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.
When a courtyard, terrace, or roof may be occupied by more than the occasional technician, the space is typically subject to the same egress requirements as if it was an interior room. If the area is enclosed with no direct access to a code-compliant means of egress (like an exterior stair leading from a terrace to ground level), the egress route often passes through the building which can create security challenges.
If the enclosed exterior space – like a courtyard or fenced area – is very large, 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:
- Decoded: Balconies, Terraces, and Courtyards
- Decoded: Roof Access and Egress
- Decoded: Safe Dispersal Area Within a Fence or Enclosed Court
After reading the Decoded articles, proceed to the quiz questions below.