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Dwelling unit separation at balcony

Harrison Staab

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Manhattan, KS
Five story multi-family R-2 Type VA sprinklered building.
[edit: 4 stories VA over 1 story IA, IBC 2015, Colorado, with no relevant local amendments]

Some units have "shared" balconies, designed with a non-rated privacy wall provided between them. This privacy wall stops short of the edge of the balcony to allow the railing to run past.

Plan reviewer comment:

"Separation between dwelling units per IBC 420.2 must include roofed outdoor spaces such as the balconies. As such, the separation between units must extend to the exterior of the roofed area, i.e. the edge of the balcony, not 8" shy of the edge of the balcony as shown"

Condition in screenshot below showing the dwelling unit separation wall (1-hr fire partition) terminating at the exterior wall of the balcony:


https://drive.google.com/file/d/16unkQFeKLl6tPGWH58DaPdQ-VOYcRMXg/view


It is unclear to us if there is any code which precludes shared balconies and have not run into this interpretation before. We've had Fire Walls required (correctly, we think) to extend this way, but not Fire Partitions. Could not several dwelling units share a covered patio or balcony without a separation wall extending to the edge of the roof?

Does a "Dwelling Unit" include covered balconies/patio associated with them? Do such covered spaces require separation extended to the edge of the roof?
 
Last edited:

cda

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Well after reading the section

Being a non IBC person

The requirement makes no sense to me.

Let others chime in and see what they have to say
 

steveray

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In theory you would have to separate the units from the "common" balcony....Like the corridor or other common rooms...

420.2 Separation walls. Walls separating dwelling units in
the same building, walls separating sleeping units in the same
building and walls separating dwelling or sleeping units from
other occupancies contiguous to them in the same building
shall be constructed as fire partitions in accordance with Section
708.
 

Harrison Staab

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Apologies for the missing information:

IBC 2015. Colorado, Earth (no local amendments to this section I'm aware of). Building is podium construction. 4 stories of VA over 1 story IA using Horizontal Building Separation of 510.2.
 

cda

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I wonder what would be said if you revised and took out the patio party wall ???

Just to play with their mind
 

Harrison Staab

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In theory you would have to separate the units from the "common" balcony....Like the corridor or other common rooms...

420.2 Separation walls. Walls separating dwelling units in
the same building, walls separating sleeping units in the same
building and walls separating dwelling or sleeping units from
other occupancies contiguous to them in the same building
shall be constructed as fire partitions in accordance with Section
708.

The 1-hr exterior walls provide separation between the dwelling unit and the balconies, or so we think. The 1-hr exterior wall is provided as required by Table 601 for Exterior Bearing Walls of Type VA construction. FSD > 30'. Not convincing to me that if the exterior wall were allowed to be non-rated, that separation would need to be provided at the exterior wall separating the dwelling unit from a covered balcony, but this seems more reasonable to me than a wall separating the balconies as per my original post.
 

cda

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Apologies for the missing information:

IBC 2015. Colorado, Earth (no local amendments to this section I'm aware of). Building is podium construction. 4 stories of VA over 1 story IA using Horizontal Building Separation of 510.2.


Not Steve Thomas’ group doing the review ???
 

gmcalifornia

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Jul 19, 2020
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We have had the same question come up recently.

California Building Code, Type V-A, three story R-2, 2 apartment units per floor. The design currently shows a half wall separating adjacent unit balconies. Same concept as Harrison's question. It's my thinking that it needs to be separated with a fire partition since it is considered part of the unit.

Would love some outside insight on this! Thank you.

 

steveray

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I don't have a good argument, so I am going to go with you are not "in" the building so not required....The intent of the tenant separations are to keep a fire from spreading from unit to unit or from building in a unit and then blowing through to the next....The termination requirements for fire partitions typically allow them to stop at the exterior walls....

420.2 Separation walls. Walls separating dwelling units in
the same building, walls separating sleeping units in the same
building and walls separating dwelling or sleeping units from
other occupancies contiguous to them in the same building
shall be constructed as fire partitions in accordance with Section
708.

708.4 Continuity. Fire partitions shall extend from the top of
the foundation or floor/ceiling assembly below to the underside
of the floor or roof sheathing, slab or deck above or to
the fire-resistance-rated floor/ceiling or roof/ceiling assembly
above, and shall be securely attached thereto. In combustible
construction where the fire partitions are not required to be
continuous to the sheathing, deck or slab, the space between
the ceiling and the sheathing, deck or slab above shall be fireblocked
or draftstopped in accordance with Sections 718.2
and 718.3 at the partition line. The supporting construction
shall be protected to afford the required fire-resistance rating
of the wall supported, except for walls separating tenant
spaces in covered and open mall buildings, walls separating
dwelling units, walls separating sleeping units and corridor
walls, in buildings of Type IIB, IIIB and VB construction.
 

khsmith55

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Glenwood Springs, CO
On CDA's note...........if you "need" a fire separation between the decks, then along the same rational all decks over decks would require a a one-hour floor ceiling assembly for the decks......just food for thought.

Ken
 

Chrisjoneill

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Jun 10, 2019
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Ct
interesting discussion, just started a design that will incorporate the same type of detail...if its required to be rated like Khsmith says the decks should then enter the equation...without any further reading than what has been posted it seems like there is no code requirement if your fire partition goes to the exterior wall...ive seen these type of walls in so many places either full height half height etc...i can't imagine theres any benefit to a rating here.
 

Harrison Staab

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Yes, Combustible balcony projections are required to be fire-resistance rated as required by Table 601. It's worth noting that there are several exceptions in 1406.3 to avoid this - Type IV constructed balconies, sprinkler protection, FRTW constructed.. or be of non-combustible construction.

Our office doesn't think (for whatever an opinion's worth) the separation wall is required to extend to the edge of the balcony/roof. This sort of requirement is explicitly required of Fire Walls:

IBC 706.5.2 Horizontal projecting elements. Fire walls shall extend to the outer edge of horizontal projecting elements such as balconies, roof overhangs, canopies, marquees, and similar projections that are within 4 feet of the fire wall.

Such a description is not provided for fire partitions, which indicates to me that such a requirement is not applicable to the fire partitions that provide separation for dwelling units.

Furthermore, once a fire partition runs into an exterior wall, the exterior wall rules go into effect:

IBC 708.5 Exterior walls. Where exterior walls serve as a part of a required fire-resistance-rated separation, such walls shall comply with the requirements of Section 705 for exterior walls, and the fire-resistance-rated separation requirements shall not apply.

The walls at the balcony are clearly exterior walls (a defined code term). As such, they are required to be fire-resistance rated per Tables 601 and 602. As these are nonbearing exterior walls > 30' FSD, there is no fire-resistance-rating requirement.
 

cda

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Yes, Combustible balcony projections are required to be fire-resistance rated as required by Table 601. It's worth noting that there are several exceptions in 1406.3 to avoid this - Type IV constructed balconies, sprinkler protection, FRTW constructed.. or be of non-combustible construction.

Our office doesn't think (for whatever an opinion's worth) the separation wall is required to extend to the edge of the balcony/roof. This sort of requirement is explicitly required of Fire Walls:

IBC 706.5.2 Horizontal projecting elements. Fire walls shall extend to the outer edge of horizontal projecting elements such as balconies, roof overhangs, canopies, marquees, and similar projections that are within 4 feet of the fire wall.

Such a description is not provided for fire partitions, which indicates to me that such a requirement is not applicable to the fire partitions that provide separation for dwelling units.

Furthermore, once a fire partition runs into an exterior wall, the exterior wall rules go into effect:

IBC 708.5 Exterior walls. Where exterior walls serve as a part of a required fire-resistance-rated separation, such walls shall comply with the requirements of Section 705 for exterior walls, and the fire-resistance-rated separation requirements shall not apply.

The walls at the balcony are clearly exterior walls (a defined code term). As such, they are required to be fire-resistance rated per Tables 601 and 602. As these are nonbearing exterior walls > 30' FSD, there is no fire-resistance-rating requirement.

So the wood deck at the separation has to be one hour rated???


What does it matter

It is what it is
 

Harrison Staab

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Having a correct understanding of the code requirement does matter. There are design, constructability, and cost implications that as an architect I must consider. Per the OP, a fire-rated exterior wall extended to the balcony edge results in an undesirable appearance, additional material to provide fire-rating, more awkward flashing details - all which come at some cost to the project and/or owner. This may ultimately be required by the BCO, but I hope to convince him otherwise.
 
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