CODE & STANDARD REFERENCES
What Codes & Standards affect Means of Egress?
In this series, we’ve covered what Means of Egress is, what its purpose is, different parts of the system, and who’s responsible for evaluating its parts.
In this segment, we’re going to introduce which codes & standards are the drivers behind means of egress requirements.
ADOPTED BUILDING CODES
Well, it depends upon the adopted building code.
The IBC is the most widely adopted in the US, but certainly not worldwide. In Canada, the National Building Code is widely adopted with province-level adoption. In Europe, there are a number of different adopted codes.
We have a video on this topic, see the link below.
Most building codes directly adopt requirements related to means of egress. Today, we’re going to cover a few popular building codes in North America and where egress shows up within those codes.
Let’s start with the US, and the most common model building code used today. That’s the IBC.
IBC: NEW CONSTRUCTION
Chapter 10 of the IBC defines the requirements for means of egress for new construction.
Most notably, sections 1003 through 1015 apply to all portions of the means of egress, meaning the exit access, the exit, and the exit discharge.
After establishing some general requirements, Section 1003 describes how to determine occupant loads for buildings.
Sections 1004, 1005 and 1006 describe how to determine the required number, capacity and arrangement of exit access doors and exits. Notably, 1006 includes the requirements for common path of travel.
Section 1008 describes how means of egress must be illuminated.
Section 1009 provides accessibility requirements for occupants who are unable to use stairs in an emergency, assistance in exiting due to accessibility or mobility restrictions.
The remaining chapters describe the requirements for various components for means of egress. Some notable sections to highlight:
1010 establishes door swing, door size, and permitted door locking arrangements.
1011 establishes stair requirements such as tread rise and run, headroom, and features such as handrails and guards.
1017 establishes the maximum travel distance to an exit.
1020 establishes minimum corridor widths and allowable dead ends.
1023 identifies requirements for interior exit stair construction.
There are many more sections within Chapter 10 but these are some to highlight as they will be revisited in greater detail in later videos.
For building renovations, the code requirements vary depending on jurisdiction.
In jurisdictions that adopt the International Existing Building Code (IEBC), there are three design approaches.
The most popular is the “work area” method. We go into this in a lot more detail in a separate video on “what codes apply to existing buildings being renovated?”, see the link below for that.
In this method, the means of egress requirements are scaled in line with the level of alteration occurring.
For minor changes, the requirement to analyze and modify means of egress for compliance is minimal. More substantial changes require a greater level of compliance.
At the maximum, for building additions or changes of occupancy to a higher classification, the means of egress system will need to meet code requirements for new construction in accordance with the IBC.
IFC: A LIVING CODE
The IFC generally aligns with the IBC. One key distinction however is that it is a so-called living document.
The IBC and IEBC are required when a new building or building renovation occurs.
However, the IFC is always applicable.
There are minimum requirements for means of egress within existing buildings, meaning these must be complied for any occupied building, regardless of whether building modifications are being made.
Section 1031 establishes the requirements that building owners and occupants must maintain the existing means of egress as reliable, meaning they cannot be locked, blocked or otherwise rendered unusable by occupants.
Section 1104 establishes means of egress requirements for existing buildings constructed prior to the adoption of the IFC. Meaning, these are retroactive requirements. These requirements generally align with Chapter 10 of the IBC, although they are not as extensive.
The key difference is that IBC only applies to new construction and IEBC applies to renovations, whereas the IFC applies to all buildings, even existing buildings which are not undergoing any alterations.
Second, let’s take a look at NFPA standards.
NFPA 101 is used where adopted.
NFPA 101 has general means of egress requirements in Chapter 7. This is a bit like Chapter 10 of the IBC. However, where the organization of these codes changes dramatically, is that NFPA 101 has individual occupancy chapters.
Chapters 11 through 42 contain means of egress requirements which are specific to the occupancies present in the building. These specific means of egress requirements are a supplement or modification to the general egress requirements established in Chapter 7. These are in the “.2 Section” of the occupancy chapter.
For example, Chapter 38 is for New Business Occupancies and 38.2 is where the means of egress requirements for New Business Occupancies are located.
NFPA 101 have chapters specific to new construction and existing buildings, and they alternate through Chapters 11 through 42. Chapter 38 that we just mentioned is for New Business Occupancies, while the following chapter, Chapter 39, is for Existing Business Occupancies.
Like the IEBC for building renovations, NFPA 101 scales the requirements for compliance based on the level of alteration. The greater the alteration, the greater the level of compliance with the new construction requirements. This is established in Chapter 43 titled Building Rehabilitation.
So, like the IFC, NFPA 101 has requirements for existing buildings, even those not undergoing renovations.
As established in Section 1.3.1, NFPA 101 applies to both new and existing buildings. In this sense, the Existing occupancy chapters are retroactive and are required for compliance, even in buildings not undergoing renovations.
Also similar to the IFC, NFPA 101 requires that means of egress features be maintained and be available at all times for building occupants. This is described in both 4.5.8 and 4.6.12.
APPLICATION OF NFPA 101
Within the United States, many hospitals and healthcare systems are designed in accordance with the standards for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which requires compliance with NFPA 101, 2012 Edition. One prominent accrediting body for CMS is the Joint Commission (JCO). Whether it is due to CMS/JCO or healthcare licensing requirements adopted by a healthcare services authority at the state level, many hospitals and healthcare facilities require compliance with NFPA 101.
NFPA 101 is also typically required in facilities owned and/or operated by the US Federal Government, such as projects within the purview of General Services Administration, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and other government administrating bodies.
Some states also mandate NFPA 101 compliance for other facilities, such as schools and universities. Many local jurisdictions also adopt NFPA 101 for all buildings within their jurisdiction. There are many cases in the US where both IBC and NFPA 101 compliance are required.
NATIONAL BUILDING CODE OF CANADA
Last, let’s hone in on Canada.
The National Building Code of Canada (link, see page 107) is the model building code that in whole or in part is used as a basis for each individual province or territory building code. The latest edition of the NBCC is the 2020 edition. Section 3.4 of Division B, Part 3 details the prescriptive requirements for exit facilities. Like IBC Chapter 10, this includes several subsections which address all portions of means of egress. These include:
3.4.1 General Requirements
3.4.2 Number and Location of Exits from Floor Areas
3.4.3 Width and Height of Exits
3.4.4 Fire Separation of Exits
3.4.5 Exit Signs
3.4.6 Types of Exit Facilities
3.4.7 Fire Escapes
So, what Codes & Standards affect Means of Egress?
This answer varies by locality. In the United States, typically IBC applies, sometimes NFPA 101 as well, especially in certain facility types like healthcare or government. In Canada, the whole or part of the National Building Code. In other countries, this will depend on the adopted codes, which is generally outside the scope of this series.
In our next segment, we’re going to cover popular myths surrounding building codes.
I’m Steven Barrett, this is MeyerFire University.
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