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Spiral Staircase as a fire escape

Spiral Staircase as a fire escape

New postby mtCDCcb on Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:48 pm

I live in a 3 story condo building. All condos are ranch style. Our hoa board is proposing removing our existing standard staircase fire escape with a spiral one. Are spiral staircases allowed as fire escapes by the code? The fire escape is not the primary means of egress they are to be accessed only in emergencies. THanks.
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Re: Spiral Staircase as a fire escape

New postby mtCDCcb on Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:53 pm

I am guessing no because the fire escape does not lead directly out from the condos. They are accessed by a common hallway. The condos are also larger that 250 ft2.
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Re: Spiral Staircase as a fire escape

New postby Jerry Peck - Codeman on Fri Jun 03, 2011 8:55 pm

Let's use the International Building Code as a guideline (your area may use the IBC, or a code based on the IBC with amendments), as such, the answer to your question would be no, spiral stairs would not be permitted to serve as fire escapes.

I've included the code below and used underlining and bold for highlighting the applicable sections:
- SECTION 3404
- - - 3404.1 Where permitted. Fire escapes shall be permitted only as provided for in Sections 3404.1.1 through 3404.1.4.
- - - - 3404.1.1 New buildings. Fire escapes shall not constitute any part of the required means of egress in new buildings.
- - - - 3404.1.2 Existing fire escapes. Existing fire escapes shall be continued to be accepted as a component in the means of egress in existing buildings only.
- - - - 3404.1.3 New fire escapes. New fire escapes for existing buildings shall be permitted only where exterior stairs cannot be utilized due to lot lines limiting stair size or due to the sidewalks, alleys or roads at grade level. New fire escapes shall not incorporate ladders or access by windows.
- - - - 3404.1.4 Limitations. Fire escapes shall comply with this section and shall not constitute more than 50 percent of the required number of exits nor more than 50 percent of the required exit capacity.
- - - 3404.2 Location. Where located on the front of the building and where projecting beyond the building line, the lowest landing shall not be less than 7 feet (2134 mm) or more than 12 feet (3658 mm) above grade, and shall be equipped with a counterbalanced stairway to the street. In alleyways and thoroughfares less than 30 feet (9144 mm) wide, the clearance under the lowest landing shall not be less than 12 feet (3658 mm).
- - - 3404.3 Construction. The fire escape shall be designed to support a live load of 100 pounds per square foot (4788 Pa) and shall be constructed of steel or other approved noncombustible materials. Fire escapes constructed of wood not less than nominal 2 inches (51 mm) thick are permitted on buildings of Type 5 construction. Walkways and railings located over or supported by combustible roofs in buildings of Type 3 and 4 construction are permitted to be of wood not less than nominal 2 inches (51 mm) thick.
- - - 3404.4 Dimensions. Stairs shall be at least 22 inches (559 mm) wide with risers not more than, and treads not less than, 8 inches (203 mm) and landings at the foot of stairs not less than 40 inches (1016 mm) wide by 36 inches (914 mm) long, located not more than 8 inches (203 mm) below the door.
- - - 3404.5 Opening protectives. Doors and windows along the fire escape shall be protected with 3/4-hour opening protectives.

I am presuming that your reference to existing standard fire escape stairs means that you do not have an exterior stair as such, but that you have the standard type of fire escape stairs which is mounted to the building and the bottom section pulls or swings down. 3404.1.2 will allow those to remain.

If those are removed, then you would need to check 3404.1.3 to see if exterior stairs would *can be* utilized. That does not allow for an out because 'it would be difficult to do' or because 'it would cost too much', the code is concerned with life safety and if 'it can' be done, then it shall be done (regular exterior stairs).

Neither of the above would allow switching to a spiral staircase. Also, if a spiral staircase would fit, then an exterior staircase would fit and you would not be allowed to use the standard fire escape stairs.

If the existing standard fire escape stairs is counterbalances and has the required headroom, you would not be able to use the spiral staircase anyway as the spiral staircase would also be required to provide that required headroom.

The more I go over what information you gave me, what I think you might have, and what is allowed by the code (and more importantly what is not allowed by the code), I just keep coming up with more reasons why the spiral staircase would not, should not, be allowed.
Jerry Peck - CodeMan
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