• Welcome to the new and improved Building Code Forum. We appreciate you being here and hope that you are getting the information that you need concerning all codes of the building trades. This is a free forum to the public due to the generosity of the Sawhorses, Corporate Supporters and Supporters who have upgraded their accounts. If you would like to have improved access to the forum please upgrade to Sawhorse by first logging in then clicking here: Upgrades

Learning Stairs

RJLaw

Registered User
Joined
Sep 14, 2021
Messages
3
Location
Texas
Some of you may have had the grand experience to see the installation of learning stairs. They are basically bleacher seating inside of school libraries and a cafetorium. Google it. Some have guardrails and some don't. Help me out here. Stairways going in between bleacher style seating without handrails? At the top of the learning steps they frequently have floor level, corridor, or collaboration areas. Kids can walk from the upper floor and go directly down the learning steps instead of using stairs. No guardrail at the top. I have seen this in several schools. Seems very dangerous for elementary kids and anyone in a wheelchair. Thoughts?
 

cda

Sawhorse 123
Joined
Oct 19, 2009
Messages
20,931
Location
Basement
Some of you may have had the grand experience to see the installation of learning stairs. They are basically bleacher seating inside of school libraries and a cafetorium. Google it. Some have guardrails and some don't. Help me out here. Stairways going in between bleacher style seating without handrails? At the top of the learning steps they frequently have floor level, corridor, or collaboration areas. Kids can walk from the upper floor and go directly down the learning steps instead of using stairs. No guardrail at the top. I have seen this in several schools. Seems very dangerous for elementary kids and anyone in a wheelchair. Thoughts?


Welcome,,,

What side of town are you on??? North Texas or South Texas??
 

cda

Sawhorse 123
Joined
Oct 19, 2009
Messages
20,931
Location
Basement
May not help any, put has nice pictures:::::::::::

 

bill1952

Registered User
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
125
Location
Clayton NY
I see these referred to as social stairs. The stair portion would seem to require handrails and most I've see do have handrails. On a recent project there were handrails on both sides, continuous on non-seating side and gapped on seating side.

I agree there should be a guard at top, maybe a foot or three behind last riser. And at top level at least wheelchair spaces with a curb.

Still evolving, and codes are not fast to catch-up to new design.
 

classicT

Sawhorse
Joined
Aug 2, 2017
Messages
1,873
Location
Washington State
If so, I would treat it similar to an auditorium and follow IBC Section 1029 for assembly seating. The larger steps are not "stairs" but are a series of benches and aisle accessways. The stairs (shown above at the sides), are stepped aisles and will need to follow IBC Section 1029.9.

As for handrails at stepped aisles (or ramped), see IBC Section 1029.16 below.

1029.16 Handrails
Ramped aisles having a slope exceeding one unit vertical in 15 units horizontal (6.7-percent slope) and stepped aisles shall be provided with handrails in compliance with Section 1014 located either at one or both sides of the aisle or within the aisle width.
Exceptions:
  1. Handrails are not required for ramped aisles with seating on both sides.
  2. Handrails are not required where, at the side of the aisle, there is a guard with a top surface that complies with the graspability requirements of handrails in accordance with Section 1014.3.
  3. Handrail extensions are not required at the top and bottom of stepped aisles and ramped aisles to permit crossovers within the aisles.
 

bill1952

Registered User
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
125
Location
Clayton NY
  1. Handrails are not required for ramped aisles with seating on both sides.
was not intended to mean forward and back, as apparently the example might show with it's ramps parallel with seating rows. It was only to provide access to the seats the aisle served. No curb either for same reasons.
 

tbz

Silver Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2010
Messages
775
Location
PA/NJ - Borderlands
Some of you may have had the grand experience to see the installation of learning stairs. They are basically bleacher seating inside of school libraries and a cafetorium. Google it. Some have guardrails and some don't. Help me out here. Stairways going in between bleacher style seating without handrails? At the top of the learning steps they frequently have floor level, corridor, or collaboration areas. Kids can walk from the upper floor and go directly down the learning steps instead of using stairs. No guardrail at the top. I have seen this in several schools. Seems very dangerous for elementary kids and anyone in a wheelchair. Thoughts?
Welcome RJ,

1st and foremost remember that the specifications for requirements for what and where within model and adopted building codes are a minimum standard and as thus what might seem to some as "very dangerous" is in fact considered perfectly fine, acceptable and legal to be constructed. Building environments are not designed to be Styrofoam safety boxes.

Points of note for your questions:
  • A guard at the top level prior to the seating area, is it required per code?
    • Guards are required for walking surfaces, and are also only required when the drop is 30-inches or more in vertical height and that drop is achieved within the first 36-inches from the edge of the open side it would serve.
      • Thus you could have a consecutive set of "step like drops" that are 29.5-inches high for a level distance out from each edge for 36.125-inches and not require guards at all.
      • As thus most of these types of seating areas fall into to this design concept, so as not to require guards and provide an open seating area.
      • However, if the 30-inch drop is achieved within the first 36-inches, then yes they would be required.
  • Handrails, since these areas are technically "Assembly Seating" this moves you over into Section 1029 for when and were handrails are required, which are relaxed from 1014 to allow for access and egress.
    • As thus breaks in the running of the handrails and handrail extensions at seating areas which provide access to the walking surface at each row are specifically allowed within the code under 1029. The parameters are spelled out in 1029.
From my experience on projects with these types of areas the designers normally work to stay within 3 riser maximums between levels, which would be around 21-inches or less. Thus if you look closely at the picture in post #5 by ClassicT, you will see that each level is set at 2 riser changes in level, thus every 2 levels would establish a 28-inch drop I am guest-i'-mating and every 2 levels of horizontal seating/walking surface is larger than 36-inches, which is perfectly compliant and allowed when the adopted building code has not been modified from the model code during adoption by the authority having jurisdiction.

Also, I will note that when talking with plan reviewers, they tend to comb over these areas with a fine tooth comb during permit submittals to make sure they are within the criteria of what the "Adopted Building Code", hence "Law" allows to be in a public or private facility.

So making an arm chair guess on what you are looking, I can't say for sure, but I would venture a guess that they are legally allowed to not have guards and the handrails, well again without an inspection report spelling out all the details, pretty much no one here can tell you if they comply or not, but guessing they do if the property was inspected during construction.

Regards - Tom
 

cda

Sawhorse 123
Joined
Oct 19, 2009
Messages
20,931
Location
Basement
Welcome RJ,

1st and foremost remember that the specifications for requirements for what and where within model and adopted building codes are a minimum standard and as thus what might seem to some as "very dangerous" is in fact considered perfectly fine, acceptable and legal to be constructed. Building environments are not designed to be Styrofoam safety boxes.

Points of note for your questions:
  • A guard at the top level prior to the seating area, is it required per code?
    • Guards are required for walking surfaces, and are also only required when the drop is 30-inches or more in vertical height and that drop is achieved within the first 36-inches from the edge of the open side it would serve.
      • Thus you could have a consecutive set of "step like drops" that are 29.5-inches high for a level distance out from each edge for 36.125-inches and not require guards at all.
      • As thus most of these types of seating areas fall into to this design concept, so as not to require guards and provide an open seating area.
      • However, if the 30-inch drop is achieved within the first 36-inches, then yes they would be required.
  • Handrails, since these areas are technically "Assembly Seating" this moves you over into Section 1029 for when and were handrails are required, which are relaxed from 1014 to allow for access and egress.
    • As thus breaks in the running of the handrails and handrail extensions at seating areas which provide access to the walking surface at each row are specifically allowed within the code under 1029. The parameters are spelled out in 1029.
From my experience on projects with these types of areas the designers normally work to stay within 3 riser maximums between levels, which would be around 21-inches or less. Thus if you look closely at the picture in post #5 by ClassicT, you will see that each level is set at 2 riser changes in level, thus every 2 levels would establish a 28-inch drop I am guest-i'-mating and every 2 levels of horizontal seating/walking surface is larger than 36-inches, which is perfectly compliant and allowed when the adopted building code has not been modified from the model code during adoption by the authority having jurisdiction.

Also, I will note that when talking with plan reviewers, they tend to comb over these areas with a fine tooth comb during permit submittals to make sure they are within the criteria of what the "Adopted Building Code", hence "Law" allows to be in a public or private facility.

So making an arm chair guess on what you are looking, I can't say for sure, but I would venture a guess that they are legally allowed to not have guards and the handrails, well again without an inspection report spelling out all the details, pretty much no one here can tell you if they comply or not, but guessing they do if the property was inspected during construction.

Regards - Tom

RJ says he is a BO
 

steveray

Sawhorse
Joined
Nov 25, 2009
Messages
8,602
Location
West of the river CT
Oh...and by the way....
1108.2 Assembly area seating. A building, room or space
used for assembly purposes with fixed seating shall comply
with Sections 1108.2.1 through 1108.2.5.
 

Pcinspector1

Platinum Member
Joined
Oct 28, 2009
Messages
3,731
Location
MID WEST
In referencing the photo that classicT provided, I wonder how someone in a wheelchair uses this social system?
 

bill1952

Registered User
Joined
Aug 12, 2021
Messages
125
Location
Clayton NY
In referencing the photo that classicT provided, I wonder how someone in a wheelchair uses this social system?
In ones on projectscI worked on, top (behind glass rail in photo) and bottom. This kind of seating makes shoulder alignment a challenge.

You'd also have to sort out projection and requirements to be a ways back vs. live/small events, with wheelchair spaces needed down front. It really leaves out the middle, just like "stadium" or any tiered seating without crossaisles on an accesible route. (And cross aisles are death for sightlines anyways )
 

cda

Sawhorse 123
Joined
Oct 19, 2009
Messages
20,931
Location
Basement
Yes it is similar but this one has a large floor area at the top. Have a picture but having difficultly attaching it.

If you are a Sawhorse forum supporting member ,, you can direct upload

Otherwise have to make a link and post or flckr or similar … all above my pay grade
 
Top