You are on page 1of 2

Nosing projection and open risers Staircases which consist only of treads are said to have open risers

. Under the 19 96 CABO model code, open risers are no longer permitted because they are a dange r to children. They are also a danger to the elderly, who tend to catch their to e on the tread and trip. Nosing projections are also a danger to the elderly. Width Again, limits are probably specified in the local building code. Typically the m inimum width permitted in residences is around 2 feet 8 inches. Three feet is be tter, and 3'6? is the standard for normal occupancy. If a stair is more than 44 inches wide, a handrail is required on both sides. Landings Most fire codes do not allow stairs to rise more than 12 feet without providing a landing. The length of the landing should be at least equal to the width of th e stair tread. Balustrade According to the 1996 CABO code, the openings between balusters are to be no gre ater than 4 inches. This is half of what was allowed a few decades ago; smaller holes reduce injuries to young children. The balustrade is topped by a handrai l 30 to 38 inches above the top of the stringer; the handrail's grip size is bet ween 1¼ to 2 inches. If the handrail is mounted on a wall, a space of at least 1½ in ches must be left between the edge of the handrail and the wall. Historical trends Rules of thumb for determining satisfactory rise/run ratios have existed at leas t since Classical times. In De Architectura, Vitruvius suggests a unit rise of b etween 9 and 10 inches, and a unit run between 18 and 24 inches. To modern taste s, this proportion would create a very stately stair. Sir Henry Wooten (1568 1639) suggested that the unit rise not exceed 6 inches and that the unit run be betwe en 1 and 1½ feet. Both authors, however, are describing public buildings or grand houses. Jacques-Francois Blondel (1705 1774) argued in his Cours d'Architecture that the r ise/run ratio should be based on the length of the human pace, which he took to be 25.5 inches. Since in one step on a staircase a foot travels by two risers an d a tread, Blondel arrived at the formula two times the unit rise, plus the unit run = 25.5", or unit rise = (25.5" - unit run) over 2. This formula works well only for moderate values for unit rise (or unit run). It was, nonetheless, enshr ined in the National Fire Code. Among American architects, an old rule-of-thumb is that the sum of the unit rise and the unit run should be about 17½?. Common practice has been to make the unit rise about 7½ inches, the unit run 9? for interiors and 11? for exteriors. In modern times, stair researchers have gone beyond observing which existing sta irs cause the most accidents. Using tools like endless mechanically driven stair cases with variable unit rise and unit run, they have been able to experiment wi th many combinations of unit rise and unit run, and to capture in stroboscopic p hotography how missteps occur. The results largely confirm the rules of thumb, b ut some interesting results emerge, such as that the optimal rise/run ratio for descent is not the same as the one for ascent. Several researchers feel that for descent the unit run should be at least 11 inches. But requiring an 11? unit run is controversial. Increasing the unit run even an inch or two can greatly increase the size of the staircase. With a rise of 12 fe et and a unit rise of 7.2 inches, increasing the unit run from 9? to 11? makes t he staircase two feet longer probably 6 square feet of floor area carved out of th e living room. When a 7-11 standard was adopted by a building code in the Northeas t, the National Association of Home Builders got it reversed, arguing that it in creased costs without any proof that it was safer. Alternate Tread Stairs Imagine climbing a staircase in which alternate halves of the treads have been r emoved. A foot moving to the next empty tread does not need to clear the tread o n which the other foot stands. Such staircases exist. Their great advantage is t hat they can be very steep ( up to 70°, compared to up to 50° for normal stairs) and

In the United States. Such staircases are most commonly fou nd on shipboard.still be safe and comfortable. . The great disadvantage is that such a staircase can accommodate only one person at a time. Lapeyre Stair in New Orleans specialized in such staircases.

Related Interests