I'm currently working on a large, multi-family apartment building that includes several-hundred dwelling units. The building is four stories tall and each story has multiple exits. The building is divided up by several fire walls for allowable area purposes, so the exits are a combination of exit stairs and horizontal exits.
In a recent discussion, the AHJ indicated that he thought Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings complying with IBC 1030 were required for each bedroom in the building. On past projects, I have not seen this required in buildings where each story has two or more exits, so I decided to do a deep dive into the code requirements.
This project is under the 2015 IBC, but I have also included the 2018 language below, as this seems to further clarify the requirements.
In the 2015 language, the first sentence seems to indicate that for a Group R-2 occupancies, the emergency escape requirements apply when triggered by Table 1006.3.2(1) or 1006.3.2(2). As I described in a recent cheat sheet for single exits, these tables are allowances for having a single exit or access to a single exit from a story. In this case, every story has multiple exits, so the provisions of these tables do not apply. The 2018 IBC makes this even clearer.
The AHJ on this project is pointing to the second sentence from the 2015 IBC 1030.1, stating that all sleeping rooms below the fourth story require the openings. The second paragraph from the 2018 IBC has similar language.
In my opinion, the first sentence of IBC 1030.1 essentially functions as scoping language for the rest of the requirements. Since this project does not meet the conditions described in this scoping sentence, the rest of the requirements do not apply and the openings are not required.
Emergency Escape and Rescue Openings: What Do You Think?
In a Group R-2 building where each story has multiple exits, are emergency escape and rescue openings required?
Let me know your thoughts in the comment box!
One other item to keep in mind - if your project is a single-family home, you may actually be permitted under the International Residential Code (IRC), not the IBC. The IRC also has requirements for emergency escape and resuce openings, so be sure to check those out if applicable to your project.
On a related note, I was recently asked to provide input for an article on Redfin for basement remodelling projects (likely permitted under the IRC). Check out the link to the article here!
Mitigating Dead End Corridors
For years, architect clients have asked me for solutions to mitigate a dead end corridor condition. As a quick reference, dead ends are limited to 20 feet, except in Groups B, E, F, I-1, M, R-1, R-2, R-4, S and U with a full NFPA 13 sprinkler system, where the limit is increased to 50 feet (2015 IBC 1020.4).
Up until recently, my normal suggestion has been to place a cross-corridor door to break up the length of any one corridor segment to less than 50 (or 20) feet. This has been accepted in numerous jurisdictions and also validated by an ICC staff opinion that I requested on the topic. In many cases, I have seen the cross corridor door on magnetic hold opens, to release upon activation of the fire alarm system
But on a recent project, a local AHJ has taken the stance that a cross corridor door does not mitigate a dead end condition. I scheduled a meeting with the AHJ to explain how this has been done on other projects and to share the ICC interpretation, but they were reluctant to budge. After some negotiations, the AHJ allowed the door, but insisted that it not be held open and also required a large "Not an Exit" sign on the door itself.
I have drawn up a similar situation in the image below. The corridor is serving a Group A occupancy, so the dead end limit is 20 feet. The added door is shown in red.
Dead End Corridors: What Do You Think?
Do cross-corridor doors mitigate the 20 foot dead end limit? Do you think they should be permitted to be held open?
Let me know your thoughts in the comment box!
Open Vs. Enclosed Parking Garages
For architects and engineers designing parking garages, two questions commonly arise when determining whether the garage should be an open or enclosed garage. These questions are:
When Can a Parking Garage Be Considered Open?
Parking garages must meet all of the requirements of 406.5 to be considered open. In most cases, the limiting factor for an open vs. enclosed garage is meeting the opening requirements for natural ventilation.
To achieve natural ventilation, an open parking garage must (IBC 406.5):
One additional point is that these opening calculations are for the free area of the openings. If a screen or other form of cover is applied to the opening, the free area ratio of the screen must be multiplied by the area of the opening to determine the free area.
What are the differences in code requirements for an open garage vs. an enclosed garage?
Key differences in the code requirements are:
Where open garages are naturally ventilated, closed parking garages require mechanical ventilation complying with the International Mechanical Code (IMC). Mechanical ventilation alone can add hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to a project.
Open parking garages are not required to be sprinkler protected. Enclosed parking garages require sprinkler protection in accordance with NFPA 13. If the garage is not maintained above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, a dry-pipe sprinkler system is required by NFPA 13. Both open and enclosed garages typically require standpipe systems.
Enclosure of Vertical Openings
Stairs serving an enclosed parking garage are required to be enclosed with rated construction similar to any other vertical opening in a building. In an open parking garage, enclosure of vertical openings, including stairs, is not required. In both cases, the vehicle ramps connecting levels are not required to be enclosed.
Height and Area
For an open parking garage used exclusively for parking (with an exception for a small office and waiting area at grade), the number of tiers and area is permitted to comply with IBC 406.5.4, which is an increase over the allowable height and area limits in IBC Chapter 5. The numbers in IBC Table 406.5.4 can be further increased when the garage has open sides on at least ¾ of the building perimeter. Enclosed garages cannot take this approach and must comply with the limits set forth in Chapter 5.
Fire Resistance Ratings of Exterior Walls
Both open and enclosed parking garages are required to comply with the exterior wall rating requirements of IBC 602. However, per Footnote C to IBC Table 602, open parking garages with a fire separation distance of 10 feet or greater are not required to have a fire-resistance rating. Enclosed parking garages do not have this exception and would require a 1-hour exterior wall unless the fire separation distance is 30 feet or greater.
An open parking garage must meet the minimum requirements for both area of openings and perimeter of openings to allow for natural ventilation. If a parking garage does not meet these requirements, it is considered an enclosed garage and must be provided with mechanical ventilation, sprinkler protection, and it must also meet the other requirements listed above.
In starting The Building Code Blog a few months ago, one of my main motivations was to answer frequently-asked code questions in a medium that is widely-accessible. Providing clear code direction to a contractor or architect is impactful, but providing code insights to hundreds or thousands of people in the AEC community is even more impactful. In my work on the blog and elsewhere, I hope to provide that further-reaching impact.
To that end, I have partnered with Joe Meyer to launch a new initiative, CodeCalls.org.
Joe and I met last year at the NFPA conference in San Antonio, and have since discovered a shared vision for developing resources and tools that benefit a wide range of people in the AEC community. Joe is an accomplished author and blogger at MeyerFire.com, where he regular writes and develops tools for the for fire protection community. He also recently launched his own practice, where he focuses on fire suppression and fire alarm design.
What is CodeCalls.org?
We are all about positive IMPACT for the fire protection community. This website is aimed at bringing together code officials, designers & contractors in a collaborative environment where local requirements can be met.
The site will compile some common local requirements, such as type of fire department connection or level of hydraulic safety factor, in an easily accessible database.
We know that better communication can help contractors in the bidding process and help code officials get their needs met to better serve the community and their own first responders.
What's the Goal?
Phase 1 is a test case for viability.
Our goal is to gather local requirements that covers jurisdictions that combined account for 70% of an area's population.... and we want do to it in 30 days.
To start, we are only compiling data for Indiana.
Indiana has a healthy mixture of urban, suburban and rural jurisdictions, so it presents a great test case to validate the concept. If we get enough momentum for Indiana, we feel confident in pursuing the project for larger coverage.
In order for the project to provide a practical positive experience for designers and contractors, we feel that a designer or installer needs to find the information they need at least 70% of the time. Otherwise, with too sparse or scattered information we won't get the positive feedback loop that we need to keep the project viable.
If you're an engineer, designer or installer, why should you contribute?
For one - this is a way to clarify local requirements that will help in more fair and consistent bidding. Second - we'll thank you by crediting your contribution with a link from the local listing directly to your company's website. If someone is looking for a local contractor or design outfit, they can search a ZIP code and immediately have contact information to you, the person who they know is already familiar with the local requirements.
If you're a jurisdiction, why should you contribute?
Simple - get your needs met. Are you tired of providing the same plan-review comments? Tired of answering the same basic questions in phone calls and emails? This platform is an easy way to clarify the gray areas of code and simply make your requirements more clear to those who are seeking them.
If you are outside of Indiana, we hope to expand quickly. Assuming we get a strong response from jurisdictions in Indiana, we plan to rapidly move to other states!
You can contribute starting now at CodeCalls.org/contribute-data.