Conrad Speckert
M.Arch, McGill University

This website is a tool to make sense of the wicked problem of the second egress in Canada and prepare a building code change.

The first section documents the history of the building code and two means of egress in Canada, situates this issue within the imperative of missing middle densification and calls upon architects to challenge the legislative conditions of their work. The next section compares jurisdictions to better understand the Canadian code relative to its peers, followed by the proposed code change. The third section reimagines what could and should be built if it were legal, and illustrating these opportunities with several case studies in alternative circulation.

The Manual of Illegal Floor Plans is a collection of single stair residential projects that are not permitted to be built in Canada, serving as reference library to reconsider the requirement for a second egress.


October 5, 2022
The UCLA Lewis Center hosts Beyond Zoning: Building Circulation Reform and Infill Housing, a panelist discussion on “the impacts of North American egress requirements on housing costs, location, and design”.

September 2022
The City of Toronto Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods (EHON) planning study releases findings of the Beaches-East York Missing Middle Pilot Project documenting the access/egress challenges with this scale of development, including a feasibility study and floor plans for a 4-storey, single stair design by Dubbeldam Architecture + Design.

August 23, 2022
The “Vivre-en-ville” Quebec housing advocacy organization publishes a report entitled POURTES OUVERTES: Pour une Sortie de Crise Durable en Habitation [OPEN DOORS: for a sustainable way out of the housing crisis] featuring this research on page 54. 

July 25, 2022
The Mercatus Center think tank at George Mason University publishes Housing Reform in the States: A Menu of Options for 2023, including single stair reform under ‘Option 16: Allow Skinny Apartment Buildings’.

April 18, 2022
Code Change Requests submitted to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to allow for single egress in multi-unit residential buildings up to six storeys in Part 3, and up to three storeys in Part 9, of the National Building Code of Canada.

April 12, 2022
Conrad Speckert joins the Single Serves Podcast to speak about single stair buildings.

March 30, 2022
Ontario Minster of Municipal Affairs and Housing announces legislation titled “More Homes for Everyone” including a proposed change to the Ontario Building Code: “facilitate more infill and low rise multi-unit housing by exploring opportunities to allow for single means of egress in four to six storey residential buildings, while continuing to protect public health and safety.”

Alex Bozikovic writes in the Globe and Mail, “it will study changing the building code to allow single-staircase apartment buildings – which sounds boring, but would open up enormous possibilities for small and midsized buildings in our cities. Small infill is a crucial part of providing more housing, and more diverse cities.”

March 24, 2022
Blair Scorgie speaks about the code change during a panel discussion at the Urban Land Institute: ULI Toronto: Ontario Building Code Review & Carbon Reduction: Right direction?

March 15, 2022
Michael Eliason gives an online lecture on single stair buildings for the Passive House Network: PHN Presents: Optimizing Form & Function: Meet Single Point Access Blocks, an old-new tool in sustainable place making.

February 8, 2022
Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing published, including recommendation (3b) to “Modernize the Building Code and other policies to remove any barriers to affordable construction and to ensure meaningful implementation (e.g., allow single-staircase construction for up to four storeys, allow single egress, etc.).”

February 7, 2022
Craig Ruttan (Housing Policy Advisor of the Toronto Board of Trade) recommends to “legalize single stair access for buildings up to six storeys” at the Urban Land Institue (Toronto): The End of Exclusionary Zoning seminar.

January 28, 2022
A group of 45 architects, planners, developers and housing policy experts co-sign a letter to the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force recommending a builiding code change to permit residential buildings of up to six storeys with a single exit stair.
December 28, 2021
Larch Lab prepares a report on Point Access Blocks (single stair building typologies) for the City of Vancouver, Unlocking livable, resilient, decarbonized housing with Point Access Blocks.

December 23, 2021

Conrad Speckert and Michael Eliason interviewed for Slate Magazine, A surprising theory of what’s wrong with North American apartment buildings by Henry Grabar.
December 20, 2021
Michael Eliason documents this website in Seattle’s Lead on Single Stair Buildings in The Urbanist planning, urbanism and housing policy journal.

December 15, 2021

Conrad Speckert presents this website as submission for the final graduate research project of the Professional Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree at McGill University.

October 6-7, 2021

Michael Eliason delivers keynote presentation emphasizing single stair apartment buildings at the Vivre-en-ville Conference on Housing Affordability in Montreal, QC.
August 10, 2021
Seattle architect Michael Eliason writes The Case for More Single Stair Buildings
May 2021
Michael Evamy Scholarship 2021 awarded to Conrad Speckert for “the study of how Canada’s egress code requirements might affect the affordability of the nation’s housing supply. Press release here.
January 4, 2021
Conrad Speckert writes The Second Egress: A Wicked Problem position paper for Professor Nik Luka at McGill University.
February 2019
The Ontario Association of Architects (OAA) publishes a summary report entitled Housing Affordability in Growing Urban Areas including a recommendation for the Ontario Building Code to permit 4 storey residential buildings with a single stair.

Jan 22, 2004
Toronto architect Eb Zeidler (1926-2022) speaks about the problem of requiring two means of egress for mid-rise apartment buildings in Stairway to a better Toronto. Printed in the Toronto Star.