The code requirements for an enclosed exterior space depend on whether the space is occupiable or not.  A roof that is only used for mechanical equipment and occasionally accessed by a maintenance technician is treated differently from a roof terrace used for recreation or assembly.

Prior to the 2021 edition of the International Building Code (IBC), a courtyard, terrace, or roof that could be occupied by more than the occasional technician was typically subject to the same egress requirements as if it was an interior room.  However, the 2021 IBC includes a new section that addresses the allowable means of securing the egress doors serving these exterior spaces.

There is another code-compliant option for enclosed exterior spaces (like courtyards or fenced areas) that are very large.  In some cases it’s possible that building occupants could exit the building during an emergency and remain within the enclosure until help arrives.  The space would have to meet the requirements for safe dispersal area, with enough space for the building occupants at a safe distance from the building.  When an area within a fence or enclosed court meets these requirements, it affects the egress requirements for the space.

There are three Decoded articles which will help you understand the code requirements that pertain to these exterior spaces:

After reading the Decoded articles, proceed to the review questions below.


Review Questions

1. For a roof that contains only mechanical equipment, which of the following would be compliant with the model codes?

  1. Door locked on the stair side – free egress from the roof to the stairwell
  2. Door locked on both sides – free egress not provided in either direction
  3. Fail safe electrified lock which unlocks upon fire alarm to allow egress from roof
  4. All of the above are compliant with the model codes.

2. Which of the of the following safety measures are required by the 2021 IBC for egress doors serving exterior spaces?

  1. Occupant load limited to 300 people
  2. Key-operated lock that is readily distinguishable as locked
  3. Clear vision panel measuring at least 5 square feet
  4. Weatherproof telephone or two-way communication system
  5. Instructional signage
  6. All of the above are required.

3. Which of the following is NOT an IBC requirement for a safe dispersal area?

  1. At least 5 square feet of space for each building occupant
  2. A minimum of 50 feet from the building
  3. Cannot be used for another purpose, such as parking
  4. Must accommodate at least 100 people

Answers: 1 – D, 2 – F, 3 – D