Are you planning the design or renovation of a theatre and applying NBC 2015 am. Qc, which came into force on January 8, 2022?

This latest edition includes the addition of article “ Handrails in Aisles with Steps,” which makes it now mandatory that aisles with steps located in assembly occupancies and in outdoor places of assembly be provided with handrails.

When the design is based on the provisions found in standard NFPA 101, “Life Safety Code,” that standard requires the presence of handrails in aisles with steps. Handrails are being included more frequently in the design of theatres in Québec since the coming into force in June 2015, of NBC 2010 am. Qc., which allowed the use of certain sections of NFPA 101 instead of the criteria provided in NBC.

As such, for years Technorm has been telling designers that it is a good design practice to integrate handrails in aisles and on ramps with steps. It is, however, the coming into effect of NBC 2015 am. Qc that now makes these handrails mandatory, whether one applies NFPA 101 or NBC 2015 am. Qc.

Prior to this, if the designer used solely the requirements of subsection 3.3.2. for assembly occupancies, the various articles dealing with the design of aisles did not mention the obligation to provide handrails when steps were present. And although this was required by NBC per article, since that article mentioned “Except as provided” and referred to subsection 3.3.2., it was therefore difficult to claim that such handrails were formally required by the regulations, even though handrails are indeed practical to facilitate traffic.

The National Building Code, like many other regulations, is often amended following unfortunate events. In this case, the requirement to provide handrails was added because of a man’s death, in 2006, after he fell during a football game, in Manitoba, in the tiers that were built per NBC 1965.

From that event, a proposition for change was submitted to the Canadian Commission of Building and Fire Codes (CCBFC). It wasn’t until the judge’s investigation published on June 17, 2011, in which the recommendation was made to add handrails, that the change was proposed and ultimately integrated in NBC 2015. This was subsequent to the CCBFC submitting change proposal 462 to public consultation, in 2013, which became article of NBC 2015. Not until 2022 did this version come into force in Québec, when it was introduced into the Québec Construction Code.

New Table concerning handrails in aisles with steps contains references to paragraphs specific to handrails located in exits []. The provisions pertaining to handrails vary according to aisle width and whether the aisle serves seats on one or both sides of that aisle. For aisles wider than 1 100 mm, the designer will have to choose between centre-line handrails or continuous handrails located on the side of the opposite aisle, with the handrails being interrupted by rows of seats.

The new requirements aim to ensure that people can reach this aid to balance, in order to reduce the risks of falling while moving, whether it is to access or leave their seat, or in an emergency.

These requirements apply to new constructions or major alteration of existing theatres. Currently, there is no indication that handrails must be added in existing unaltered theatres, since the Québec Security Code’s Building chapter contains no articles requiring compliance.

If you’re a theatre manager, to promote occupant safety, you may wish to voluntarily seek the services of an architect to help you improve safety, by applying the provisions of this new article. Should the requirements of article of NBC 2015 am. Qc be incompatible with the layout of your theatre, and yet you wish to improve public safety nevertheless, your professional can contact our Codes, Standards and Fire Safety Service, which will be able to help the professional in submitting alternative solutions to the Régie du bâtiment du Québec.

In addition to this change we’ve just described, if you desire to gain a better understanding of the other requirements pertaining to the design of stairs, ramps, handrails and guards in compliance with NBC 2015 am. Qc, please check the online description of the new training course video we’ve recorded. For in-house training, please contact

Want to know more? Contact the authors!

By :

Recommended Posts