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When is a townhouse not a townhouse? IRC 2009 and newer
March 27, 2015
8:14 pm
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fgrable@iccsafe.org
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It was stated:  ".....I am tired of misunderstanding the IRC."  

I suppose that could be said about any code, I-Codes or otherwise. The IRC Code and Commentary has a 1/2 page of commentary on R320.1. The commentary explains how there are exemptions in Chapter 11 of the IBC that would apply for some of the requirements for Type B accessibility in IRC townhouses.

If you have an ICC membership, you are entitled to call ICC for an unlimited number of phone and email interpretations. For a yearly individual membership, it is well worth the cost to be able to pick up the telephone and be able to ask, "I don't understand the code as it relates to my specific application." Chances are, ICC has been asked that same question many times before. Not to be too much of a salesman here but the yearly individual membership fee is probably less than what most people pay for their TV cable service over two months.

These forums are great for hashing out issues and possibly getting quick answers. But don't forget there are other resources that can be helpful. The local code official is also a good resource as he/she is the one that you will have to satisfy in the end.

March 27, 2015
1:59 pm
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kwhitesel22@gmail.com
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As for those doing this in Indiana, the legislature has there own language for these. Do be careful as these are quite possibly still considered under Residential code.

 

March 20, 2015
2:26 pm
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pmiller@co.worcester.md.us
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FHA only if one story units and 4 or more connected. If each townhouse is multi story FHA would not be applicable.

March 20, 2015
2:00 pm
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day730@aol.com
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Wow this got confusing in a hurry.

A townhouse is an attached structure of 3 or more dwelling units where your dwelling unit is open in the front/rear and sky.  If someone is your building is such that someone lives against the back /front or over you/under you it's no longer in the IRC it's IBC and an R-2.

As well the definition of sleeping unit vs dwelling unit is convoluded at best , a hotel may have sleeping units or dwelling units in it or both.  Issue is alarm wiring per NFPA 72 is different.  Imho a sleeping unit is just that and a dwelling unit includes provisions for cooking.  

As far as numbers of townhouses on a lot that's an interesting question.. there may be "0" lot lines or it may be all one lot with a homeowners assoc owning the dirt.  That is a purchase issue the same as "condo" etc and not a code issue.  Unfortunately nothing in the IRC limits the number of townhouses that are in a row as the IBC would limit based upon construction type /use.  

 

Clear///// as mud 

March 13, 2015
3:00 pm
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eric armstrong
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I am having the same questions.  I know the answer to how many townhome you and have in a row.  The anwer is "as many as you want'.  As long as there is a two hour fire partition between units, each unit is a separate building.  The only thing you need to to watch out for is local fire department access.  You'll need to contact them and see what their requirements are.  I just met with the City of Couer d'Alene yesterday, their fire department gave me the ok to put 24 units in a row. 

As to the accessibility issue.  That is a gray area.  The code is poorly written.  Section R320.1 says if there are (4) or more dwelling units in a single structure - then you must go to the IBC for R-3 occupancy accessible requirements.  (Basically all the units would need to be Type B accessbile).  But I read code section R302.2 Townhouses - 'Each Townhouse shall be considered a separate building and shall be separated by fire-resistance-rated wall assemblies meeting the requirements of Section R302.1 for exterior walls. (Which basically require 1-hour walls.  Although local code in WA and ID, my locations, requires a 2-hour wall).  It comes down to this:  It's obvious that a row of single family houses separated by 3' between structures does not have to be ADA compliant per the IRC.  And since both the IRC and IBC consider townhouses to be single family occupancies, the fact that the 3' separation has been replaced by a 2-hour wall does not indicate the need for townhouse single family to be handicapped.

 

UPDATE: I've been doing more homework.  The final decicion will not be found in the IRC, but in the federal Fair Housing Act.  The FHA considers any structure with 4 dwelling unit (or more) under one roof to be under the FHA, no matter how many fire walls there are.  So if you have 4 or more units attached, you must meet the ada requirments for FHA.  (Which are essentially Type B units).

February 9, 2015
10:17 pm
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Nick Sasso
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I will just add -

A townhome has a zero lot line.  I would question that different systems can be allowed "in the middle" of two 1-hr. walls as you describe.  Who owns that space?  Is there an "easement" (I doubt it).

Think of it as ownership.  Think of a survey.  Someone will have a deed to that townhome.  That would include for example, the electrical system.  How did you design the home?  Does each "townhome" have it's own electrical service - mounted on either the front of the back of the individual home?  Technically speaking there cannot be a meter bank on the end of the structure if we are talking true townhomes.  And PVC cannot be run under or across someone else's property to feed another unit...

I would suggest that you arrange a meeting with a plans examiner in the jurisdiction for this project.  They would be able to point you in the right direction.  As far as ADA, I can't answer it without knowing exactly what you have there.  You've got more homework to do.  You may benefit from these websites (if not on this job, on some job sooner or later):

http://portal.hud.gov/hudporta.....fhasp#req3

http://www.fairhousingfirst.or.....erage.html

http://portal.hud.gov/hudporta.....xam-oregon ccessibilityR

Townhouses

 Q. Are townhouses in non-elevator buildings which have individual exterior entrances required to be accessible?
 A. Yes, if they are single-story townhouses. If they are multistory townhouses, accessibility is not required. (See the discussion of townhouses in the preamble to the Guidelines under Section 2--Definitions [Covered Multifamily Dwellings] at 56 FR 9481, March 6, 1991, or 24 CFR Ch. I, Subch. A, App. III.)
 Q. Does the Fair Housing Act cover four one-story dwelling units that share common walls and have individual entrances?
 A. Yes. The Fair Housing Act applies to all units in buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units if such buildings have one or more elevators; and ground floor dwelling units in other buildings consisting of four or more dwelling units. This would include one-story homes, sometimes called single-story townhouses, villas, or patio apartments, regardless of ownership, even though such homes may not be considered multifamily dwellings under various building codes.
 Q. What if the single-story dwelling units are separated by firewalls?
 A. The Fair Housing Act would still apply. The Guidelines define covered multifamily dwellings to include buildings having four or more units within a single structure separated by firewalls.

January 3, 2015
4:58 pm
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jromaidisconstruction@gmail.com
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This may help:

DWELLING. Any building that contains one or two dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be built, used, rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are occupied for living purposes.

DWELLING UNIT. A single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for one or more persons, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.

SLEEPING UNIT. A room or space in which people sleep, which can also include permanent provisions for living, eating, and either sanitation or kitchen facilitiesbut not both. Such rooms and spaces that are also part of a dwelling unit are not sleeping units. (* The last sentence is important in your case)

 

Check the height and area limitations for your seismic area once you have the occupancy figured out. Also, as someone else mentioned you need to check zoning and planning.

December 3, 2014
7:53 am
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pmiller@co.worcester.md.us
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Local zoning regulations will limit the number of units per building or maximum length of a building.

December 2, 2014
5:07 pm
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bill parker
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Thank your for the IRC definitions. I guess my request wasn't quite as simple as I was trying to make it. The term DWELLINGS is inside the definition of DWELLING. If I were a computer programmer you would've just created a loop and you'd never escape.

I need a real definition of DWELLING, actually more like limits of what a dwelling is.

Just by the definition the IRC give for dwelling, I understand the following can be designed under the IRC:

1. A single family home, stand alone home

2. Two-family home under one structure, duplex?

3. Townhouse, a single family dwelling w/ 3+ units

I'm under the assumption that once units stack, like apartments you're automatically kicked into the IBC. What other things move your from IRC to IBC on the residential side of things?

My main question is; when does a townhouse stop being a townhouse? Can I create an infinitesimally long group of units connected and call them townhouses, so long as they extend from foudation to roof with the required fire separation walls? Would this infinitesimal unit still be under the IRC?

Thanks!

Bill

December 1, 2014
9:43 am
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pmiller@co.worcester.md.us
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sp_Print Print Post Post #10

DWELLING. Any building that contains one or two dwelling units used, intended, or designed to be built, used, rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied, or that are occupied for living purposes.

TOWNHOUSE. A single-family dwelling unit constructed in a group of three or more attached units in which each unit extends from foundation to roof and with a yard or public way on at least two sides.

All living area on one floor for 4 or more units in a building FHA and ADA (dumbed down version)

November 28, 2014
8:39 pm
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bill parker
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Hello Everyone,

I don't have a ton of experience in the Architectural field but I've been working on mostly single-family home remodels since I finished my undergraduate a few years ago. I've recently been asked to help on a set of townhomes and I'd like to get some things clarified as I'm tired of misunderstanding the IRC. The developer is trying to get 12 units on a site. He doesn't really care how this happens; 12 units in a row, four 3-unit townhouses, three 4-unit townhouses, etc. Each unit is 2.5 stories tall and has its own means of egress to two sides of their unit.

I know in the 2009 IRC a townhouse is mentioned in the following section:

RIOI.2 Scope. The provisions of the International Residential

Code for One- and Two-family Dwellings shall apply to the

construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, replacement,

repair, equipment, use and occupancy, location, removal

and demolition of detached one- and two-family dwellings and

townhouses not more than three stories above grade plane in

height with a separate means of egress and their accessory structures.

My question pertains to how many units (not stacked) can be in each dwelling. I'm using the word dwelling now because it is my understanding the word dwelling refers to the entire building. It is also my understanding that each dwelling can have an unlimited number of structures inside of a single dwelling.

My understanding of the word structure now refers to each unit(townhouse in this instance) being able to stand on its own and each structure continuous from foundatin to roof. I believe the foundation walls are allowed to be shared but there must be a single 2-hour fire separation wall (no plumbing or mech allowed in the wall) or two separate 1-hour fire separation walls, back to back (plumbing and mech allowed) between the units to make them their own structure. The second option (two 1-hr walls) is the way I've designed most of these walls I've dealt with in the past.

Is my understanding correct? Am I allowed to have three 4-unit townhouses, one 12-unit townhouse, etc? I've done a lot of research on the subject and I just can find the answer I'm looking for.

Can someone please inform me when certain things like fire sprinklers and accessibility kick in? I'm designing these structures in Denver, Colorado; where the sprinkler requirements have been removed by amendment from the IRC. 

Now when it comes to the next section, my mind is almost ready to explode.

SECTION R320

ACCESSIBILITY

R320.1 Scope. Where there are four or more dwelling units or

sleeping units in a single structure, the provisions of Chapter 11

ofthe International BUilding Codefor Group R-3 shall apply.

 

I read this section and think to myself the townhomes I'm describing above DO NOT fall under this requirment. Using the example of 12 townhouses all in a line, am I correct in this assumption because each townhouse is its own structure therefore there are really only 12 single structures in a single dwelling.

 

Now I'll try to confuse all that aren't lost with the next comment. What if each townhouse (separate sturture) has four or more bedrooms? Do these count a sleeping units?

 

If my client decides to build three 4-unit dwellings or four 3-unit dwellings am I now leaving the one and two family dwellings behind in the IRC and being kicked over to the IBC? I'm assuming this isn't the case as the developer could technically just break the project up into smaller phases.

 

Any help is MUCH appreciated! Please don't feel like you're insulting me by making the answer as dumbed down as possible as I'm extremely confused and the more information the better.

 

Thanks!!!