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.
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.
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?
In almost every building, owners or tenants have a need for some level of security or access control. The IBC covers a wide range of door locking and control techniques, but the shear number of sections and underlying requirements can be tough to digest. Many folks have trouble knowing which code sections apply, and even if the correct section is identified, it can be a challenge to understand the requirements.
In this post, I take a number of these door locking requirements and translate them into (hopefully) more clear and concise language. I also provide some general commentary on my experience in using each type of door/locking arrangement. References are provided to the last 3 editions of the IBC.
Click one of the door/lock types in table below to jump to that section.
In the A/E design community, the term "open stair" is frequently used to describe a stair that is not enclosed with walls, partitions or barriers. While "open stair" is not a term used in the International Building Code, it generally aligns with a stairway (which is a defined term in the IBC) not used for egress purposes or an exit access stairway (also a defined term). The terms "communicating stair" and "convenience stair" are also used in the same line of discussion, though depending on the situation, these could be referring to communicating spaces or convenience openings, both types of vertical openings defined in NFPA 101.
In this post, we'll review the IBC requirements for open stairs and describe several code paths that can be used to provide open stairs in your design. I will use the term "open stair" throughout the post, but remember, since this is not a defined term, any formal documentation on drawings, plans etc. should use the proper nomenclature identified in this overview. This post will be limited to stairs within a building and will not address exterior stairways.
It's been a full summer here on my end, at least in one sense. While the pandemic has forced vacation cancellations and generally fewer social gatherings, work has been full steam ahead for the past few months. I've also been working on a weekly basis to help PE Roadmap clients as they study for the Fire Protection PE exam this fall. As we get towards the last remaining months before the October exam, I am looking forward to some more regular posts on the blog, which I anticipate to be a mixture of life safety tools, cheat sheets and code questions.
On another front, I've also had some recent conversations with Joe Meyer over at MeyerFire regarding our Code Calls initiative. While we are still soliciting feedback from Indiana AHJs regarding their local requirements, we are also looking for some ways to further jump start our progress. One of these is putting together a database that provides a link to State/City/County/Municipality local amendments, as well as the link to that jurisdiction's website where you can find contact information. Similar to the main Code Calls database, we are starting in Indiana and hoping to branch out from there. More on that in the coming months.
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.
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).
With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting billions around the world, many cities are seeing an unprecedented change in the concentration of people.
In many urban areas, once crowded streets and public gathering spaces are now deserted. Major cities around the US have closed non-essential businesses, rendering office and conferences rooms vacant for the time being. Congested highways where cars formerly crawled along during rush hour are now empty.