Custom Residential Architects Network

  • 1.  windowless apartments

    Posted 09-28-2012 02:35 PM
    This message has been cross posted to the following Discussion Forums: Custom Residential Architects Network and Housing Knowledge Community .
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    We had some discussion about this issue a while back. This all started with the 2010 IBC. Since 1920 all habitable spaces have been required to have natural light and ventilation but in 2010 the Code Council decided to change all that for some reason. Remember, it is now called the "International Building Code", not the "Uniform Building Code". They are trying to market their product worldwide now. Is this a progressive change? Now we can pack our 7 billion + inhabitants into smaller spaces. Maybe the code just needs to be tweaked a bit- say, required artificial light must be full-spectrum and automatically controlled to mimic natural light levels. Maybe require each apartment to have a flat-screen monitor built in to a wall somewhere with an approved, real-time picture of a nice view from some far-off, pastoral locale?  

    David Del Vecchio has a good point- here in San Francisco we have many row houses with no way to put windows in any room that doesn't face the street or rear yard except with light wells which sacrifice space while providing only limited light and three-foot views to another window or blank wall. Is it bad design to locate a kitchen there with no window? Before 2010 kitchens were specifically exempt from this requirement.  'What about a home office or media room? Maybe the requirement should only apply to bedrooms and living rooms? Are skylights sufficient solutions for our psychological needs? How about slope-glazing? Minimum 4 in 12 pitch? In some situations I can imagine wonderful views from skylights or slope-glazing but in other situations skylights could be intolerable. 

    It's obviously complicated. In San Francisco we have a City code amendment that requires natural light in all habitable rooms, excluding kitchens, in dwellings but not natural ventilation. This seems to be a reasonable attempt to deal with the problem but it's not perfect. The IRC allows exceptions to the natural light and ventilation requirements by providing artificial light and mechanical ventilation. It also requires bedrooms to have emergency escape openings but no requirement that they be glazed. The IBC allows the same exceptions to the natural light and ventilation requirements and requires emergency escape openings in bedrooms below the fourth story.  The rationale behind this is that wood-frame buildings are limited to three stories so if you have a fourth story it will have to be of Type I or II construction and, consequently, more fire-resistive.

    So, now we can build giant apartment buildings with no openings other than an entrance door from the corridor in each apartment. Whoopee! Think of the possibilities!  Buildings of this type are required everywhere to be designed by architects but we are such whores. When the economy takes a dive and our only client insists on maximizing rentable space, what's a poor RA to do?

    What can be done will be done. What shall we do?



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    A. Atkinson
    A. Gordon Atkinson, Architect
    San Francisco CA
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  • 2.  RE:windowless apartments

    Posted 10-01-2012 09:39 AM

    My daughter is renting one room in 4 bedroom apartment in Boone NC, Appalachain State.  The units are above a restaurant/commercial building renovated for housing on the second floor. A large footprint.
    NO Windows, one solar tube in the common space. One exit to a hall that does go each way. The AC unit is in a closet. Not sure about fresh air supply.
    The town building official said it meets the code. I have hard time comprehending how this can be. This official said he fought the building  all the way to Department of Insurance
    Raliegh and said it meets the letter of the law.



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    Donald Duffy AIA
    Don Duffy Architecture
    Charlotte NC
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  • 3.  RE:windowless apartments

    Posted 10-01-2012 12:05 PM
    From below:

    "The IBC allows the same exceptions to the natural light and ventilation requirements and requires emergency escape openings in bedrooms below the fourth story.  The rationale behind this is that wood-frame buildings are limited to three stories so if you have a fourth story it will have to be of Type I or II construction and, consequently, more fire-resistive."

    I believe that there is a one story increase allowed for sprinklered buildings.  There are a lot of factors that go into determining construction types.  It is possible to have four story Type V construction.

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    Ken Brogno AIA
    Architect AIA LEED AP
    San Francisco CA
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