All Ideas

2 Exits Now Required over 1250 Sq. Ft.

2021 0916 Ideas Post
Aug 13, 2021
Ed Feibel

There have been a series of updates to the Chicago Building Code since it was adopted in 2019. Updates and changes to the building code are a feature of a modern building code, as it will grow and adapt to changing conditions or new developments in building technology and incorporate them into the code language. This will allow for there to be less of a lag than there was previously in the building code, permitting more new construction with less administrative work for special approvals on projects to utilize modern techniques and materials.

A trade-off was made in one update to the code, allowing for a greater common path of travel within a fully sprinklered residential unit, increasing the distance from 75'-0" to 115’-0”, however, it reduced the maximum number of occupants within a unit with a single exit to 10 from a previous 20. This results in a maximum unit size of 1250 sq. ft, based on the calculated occupant load of 1 person for each 125 sq. ft. of space within the unit.

The longer common path of egress allows for units to have a more remote unit, with rooms being permitted to be farther from the entry door, however, due to the reduction in the maximum number of occupants, the maximum permitted size of the unit is reduced when it is provided with a single exit.

All units larger than 1250 sq. ft. are now required to be provided with 2 means of egress from the unit itself, in addition to the two means of egress typically required from each floor. Per the Code, the exits from the unit must be remote based on the diagonal distance of each unit. (½ or ⅓ if the building is sprinklered or non-sprinklered per 1007.1.1) Note that the exits can be directly into the stairs, as long as the doors do not obstruct the path of egress.

Our experience with the requirement for the remoteness of the exits has been that the Department of Buildings is open to some flexibility on this, as they understand that it may not be possible to achieve the level of separation required by code as the size of the building cores can be small. All approvals on variations to the requirements on exiting will be on a project-by-project basis and tailored to the individual needs of projects and their designs. If there is an issue with providing two remote means of egress from the units, MAPS can help with scheduling a review with DOB on this issue.

Additionally, the egress path to the exit doors is not generally permitted to be through sleeping rooms, toilet rooms, bathrooms, storage rooms, closets, or spaces used for similar purposes. Note that egress routes are specifically permitted to pass through the laundry or kitchen areas of the unit per CBC 1016.2.

MAPS has prepared a brief presentation to highlight this issue, as well as other changes that have been made to the building code that could impact your project. Please feel free to reach out to to schedule this for your office or if you have any questions regarding these changes.