Exit Travel Distance

Exit Travel Distance – Building Codes

As an Architect, I interact with clients, engineers and contractors who have acquired bits of information about Building Codes.  Sometimes, those bits are misconceptions and regurgitated information.  The building codes can be intimidating and have no beginning or end. To learn the code, the best way is jumping in feet first.  

Upcoming Blog Posts

In the next series of blog posts, I will explore common Building Codes.    Each City has adopted a code but most in Arizona use the IBC (International Building Code).

The following blog posts are:

  1. Door swing direction.  Which way should the door swing, out of a room or in?
  2. Number of exits within a room?
  3. Door Size.  Who said “size doesn’t matter.”
  4. Exit corridor width.  How narrow can a hallway be?
  5. Clearances around a door?  Door arrangement between two doors.  
  6. Door fire ratings.  What is the rating?
  7. Exit Travel Distance  
  8. Do you need an elevator?
  9. Should my door have panic hardware? 
  10. Do I need a drinking fountain?
  11. Minimum size of a single person toilet room?
  12. Small commercial space, is one bathroom enough?

The item in bold are addressed in this post.  As an Arizona Architect, most City’s jurisdictions work with the IBC (International Building Code).   This code analysis is based upon the IBC.

Exit Travel Distance

The maximum exit travel distance allowed by code is determined by the ‘Means of Egress’.  The basic definition is as follows:

Common Path of Egress Travel‘That portion of exit access which the occupants are required to traverse before two separate and distinct paths of egress travel to two exits are available.  The exit access is the component which leads you from the occupied portion of the building to an exit.’

Several factors within a building may require a 2nd exit from a space.  The two most common triggers are occupancy quantities (ex.  exceeding 49 occupants in an office space) or exceeding the allowable travel distance.

Exit Travel Distance

Below is an example of a scenario where occupancy calculation ( quantity of occupants) didn’t trigger a second exit.   Travel distance triggered a second exit.

Exit Travel Distance

Storage spaces, Warehouses, manufacturing, Agricultural building etc. which are low in occupancy quantities will require a 2nd exit if travel distance allowable is exceeded.


The Common Path of Travel is the distance an occupant must travel to exit a building.  In some scenarios, occupancy calculations dictate that a 2nd exit is required.  Where occupancy quantities are low and the Common Path of Travel exceeds the distance allowable, a second exit is required.   Follow the examples above for reference but as always, refer to the local jurisdiction and a local professional to ensure your projects success.

Jeff Serbin

Jeff Serbin is Vice President of Serbin Studio. His responsibilities include architectural design and project management. He coordinates the work of consultants and design team members, and is involved in design from concept through construction.

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