BCAB #1290 - Exits from Townhouses, Article

August 19, 1992

BCAB #1290

Re: Exits from Townhouses, Article

Project Description

The project in question is a side by side townhouse development. There is an above grade area in front of each pair of townhouses onto which their front entry doors open. From this entry area a stair with about six risers leads down to the roadway serving the complex. The distance from the front door to the top of the stairs is about 2.25 meters. The entries to each pair of townhouses are adjacent to the fire separation between the units with about 1/2 meter between the doors. The front entry doors are the only ones that qualify as egress doors from the units.

Reason for Appeal

Article requires a dwelling unit to have a second and separate means of egress where egress doors from more than one dwelling unit open onto an "...exit stairway...or...balcony served by a single exit stairway."

Appellant's Position

The appellant contends that the design meets the requirements of the Code. They argue that in passing out through the front door you have exited the building in accordance with the definition of "exit" in Subsection 1.3.2. That definition reads, in part, that an exit is a "... doorway leading directly from a floor area to an open ... space protected from fire exposure from the building and having access to an open public thoroughfare." The appellant considers the area outside the front doors meets the definition of exit because it provides direct access to the roadway and is protected from fire exposure because the nearest unprotected openings are at least 3 meters away.

Building Official's Position

The building official does not consider the open area between the entry door and the stairs to be an acceptable exterior open space. The official believes the stairs must be included as part of the means of egress and to allow a single means of egress the entire route, including the stairs down to the road, must be under the exclusive control of the occupants of the dwelling served by that single means of egress. In order to ensure exclusive control of the exterior portion of the egress route the building official has requested that the open area and stairs be divided by a railing to clearly define the area belonging to each unit.

Appeal Board Decision #1290

It is the determination of the Board that the design in question is similar to a balcony serving more than one dwelling unit and served by a single exit stairway. The Board does not consider the above grade area be sufficiently protected from fire exposure and feels this area, including the stairs, must be considered as part of the means of egress from both units. In this particular case the Board feels that the intent of the Code is not met unless each dwelling unit is served by its own individual exit stair or is provided with two separate means of egress. A railing to divide the above grade area and stairs into two separate areas under the individual control of each unit .would be an acceptable method of meeting the intent of the Code.

George R. Humphrey, Chair