Jurisdictions





Jurisdiction
Maximum Building Height
Explanation of code interpretation and additional information regarding relevant limitations to maximum floor area, occupancy load and travel distance.
Original Source Document

Code Section



United States (IBC)
3 Storeys
The US model building code permits single exits in apartment buildings (R-2 occupancy) of not more than three storeys in building height, with a maximum of 4 dwelling units per storey. The building must be sprinklered throughout (NFPA 13-R).

Some cities have their own building codes, New York City and the City of Seattle allows up to 6 storeys with a single exit. See U.S. State and City Codes for more information.



Australia
25m
The Building Code of Australia permits one exit for apartment buildings (Class 2 building) of not more than 25m in building height. ‘Fire-isolated’ (corridor separated) exit stairs are required for buildings of more than 3 storeys or 4 storeys where sprinklering or increased fire separation is provided. A maximum dead end travel distance of 6m applies.



New Zealand
25m
The New Zealand Building Code permits one exit for apartment buildings (risk group SM) where the escape height is no greater than 25m if sprinklered, and 10m if unsprinklered. Dead-end limits on travel distance apply.



United Kindgom
No Maximum Height Limit
The United Kingdom does not establish a maximum height limit for single stair residential buildings. Section 2.6 of the code establishes an occupancy load limit of 60 people per storey and maximum travel distances in Table 2.1. Note that office buildings can have a single exit stair up to a floor height of 11m (Section 3.3).

Note: In response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and London Fire Brigade have recently submitted concerns and a request to further study the fire safety of single exit stair high-rise residential buildings.
The Building Regulations 2010
Approved Document B, Fire Safety - Volume 2, 2019 Edition


2.6 Single escape routes and exits
2.9 Number of occupants and exits



Ireland
4 Storeys
Ireland permits a single escape stairway for apartment buildings where the floor level of the uppermost storey is not more than 10m above ground level, and the occupancy load is not more than 50 people per storey.
Building Regulations 2006
Technical Guidance Document B - Fire Safety (reprinted 2020)


1.2.2.5 Single Escape Route
1.3.3 Single Escape Stairways



Sweden
16 Storeys
Sweden permits one exit for class 3 (residential) buildings up to 16 storeys with a maximum occupant load of 50 people per storey and a maximum travel distance of 30m. Different requirements for the fire-protection rating/smoke-tightness standard of closures apply for buildings of not more than 8 storeys and buildings of more than 8 but not more than 16 storeys.



Denmark
45m
Denmark permits a single exit for multi-unit residential (category 4) buildings up to 45m in building height, with a maximum of 4 dwelling units per storey with direct access from the dwelling unit to the exit stair (no corridor separation). For building with floors more than 22m above ground, where the rescue openings cannot be reached by rescue ladder, a pressurized “security” stair with corridor separation is required and a maximum of 6 dwelling units per storey is allowed.

These are prescriptive, pre-approved conditions. According to a local architect, buildings over 45m in height require a performative code-compliance process and fire engineering consultations.
Bygningsreglementets vejledning til kapitel 5 – Brand
Bilag 2 - Præ-accepterede løsninger for etageboligbyggeri (2021)


2.3.2.2.1 Udgange fra brandceller som boligenhed
[Exits from fire cells as dwellings]



Norway
8 Storeys
Norway permits a single exit for multi-unit residential (risk class 4) buildings up to 8 storeys so long as each dwelling unit has an operable window or balcony for rescue and firefighting. A maximum travel distance of 15m from the dwelling unit entry door to the exit stair door applies.



France
50m
France permits a single exit for residential buildings up to 50m in building height. Two means of egress and additional life safety measures are required for high-rise buildings (immeuble de grande hauteur) exceeding this height.
Code de la construction et de l'habitation
Titre II : Sécurité et protection contre l'incendie - Chapitre II : Immeubles de grande et de moyenne hauteur

R122.2 and R122.9



Belgium
25m
The Belgian code is subdivided by low-rise (under 10m), mid-rise (10m to 25m) and high-rise (over 25m) building heights. Belgium allows one exit for mid-rise buildings of not more than 25m in building height with a maximum occupant load of 50 people per fire compartment.



Netherlands
5 Storeys (12.5m Finish Floor Level)
The Netherlands permits one exit for multi-unit residential building where the floor level of the uppermost storey is no more than 12.5m above grade (5 storeys), where the floor area served by the single exit does not exceed 800m2, with a maximum floor area per dwelling unit of 150m2. The Netherlands also permits one exit for multi-unit residential buildings where the floor level of the uppermost storey is not more than 6m above grade (three storeys) with no more than 6 dwelling units served by the single exit.

Note: correspondence with a Dutch architect indicates that the 5 storey limit can be exceeded by providing a ‘safety escape route’ [Veiligheidsvluchtroute], such an escape route is separated by a non-enclosed exterior gallery to prevent the passage of smoke into a single staircase (see diagram below).

As a recent example, the multi-unit residential building BBSH20A in Amsterdam (completed in 2021), by Olaf Gisper Architects  is a 10 storey mass timber design with 29 dwelling units and a ‘safety escape route’ single exit stair.
https://olafgipser.com/projects/residential-building-bsh/#1 





Germany
60m
Germany permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 60m in building height. Buildings over 22m with a single exit stair require additional fire safety measures including the fire separation and pressurization of the single exit stair as safety stair (Sicherheitstreppenraum) and assembly fire ratings of at least 120 minutes. An additional firefighting elevator is typically required for buildings over 30m in height.

The model high-rise building code applies to high-rise buildings over 22m in building height and is prepared by the federal “Bauministerkonferenz” (assembly of construction ministers) tasked with establishing the model code referenced by the 16 individual states within Germany.
Muster-Richtlinie über den Bau und Betrieb von Hochhäusern Muster-Hochhaus-Richtlinie - MHHR 2008
[Model High-rise Building Code] 

4.2 Notwendige Treppenräume, Sicherheitstreppenräume [Required stairs, Safety stairs]

Verified by Boris Stock
Dipl. Ing (FH), BFT Cognos



Switzerland
No Maximum Height Limit
Switzerland permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings without a specified maximum building height with a 900m2 maximum floor area per storey, a maximum total travel distance of 35m and a maximum occupant load of 100 per floor area. Sprinklering is typically not required.

The association of cantonal fire insurance companies establishes the fire safety regulations across Switzerland.



Austria
32m
Austria permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 32m in building height. Maximum travel distances apply. Pressurization of the exit stair is required. The code distinguishes between buildings where the uppermost storey is not more than 32m above ground, between 32m and 90m above ground, and buildings more than 90m above ground.



Poland
25m
Poland permits a single exit for medium-high multi-unit residential (Division ZL IV) buildings up to 25m in building height or of a maximum of 9 storeys above grade. A single exit is also permitted in residential buildings exceeding 25m in building height with additional life safety measures and a maximum floor area per storey of 750m2.



Italy
80m
Italy permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 80m in building height with a maximum floor area per storey of 500m2. Further provisions for compartmentalization, elevator construction and fire ratings are required depending on building height between type a (12m to 24m), type b (24m to 32m), type c (32m to 54m), type d (54m to 80m), and type e (above 80m). Buildings above 80m in height require two stairs and helicopter rescue pad on the roof.




Spain
28m
Spain permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 28m in building height measured as the floor level of the uppermost storey, where the total occupancy load of the building is not more than 500 people. The exit stair must be protected (fire separated) for residential buildings over 14m in building height.


Código Técnico de la Edificación
Documento Básico SI - Seguridad en caso de Incendio (2019)


3 - Número de salidas y longitud de los recorridos de evacuación
[Number of exits and length of evacuation routes]



Portugal
?
?
?



Kenya
6 Storeys
Kenya permits a single exit for any building up to 6 storeys in building height or where the floor level of the uppermost storey is not more than 17m above grade.



South Africa
3 Storeys
South Africa permits a single exit for buildings up to 3 storeys in building height.



Turkey
21.5m
Turkey permits a single exit for buildings with a height of not more than 21.50m.



United Arab Emirates
15m
The UAE permits a single exit for buildings up to 15m in building height where an automatic sprinkler system is provided, with a maximum floor area per storey of 500m2 and where there are not more than 4 dwelling units per storey.



Israel
29m
The Israeli code permits a single exit for buildings not more than 29m in building height. Buildings up to 13m in height can have a single unprotected stair. The Israeli code also sets a maximum travel distance of 30m to the exit stair. Buildings exceeding 13m in height may have a single protected stair if residential use, or any use not exceeding a maximum occupancy load of 30 people per floor.  All buildings regardless of occupancy exceeding 29m in building height require two stairs, one of which may be an exterior stair.

תקנות התכנון והבניה
פרק ז': בניין גבוה ורב-קומות
חדר מדרגות מוגן ומדרגות חוץ בבניין גבוה תק' (מס' 3)  תשס"ח-2008


Planning and Building Regulations, Chapter 7: A tall, high-rise building - Protected staircase and exterior stairs in a high-rise building, (No. 3), 2008



Iran
30m / 6 Storeys
3.1.10.2.4. - In the following cases, each residential unit can exceptionally access only one exit. A single exit is allowed for buildings up to 23m in height with maximum 2 dwelling units per floor, in which the stair must be fire rated.

According to a local architect, the fire regulations were amended in 2019 to permit a maximum height of 30m, or 6 storeys above ground, in which the stair must be ventilated, the building sprinklered, and a maximum of 3 dwelling units per floor.
مقررات ملّی ساختمان ایران / مبحث سوم
حفاظت ساختمانها در مقابل حریق

National Building Regulations of Iran (2017) - Chapter 3 - Fire Protection of Buildings



Saudi Arabia
3 Storeys
8.18.2 (c) - Buildings classified as Group R-2 equipped throughout with an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 7.3 of SBC 801 and provided with emergency escape and rescue openings in accordance with Section 8.25 shall have a maximum height of three stories above grade, or as agreed by the local municipality.”
Saudi Building Code 2007
Chapter 8 - Means of Egress

Table 8.18.2 - Buildings with One Exit



India
15m
India permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 15m in building height with a maximum floor area of 500m2 per storey.



China
18 Storeys
China permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings up to 18 storeys in building height with a maximum floor area of 650m2 per storey. A maximum travel distance of 15m from the dwelling unit door to the exit applies for buildings less than 10 storeys in height, which is shortened to a maximum travel distance of 10m for buildings between 10 and 18 storeys in height.


National Standard of the People’s Republic of China - GB 50368-2005, Residential Building Code

Section 9.5.1



South Korea
No Maximum Height Limit
South Korea does not set a maximum building height for multi-unit residential buildings with a single exit stair. The code limits single exit stair conditions only based on horizontal limits, including a maximum inhabited floor area of 300m2 per storey and no more than 3 dwelling units per storey and travel distance limits. Article 35 requires the single exit stair to be a ‘firefighting’ stair (safe evacuation stair) for apartment buildings of 16 or more storeys.
건축법 시행령
제34조(직통계단의 설치)

[Building Law Enforcement Decree] (2022) 

Article 34 (Installation of Direct Stairs)



Japan
5 Storeys
Japan permits a single exit for multi-unit residential buildings of up to 5 storeys in building height with a maximum floor area per storey of 200m2 for non-combustible construction and 100m2 for other/combustible construction. This applies equally for apartment buildings as well as hotels, boarding houses, dormitories and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns).


建築申請・25-7_階段
Building Application Memo 2020

Verified in correspondence with local architect Luis Oliveira
Tezuka Architects, Tokyo, Japan




Note: Some jurisdictions have made their building codes available in English. Otherwise translations have been provided by a native speaker, Google translation or via correspondence with a local architect. Please refer to the original source documents for clarification.


Additional Information:

Dreiman, E. (2020). Ground Ladder Basics. International Society of Fire Service Instructors. https://www.isfsi.org/blog/ground-ladder-basics

U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Data Center. (2011). Fire Death Rate Trends: An International Perspective. FEMA, Topical Fire Report Series, Vol 12, Issue 8.
https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v12i8.pdf

Winberg, D. (2016). International Fire Death Rate Trends. SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden.
https://www.brandforsk.se/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/international-fire-death-rate-trends.pdf

Statistics Canada. (2017). Fire statistics in Canada, Selected Observations from the National Fire Information Database 2005 to 2014.
http://nfidcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Fire-statistics-in-Canada-2005-to-2014.pdf 

Clare, J. and Kelly, H. (2017).  Fire and at risk populations in Canada -  Analysis of the Canadian National Fire Information Database.
https://cjr.ufv.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Murdoch-University-Fire-and-at-Risk-Populations.pdf

https://www.iccsafe.org/products-and-services/global-services/global-codes/

https://e-one-aerials.com/cr-137-aerial-ladder-truck.html