Key Takeway: Stair pressurization is a method for providing a smokeproof enclosure. When used, it is considered a smoke control system and must be accompanied by a rational analysis.
If you have ever worked on the design of a high-rise building, you almost certainly have come across a stairway pressurization system. Fans located on the roof, a shaft next to the stair, extra ductwork – all are common in high-rise design. But even though nearly all high-rise buildings have these systems, there are many wide-spread misconceptions and misunderstanding about stair pressurization.
For example, did you know that stairway pressurization is not actually required by the IBC?
Or did you know that there is a detailed analysis that must be conducted as part of the stair pressurization design process?
In this article, we will dispel some of these common misconceptions and misunderstandings about stair pressurization systems.
Key Takeaway: An FPEDE report is a detailed analysis of fire protection and life safety requirements. It is required for certain projects in Prince George's County and Rockville, MD.
If you are working on a project in Prince George's County, MD or in Rockville, MD, you may have had a last minute scare on a project, where you learned that a Fire Protection Engineering Design Evaluation Report (FPEDE) was required.
In this article, we'll discuss what and FPEDE is, when it is required, and how you can obtain one for your project.
If you already know you need an FPEDE for your project, our friends at Campbell Code Consulting can help you. Click here to contact them directly.
Update: Now includes cheatcheets for the 2021 and 2024 IBC
After way too many hours of work, I'm excited to share this huge fire and smoke damper cheatsheet that goes through EVERY instance where the 2018 IBC requires a fire and smoke damper due to a wall/floor/ceiling penetration.
Key Takeaway: Winder stairs are generally limited to dwelling units or very small spaces, unless the stair can meet the more restrictive requirements for curved stairways.
Winder stairs, or specifically, winder treads, are a unique architectural feature that an architect or engineer can use when designing a stairway. The International Building Code (IBC) has several limitations on the use of winder treads through, restricting the situations where they can be used. In this post, we are going to explore the code requirements for winder treads to determine how they need to be designed and where they can be used. All references are to the 2021 IBC. If you are working on a one or two family dwelling, a separate set of requirements from the International Residential Code (IRC) likely applies.
**Updated 2/9/2023 with IBC 2021 Code References and new images!
About twice a year, I receive a question from an architect regarding safety glazing. Where is it required? Can I provide a different type of glass? Is this manufacturer/model acceptable? Without fail, I always end up revisiting the International Building Code (IBC) to review the requirements before answering the question. So in an effort to save me (and hopefully you) time in the future, I have compiled a quick reference guide for safety glazing. All references are to the 2021 IBC.
Key Takeaway: The IRC and IBC both provide a variety of requirements for stairways and staircases, including minimum width, minimum and maximum riser/tread dimensions, minimum headroom height and maximum total rise.
A stairway is a key part of the means of egress for any multi-story building or structure. Also known as a stair or staircase, stairways provide a path for occupants to traverse from one level to another within a building or space. In this post, we’ll review some of the key requirements for stairways from both the International Residential Code (IRC) and the The International Building Code (IBC). All references are to the 2021 editions of these codes.
Key Takeaway: Egress windows are required in all sleeping rooms for projects falling under the IRC and in many sleeping rooms for projects falling under the IBC. When required, the openings must meet specific egress window sizing requirements, and when provided below grade, must open into an area well.
If you are working on a residential design or construction project, an important design consideration is the requirement for egress windows. While most people in the design community understand what you are referring to with this term, “egress windows” is not actually defined in the code. The International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) both refer instead to Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings (EEROs).
In this article, we’ll refer to egress windows and EEROs interchangeably, but remember that the code only defines EEROs. A window can be used to meet the EERO requirements, but doors and other openings are also an option. All references are to the 2021 IBC and IRC.
**Updated 11/11/2022 with final ICC results and an updated cheatsheet.
This week, the ICC Committee Action Hearings (CAH) kicked off, where proposed code changes for the 2024 ICC Codes are heard by the various ICC committees. In yestereday's session, the IBC General committee heard several proposed changes related to occupied roofs and the classification of high-rise buildings. In recent code cycles, there have been several key changes to occupied roof requirements, but none of these have addressed whether an occupied roof over 75' would trigger classification of a high-rise building.
As a quick reminder, the 2021 IBC currently defines a high-rise building as "A building with an occupied floor located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access."
In projects of Type II, III, IV or V construction, architects are often forced to balance the allowable area limits of lesser construction types and the added cost of higher construction types. A fire wall is an ideal solution, as it allows for the cost savings of a lower construction type while allowing the structure on either side of the fire wall to be considered independently from an allowable area standpoint.
On several recent projects, I have seen plan reviewers treat any door opening in the fire wall as a horizontal exit, even if that was not the design team’s intention. The reviewers then issued review comments regarding compliance with the horizontal exit code requirements. This has led me to the question: is an opening in a fire wall automatically a horizontal exit?
I work on a variety of multi-family housing projects, including residential apartment buildings and senior living facilities, where each dwelling unit has its own washer and dryer. In the past, I have always seen the dryer exhaust duct routed through a wall and then into the cavity of a floor-ceiling assembly, but on a recent project, the local AHJ questioned the validity of this approach.
Code Requirements for Dryer Vent Installation
This post is a summary of the code requirements and my suggestions for the most straight-forward way to handle the situation. All code references are the 2021 ICC Codes.