Code states: "No addition shall increase the area of an existing building beyond that permitted under the applicable provisions of Chapter 5 of the Building Code for new buildings, unless a fire barrier in accordance with Section 706 of the Building Code is provided."

However, if you examine the Code language, you will notice that this section of Appendix K says nothing about using a fire barrier to take the place of a fire wall. Nor does it say anything about using a fire barrier to create a separate building. It simply says that the total floor area of existing buildings and their additions must conform to Chapter 5 area limits unless fire barriers are provided. Fire barriers create fire areas, but do not create separate buildings with their own construction type. Only fire walls do that.

Even so, fire barriers do allow potentially greater building area than would otherwise be the case — this occurs when one adds together the allowable area of separated uses according to the formula outlined in the Building Code.

Now, if it were impossible for an addition to increase the area of an existing building beyond that permitted under the applicable provisions of Chapter 5 by using fire barriers, one might have reason to assume that something else was intended by this Code section in Appendix K. For example, if Code provisions that allow fire barriers to create fire areas with separated uses were contained in Chapter 5, as they are in the 2007 and 2010 Building Codes, then one could reasonably assume that Appendix K was written in error, or that something else was intended, since the additional floor area allowed in Appendix K cannot be based on allowances in Chapter 5. However, the section on separated uses and fire barriers — currently found in Chapter 5 — was actually placed within Chapter 3 of the 2002 Building Code. Therefore, the use of fire barriers according to Appendix K, and according to the instructions for separated uses in Chapter 3, is perfectly consistent.

In other words, one can increase the area of a building with a fire barrier by referring to the provisions of Section 706 that are referenced in Section K902.2 — and there is absolutely no need to invoke some imaginary fire wall substitution. Section 706.3.5 states that a "fire barrier separating mixed occupancies or a single occupancy into different fire areas shall have a fire-resistance rating of not less than that indicated in Section 302.3.3 based on the occupancies being separated. Section 302.3.3 describes how fire barriers can be used to create separate fire areas, and describes how the fire areas thus created can exceed the area limits in Chapter 5 of the Code. It states: "In each story, the building area shall be such that the sum of the ratios of the floor area of each use divided by the allowable area for each use shall not exceed 1." By using fire barriers according to Section 302.3.3, it is possible to increase the area of an existing building with an addition beyond that permitted under the applicable provisions of Chapter 5, just as promised in Appendix K.

Unfortunately, using this provision in Appendix K still does not make Milstein Hall compliant — its combined floor area, even separated into distinct fire areas with fire barriers, is still too great. In any case, the desire to make Milstein Hall compliant cannot be, in itself, a reason to make assumptions about the Building Code that have no basis in the actual wording of the Code, and — furthermore — have no precedents in any other known Code ever written, including the model Codes that were used as a basis for Appendix K in the first place.

The architects for Milstein Hall and Ithaca code officials have attempted to combine Milstein Hall with Sibley Hall — which has a V-B construction type — by claiming that Milstein Hall is a separate building. But fire areas do not create separate buildings, and the construction type for all such fire areas is determined by the weakest link in the connected buildings, which is Sibley Hall's V-B rating. Only fire walls create separate buildings with their own construction types, and Appendix K says nothing about using fire barriers to substitute for fire walls.

It is true that there are special instances in the Code where separate construction types are permitted without fire walls. The architects for Milstein Hall make reference to the special provisions for parking garages found in Chapter 5 of the Building Code, in order to demonstrate that it is possible for a fire barrier to create two separate buildings. While it is true that 3-hour fire-resistance-rated horizontal assemblies (which, by the way, are not fire barriers) can be used for this purpose, the Code makes it absolutely clear that these are "special conditions" and that portions of such a building can — to cite but one example — "be considered as a separate and distinct building for the purpose of determining area limitations..." (Section 508.2 of the 2002 BCNYS, emphasis added). In other words, when the Code describes such an exception, or special condition, that modifies the specific content of other sections of the Code, it is explicit about what the conditions are and how they are to be satisfied. In contrast to such special Code sections, Section K902.2 of Appendix K in the 2002 Code does not say anything about using a fire barrier to create a separate building, or using a fire barrier in lieu of a fire wall.

I still believe that this section of Appendix K makes no sense, as there are no precedents in any other Codes for the use of fire barriers in this context. However, it makes even less sense to assume — with no evidence — that such fire barriers should be allowed to substitute for fire walls, or be allowed to create fire areas with their own construction types. Reading this Code section literally, that is, assuming that fire barrier means fire barrier, is at least internally consistent and will result in a safe building — whereas allowing the fire areas created with such fire barriers to be considered as separate buildings is unprecedented, unsafe, and unsupported by any Code language.

Niechwiadowicz: Yes, the building permit states that Milstein Hall is a "new building." However, it was always treated as an addition. It is acceptable based on the provisions of Appendix K in the 2002 Code.

Bliss: Appendix K states that additions can exceed the limits of Chapter 5; that was intended. Under Code, the entire building is of construction type V-B.

Wilhelm: Provided Attachment No. 4 which outlines "our understanding of compliance." This attachment is a letter from Lawrence Burns of KHA Architects to Gary Wilhelm of Cornell, dated 15 July 2013. The relevant text in that letter explaining Code compliance under Appendix K is as follows: "Milstein Hall is an addition to both Rand and Sibley Halls separated by a Fire Barrier which allows the designed floor area. The current design complies."

EXHIBIT 5 — Milstein-Sibley-Rand Halls exceed Table 503 floor area limits, based on Appendix K: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

5. Milstein/Sibley/Rand Halls exceeding Table 503 floor area limits, the Board upholds the decision of the code enforcement official.5

EXHIBIT 5 — Milstein-Sibley-Rand Halls exceed Table 503 floor area limits, based on Appendix K: additional commentary

As far as I can tell, the only thing upheld by the Hearing Board in its ruling on Exhibit 5 is that a fire barrier does allow an addition to increase the area of an existing building beyond that permitted by Chapter 5 of the Code. However, both Charles Bliss, Regional Office representative of the NYS DOS Division of Code Enforcement and Administration, in his testimony, and the entire Hearing Board, in their findings, agreed with me that the entire building consisting of Sibley, Milstein, and Rand Halls counts as Type V-B construction, based on the construction type of Sibley Hall.

The question remains as to what limits should constrain the area of such an addition. Lawrence Burns of KHA Architects answers this question in his letter reproduced as Attachment No. 4: "We believe that the requirements of nonseparated uses applies [sic] to each portion of the building and do not restrict the areas of the entire building." (emphasis added). Cornell, in their handout to the Board, makes the same point. In other words, Milstein Hall's per-floor area, taken by itself, must still meet the requirements for nonseparated uses in the 2002 Building Code.

Therefore, even though the Board upheld the City of Ithaca Code Officials determination (agreeing with the City that an addition can increase the area of an existing building if separated by a fire barrier), the Board disagreed with the contention made by Cornell and the City of Ithaca that fire barriers used under Appendix K allow each fire area to be designed according to its own construction type. By insisting that the entire building be designed with construction type V-B, the Board ruling effectively establishes that Milstein Hall, all by itself, must not exceed per-floor area limits of the Code; since Milstein Hall — considered by itself without the added area of Sibley or Rand Halls — still exceeds those area limits, it is clearly noncompliant. This is because Chapter 5 of the Code sets a per-floor area limit for nonseparated B/A-3 occupancies with Type V-B construction of 6000 square feet, which can be increased to no more than 22,500 square feet when sprinklers and the maximum possible frontage allowances are factored in. Because Milstein Hall has floor area of 25,600 square feet, it exceeds this limit and is therefore noncompliant.

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EXHIBIT 6 — Improper occupancy class designation

Ochshorn: Exhibit 6 concerns improper occupancy class designations in Milstein Hall. The second floor of Milstein Hall may have been inappropriately classified as both an A-3 and B occupancy, apparently based on Section 302.4 — Spaces used for different purposes — of the 2002 Building Code of NYS. This section is meant to apply to spaces where different uses actually occur within the same space at different times, not to a situation where only a single occupancy occurs in the space, but where a hypothetical future occupancy — noncompliant under current building codes — would therefore be "grandfathered" under the old code.

Only a single Group B occupancy occurs on the upper level of Milstein Hall: this is clear from a January 28, 2009 email from KHA architects to Andrew Magre of Cornell which concludes: "Floor 2 Occupancy is Type B Business for educational occupancies above the 12th grade..."

That Ithaca Code Officials suggest that future changes in that space to a higher hazard occupancy will be permitted without having to meet the requirements of the current Existing Building Code is clear from this January 22, 2009 email from Ithaca Senior Code Inspector John Shipe to me, which states: "This space is required to be flexible in order to accommodate many programs and situations, and so they permitted it as the most restrictive occupancy so that they would not have to worry about changes in occupancy every time there [sic] needs changed for that space... Even if they were to call the second floor area a B occupancy and in the future wanted to change it to an A-3 space it would still be allowed since Milstein is being constructed with a separation of uses and fire areas from Sibley Hall by the code required fire barrier..." (see emails from John Shipe in my personal file).

The 2002 Code does not support the idea that a space can be assigned an occupancy designation that does not correspond to its actual use. In fact, both Sections 302.3.2 and 302.3.3 state clearly that "Each portion of the building shall be individually classified as to use." Furthermore, Section 302.1 states that "Where a structure is proposed for a purpose which is not specifically provided for in this code, such structure shall be classified in the group which the occupancy most nearly resembles..." It is also clear that a change in occupancy to a higher hazard, according to Section 912.5.1 of the 2010 Existing Building Code, must comply with the height and area requirements of Chapter 5 of the Building Code — that is, any nonconforming conditions, such as the use of fire barriers to effectively create a new building, do not apply and are not grandfathered. By allowing changes to equal or lesser hazard occupancies without having to meet these more stringent requirements, the Code clearly is attempting to prevent occupancy changes in existing buildings that increase the level of hazard, unless the building is upgraded according to current standards.

The reason for designating the second-floor Milstein Hall spaces as both group A-3 and group B is clear: by doing so (in apparent violation of the Code), the building owner and architects are hoping that any hypothetical future alteration involving an A-3 lecture hall or library will be considered as a change to an equal or lesser hazard category (which it really isn't) rather than a change to a higher hazard category (which it really is). Otherwise, such changes to higher hazard uses would not be possible in Milstein Hall, unless a fire wall were constructed to replace the current fire barrier.

Niechwiadowicz: The upper level of Milstein Hall contains two A-3 areas — a tiered seating area, and an area with an open, wooden floor. The most restrictive occupancy is used in determining egress requirements. Otherwise, it is a "B" occupancy.

Wilhelm: Referred to page 6 of his attachment. This section contains the following statement: "The upper plate meets the requirements for an assembly space with smoke detection and three exits, compliance with most restrictive use as required by Section 303.3.2." [should be 302.3.2 per Wilhelm testimony at the Hearing].

Bliss: Of course, any change in the occupancy of any space in Milstein Hall would need to go through Code review.

A plan provided in Cornell's handout shows a third exit into Rand Hall, one which does not appear in the construction-permit drawings for Milstein Hall; and one for which no exit signs have been provided. Therefore, this so-called third exit is clearly an ad hoc excuse for something that was never before considered. The plan in the Cornell handout is shown below.

plan of Milstein Hall upper level showing occupancies and exits

Plan provided by Cornell on page 6 of their handout shows three exits from Milstein Hall; the third exit into Rand Hall was not included in the construction documents filed with the building department, and is unmarked with any exit sign.

EXHIBIT 6 — Improper occupancy class designation: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

6. Improper occupancy classifications, the Board upholds the decision of the code enforcement official and notes that there was testimony today that there is specific requirement from the City of Ithaca Building Department for any changes in occupancy classification or use of this space.6

EXHIBIT 6 — Improper occupancy class designation: additional commentary

The 2002 NYS Code requires three exits for assembly spaces with 350 — 700 occupants; for other occupancies, three exits are required for 501 — 1000 occupants. The precise number of occupants in the upper level of Milstein Hall is hard to pin down: the "issued for construction" permit drawings dated Dec. 5, 2008 say this about level 2 areas: an "ARCH STUDIO/LIBRARY" use with 23,754 square feet factored at 100 square feet per occupant for 237.54 occupants; and something called "AAP" with 1,846 square feet factored at 100 square feet per occupant for 18.46 occupants. The total is therefore 25,600 square feet and a total occupant load of 256. In this case, no longer apparently supported by Cornell, only two exits would be needed.

An email from Lawrence Burns of KHA Architects dated Jan. 28, 2009, states that this combined A-3/B occupancy was an error, and that the entire floor 2 of Milstein Hall "is Type B Business for educational occupancies above the 12th grade calculated at 100 SF per occupant." This would indicate a total occupant load of 25,600 divided by 100, or 256 occupants.

On the other hand, a sign recently posted on the upper level of Milstein Hall, dated June 17, 2013, shows an occupancy limit of 530.

posted occupancy sign in Milstein Hall, upper level

An occupancy sign, dated June 17, 2013, has been posted on the upper level of Milstein Hall (photo by J. Ochshorn, July, 2013).

With 530 occupants, three exits are required, and Milstein Hall becomes noncompliant. This is true not only because the alleged third exit to Rand Hall has no exit sign, as would be required, but also because the exit stair in Rand Hall, to which this third exit points, is nonconforming in at least one respect: it violates provision in the 2002 Building Code for adequate guards. Section 1003.2.12.1 requires that guards "shall form a protective barrier not less than 42 inches high..." There are no 42-inch-high guards on the Rand Hall stair. That the Rand Hall stair must be upgraded if it is to count as a required exit for Milstein Hall is clear from Section K901.2 (Creation of nonconformity) in Appendix K of the 2002 Code: "An addition shall not create or extend any nonconformity in the existing building for which the addition is constructed with regard to accessibility, structural strength, fire safety, means of egress, or the capacity of mechanical, plumbing or electrical systems" (emphasis added). While the nonconforming exit stair in Rand was not "created" by Milstein Hall, it's nonconformity was certainly "extended" by the addition of Milstein Hall, since its required use as a means of egress now encompasses not only the existing occupants of Rand Hall, but also the occupants of Milstein Hall. Its nonconformity has been extended from applying only to Rand Hall egress, to the current situation where its nonconformity applies to both Rand and Milstein Hall egress.

Furthermore, if the change of occupancy from what was claimed in the Dec. 5, 2008 "permit" drawings (256 occupants with 2 exits) to what is currently being claimed (530 occupants with 3 exits) occurred after the certificate of occupancy was granted on Feb. 24, 2012, then such an occupancy change should have been filed under the 2010 Existing Building Code of New York rather than the 2002 Code under which Milstein Hall was initially considered. The occupancy sign posted in Milstein Hall showing 530 occupants has a date of June 17, 2013 — almost a year and a half after the certificate of occupancy was issued — and therefore indicates that it is possible, even probable, that this change of occupancy was done without proper Code review. Under the 2010 Existing Building Code, a change of any space with a "B" occupancy to an "A-3" occupancy would not be possible. As stated above, Lawrence Burns of KHA Architects wrote on January 28, 2009 that the occupancy of the entire upper level of Milstein Hall is "Type B Business for education" only with no A-3 occupancies on that level. He specifically excluded all A-3 occupancies from that floor: "Floor 2 of Milstein Hall is a flexible space but is not being designed to accommodate a Library as was originally planned. Drawing A1.02 egress calculations incorrectly indicate Floor 2 as Arch. Studio/Library and AAP at 100 SF per occupant which should have been changed to Arch Studio and AAP when the Library program was removed from Milstein Hall."

As a "B" occupancy, there would be approximately 256 people at 100 square foot per occupant; if we count the actual number of desks, we get — according to page 6 of Cornell's handout to the Hearing Board — "studio space for seventeen studios of sixteen students and an instructor: 17 x 17 or 289 occupants... Other spaces on the floor are a bleacher seating area facing a presentation wall and an open meeting area; these areas are assembly spaces." There is no calculation provided showing the occupancy numbers for these "assembly" spaces; nor is there any indication of when such a change in occupancy was filed with the building department (I found no record of such a change when I looked through the building department files). However, the latest 530 occupant posting seems consistent with 289 studio occupants and 241 assembly occupants: the "open meeting area" at 5 square foot standing room per occupant could accommodate approximately 200 persons, while the bleachers (fixed seating) could accommodate the balance. The issue is not whether 530 is a reasonable number; rather, the issue is whether this constitutes a change to a higher hazard occupancy than what was initially permitted under the 2002 Code.

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EXHIBIT 7 — Inadequate exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall

Ochshorn: Exhibit 7 is similar to Exhibit 1, but involves a space in Sibley Hall whose occupancy was changed after Milstein Hall was built, and after the Fine Arts Library was moved from Sibley to Rand Hall. Room 261 in Sibley Hall has a posted occupancy limit of 112 when set up with tables and chairs, or 240 people when set up with chairs only. Therefore, two exits are required, but only one exit is provided. A second so-called "secondary" exit is noncompliant, as it is not separated from the primary exit by any measurable distance.

Whether this room with only one compliant exit can be "grandfathered" is addressed by Code Interpretation 2008-01, which was written at the request of Cornell University regarding other large rooms on campus with only one exit. A court ruling that supported the Code Interpretation states that in requiring a second exit, or reduced occupancy, in such spaces, "the State is not imposing a retroactive construction mandate. It is merely interpreting the law to give Cornell a choice, to wit, either continue to use the lecture hall with an occupancy limit of fifty, or install a second exit." I believe that the same logic applies to this room.

Cornell's Handout: Ochshorn No. 7 exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall (with Architect of Record [HOLT] comments italicized):

Cornell Summary Response: "East Sibley room 261 is part of a larger space served by two remote exits to which the common path of exit does not exceed 75 feet. The design complies."

Explanation: "East Sibley room 261 is part of a larger space with two remote exits. The common path of travel complies with the code as it is less than 75 feet to the point where a choice of two exit paths is provided. There are multiple doors into Milstein which were not originally designed as exits when the space was used as a library and required a secure perimeter." The following plan was provided as part of this handout:

plan of 261 E. Sibley Hall, Cornell, showing exit separation distances

Cornell's 2nd-floor plan of E. Sibley Hall, from page 7 of their handout.

EXHIBIT 7 — Inadequate exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

7. Inadequate exits from 261 East Sibley Hall, the Board upholds the decision of the code enforcement official, and testimony today seemed to confirm that currently there is a business occupancy in this area and changes in the future will require proper review and permission from the city of Ithaca Building Department. The Board notes that the posting of the occupant load as stated today needs to be immediately reviewed for the current use and altered as required.7

EXHIBIT 7 — Inadequate exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall: additional commentary

There are a number of errors in Cornell's handout and testimony. First, it is absolutely inappropriate and dangerous to compute the remoteness of exits within a room or area by looking only at the remoteness of exits for the building as a whole. The plan provided in Cornell's handout (reproduced above) shows only the remoteness calculation for E. Sibley Hall as a whole, but not for Room 261. This is a blatant misreading of the Code: Section 1004.2.2.1 of the 2002 Code states that exits "shall be placed a distance apart equal to not less than one-half [one-third per exception] of the length of the maximum overall diagonal dimension of the building or area to be served..." (emphasis added). The "area to be served" in this case is Room 261, not the entire floor of E. Sibley Hall. The idea that this room "is part of a larger space with two remote exits," and therefore does not need to satisfy exit requirements for its own occupancy, is so completely wrong-headed and dangerous that I find it hard to believe that such statements would be put in writing by both the architect of record and the architect managing the project for Cornell.

Cornell's plan, provided in the handout, further states that "Door 1, 2, and 3 can be opened into Milstein Hall." First, this is factually inaccurate, as these doors are almost always locked (they are locked right now as I type this note). Second, having doors that "can be opened" is not a sufficient specification for a legal exit. For one thing, there are no exit signs marking these doors as exits; and there is no special hardware that guarantees that the doors remain unlocked (in fact, as I have just written, the opposite is true). Third, such exits would create new exiting conditions in Milstein Hall that were not part of the permitted set of drawings. A new building permit would be required and new exiting calculations would need to be provided before the doors leading from Room 261 to Milstein Hall can be used as exit doors from Sibley Hall.

Wilhelm's testimony describes the posted occupancies in Room 261 as a relic of the original pre-Milstein era, presumably when the space was occupied by the Fine Arts Library. Wilhelm stated that this posted occupancy was not something newly contrived, but rather a lingering remnant of the old occupancy. But a library stack area has a load factor of 100 square feet per occupant, or only 17 occupants for the entire room. This clearly has no relationship to the posted occupancy of 112 or 240 persons. In fact, the posted occupancy sign in Room 261 was not only recently created, but it was revised at least twice within the past year or so — well after Milstein Hall was completed.

occupancy sign for Room 261, E. Sibley Hall, Cornell

Posted occupancy sign for Room 261 East Sibley Hall is (incorrectly) dated Jan. 26, 2012. It clearly has no relationship to the prior occupancy of this space as part of the Fine Arts Library stack area (photo by J. Ochshorn, July 2013).

The current posted occupancy sign indicates assembly use for tables and chairs at 15 square feet per person (112 occupants) or chairs only at 7 square feet per person (240 occupants). It is dated Jan. 26, 2012, but this date is clearly incorrect, as can be seen by examining the earlier image below captured from a video recorded on May 9, 2012.

earlier occupancy sign for Room 261, E. Sibley Hall, Cornell

Posted occupancy sign for Room 261 East Sibley Hall is from May 9, 2012 (screen-captured from video shot by J. Ochshorn). It is identical to the current sign, except that the allowance for 300 occupants, when "used for standing only," has subsequently been deleted.

Since the new occupancy sign must have been edited and re-posted after May 9, 2012, it is clearly something done deliberately — well after the certificate of occupancy for Milstein Hall was issued on Feb. 24, 2012. It therefore should have triggered a code review under the Existing Building Code of NYS, since all changes of occupancy — even those within the same A-3 occupancy class — require Code review. Increasing the occupancy of a space from 100 square feet per occupant to 7 square feet per occupant, and thereby increasing the occupant load in the room from 17 to 300 (subsequently changed to 240) clearly is something that the Building Department should review, especially in a space with only a single legal exit.

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EXHIBIT 8 — Inadequate exits from 261 E. Sibley Hall

Ochshorn: Exhibit 8 involves a change on the third floor of Rand Hall to a higher hazard, A-3 library occupancy; this change was made just after Milstein Hall was built under the 2010 Existing Building Code. Because Rand Hall is connected through Milstein Hall to Sibley Hall, its construction type, according to the 2010 Building Code, is determined by the wood-frame construction in Sibley Hall; that is, it is V-B construction. Any fire barriers employed under Appendix K of the 2002 Code have no impact on this designation, as the ability of those fire barriers to create separate buildings or to permit separate construction types -- assuming it was even permissible at the time -- cannot be grandfathered when a space is converted to a higher hazard occupancy. This is clearly stated in Section 912.5.1 of the 2010 Existing Building Code: "When a change of occupancy classification is made to a higher hazard category as shown in Table 912.5, heights and areas of buildings and structures shall comply with the requirements of Chapter 5 of the 2010 Building Code of New York State for the new occupancy classification." There is a "fire barrier" exception to this Code section but it doesn't apply for two reasons: first, a fire-resistive rating of at least 2 hours -- and possibly 3 hours considering the F-1 wood shop occupancy in Rand Hall -- is required, and the existing 1-hour fire-rated door on the second floor of Rand Hall is not compliant with such a requirement. Second, this exception only applies to area limits, but not to height limits -- and an A-3 library occupancy is not permitted above the 2nd-floor of any building with a V-B construction type.

Niechwiadowicz: This is a Type V-B building with fire barriers separating Rand and Milstein Hall. The prior occupancy designation for Rand Hall studio spaces on the third floor was C.5.5 under the old NYS Code, which is a type of assembly occupancy. It is preferable to have the library in Rand rather than in Sibley Hall. It was classified as a change of use within the "A" occupancy class. It would not have been permitted if it were a change to a higher hazard occupancy.

Hoard: The space in question was used by more than 50 students in their studio space.

Cornell's Handout: Ochshorn No. 8 A-3 library occupancy of Rand Hall, third floor (with Architect of Record [HOLT] comments italicized):

Cornell Summary Response: "Library occupancy in Rand Hall does not constitute a change of occupancy for the building, only a change of occupancy for the Rand fire area. The current design complies."

Explanation: "...Each fire area is individually governed by the use and construction classification... The move of the Fine Arts Library to the third floor of Rand is a change of occupancy for the Rand fire area. However, because the use is already present in the building, it is not a change of occupancy for the building... Table 508.3.3 requires a 1-hour separation between A and B occupancies in a fully sprinklered building... The floor construction of Rand is a reinforced concrete which is accepted as an archaic 1-hour assembly..."

EXHIBIT 8 — Noncompliant A-3 library occupancy of Rand Hall, third floor: findings

WHEREFORE IT IS DETERMINED that the application for an appeal from 19 NYCRR Part 1221, Section 1004.2.2.1, 1008.2, 1004.2.5, 303.1 and Table 1003.2.2.2, 1005.2.1 and 503 Appendix K, be and is hereby PROPOSED TO BE GRANTED OR DENIED as follows:

8. The Board sustains the appeal for the petitioner and, therefore, reverses the determination of the code enforcement official for Number 8.8

EXHIBIT 8 — Noncompliant A-3 library occupancy of Rand Hall, third floor: additional commentary

I have already discussed the flaws in the so-called analysis provided by the architects of record. One new claim, however, needs to be rebutted: that the floor-ceiling assembly separating the floors of Rand Hall is "a reinforced concrete which is accepted as an archaic 1-hour assembly." In fact, the floor structure of Rand Hall consists of steel girders and beams which have no fire-resistive rating, as their bottom flanges are exposed and have no fire-proofing. Reinforced concrete slabs are supported by these steel beams, but in no way provide a 1-hour fire-rated separation, "archaic" or not.

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This summary of code violations is an excerpt from a formal "Application for Variance or Appeal" that I filed with the New York State Division of Code Enforcement and Administration (DCEA) on May 28, 2013. All required documents and exhibits along with the full appeal can be viewed/downloaded as follows:
Application (pages 1-54): screen resolution pdf 3.4 MB or print resolution pdf 15.9 MB
Addenda (pages 55-81): screen resolution pdf 1.6 MB or print resolution pdf 19.3 MB
Notice of Hearing (July 18, 2013): screen resolution pdf 209 KB or print resolution pdf 1.3 MB
Notice to Reopen Hearing (September 19, 2013): screen resolution pdf 192 KB or print resolution pdf 1.3 MB
Hearing Results: summarized on this page | Latest developments: Blog updates | Official transcript of hearing (pdf)
Background reading: my papers on Designing Building Failures and A Probabilistic Approach to Nonstructural Failure

Notes

1 The official "Decision" of the Capital region-Syracuse Board of Review can be found here: print resolution, 2.5 MB or screen resolution, 440 KB.

2 ibid.

3 ibid.

4 ibid.

5 ibid.

6 ibid.

7 ibid.

8 ibid.