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Thread: Define habitable floor area, and does it include bay windows?

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    Define habitable floor area, and does it include bay windows?

    In Teton County we limit bulk and scale by limiting habitable floor area. We define habitable floor area as:

    "Habitable floor area is floor area used for living purposes, usually having access to heat, plumbing, and electricity. It includes foyers, hallways, restrooms, closets, storage, and other common areas within a building. Habitable floor area does not include mechanical rooms, elevators and fireplaces. Habitable floor area is measured either from the exterior of the faces of the building or the exterior limits of any interior wall that separates habitable floor area from nonhabitable floor area, whichever is applicable."

    Obviously, people are always pushing the envelope, and I received a set of building plans that have a large window that is almost floor-to-ceiling, except for a rise of about 18" off the floor. Normall, we consider this "window" to be habitable floor area. However, the architect is challenging us because it puts his client's house beyond the threshold allowed by the restriction in habitable floor area. He is calling it a bay window, so I'm searching for definitions regarding what is a bay window.

    Anyone out there have a definition of what is a bay window? We are looking for criteria, such as: how high off the floor? how large of a window opening? and how far our can it project (depth of the window sill)?

    Thanks for any insight.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    What kind of sill does the bay window have? Is it 3/4inch plywood on top of 2x16 joists? In which case, I'd call it a floor. My parent's house has bay windows that aren't much more than 18" above ground level but the sill was clearly not designed to support weight. When I was little, we'd always get in trouble for sitting there.

    It seems to me though that your definition would include it in habitable floor area because it's not seperated from habital area by a wall.

    BTW: This would be a great Wiki article.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    We have a minimum living area requirement and I would not count a bay window toward it. Most bay windows I've seen are just over grown sills and are not much good for anything except flowers and knick-knacks.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

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    Quote Originally posted by Whose Yur Planner
    We have a minimum living area requirement and I would not count a bay window toward it. Most bay windows I've seen are just over grown sills and are not much good for anything except flowers and knick-knacks.
    Precisely. What this guy is calling a bay window is 3-feet deep, 10-feet wide, and only 18" off the floor and goes all the way to the ceiling. Clearly not a bay window to you and me, but to a stubborn architect, it is a bay window! GRRRRRRR!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    if the foundation does not coincide with the window...NO

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    Yes

    If the bay window is canti-levered over the outside ground, yes. This sounds like a classic architect trick to try and get out of the definition by placing an 18" riser on the interior of the house (when its not only NOT needed, but probably looks like hell). Count the area and suggest that if they move forward, drop the 18" riser and seek relief in some other way from the code New building codes won't allow cantilevered bay windows that aren't load bearing for interior use. The building code may have a provision for canti-levered areas built at some height above the interior floor level that would limit them from being included in the habitable floor area calc, take a look or ask your building official. The other question is, do you measure your setbacks to the base of the outer wall at grade or to the outermost point of the structure, including canti-levered walls?
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally posted by The One
    If the bay window is canti-levered over the outside ground, yes. This sounds like a classic architect trick to try and get out of the definition by placing an 18" riser on the interior of the house (when its not only NOT needed, but probably looks like hell). Count the area and suggest that if they move forward, drop the 18" riser and seek relief in some other way from the code New building codes won't allow cantilevered bay windows that aren't load bearing for interior use. The building code may have a provision for canti-levered areas built at some height above the interior floor level that would limit them from being included in the habitable floor area calc, take a look or ask your building official. The other question is, do you measure your setbacks to the base of the outer wall at grade or to the outermost point of the structure, including canti-levered walls?
    We measure to the exterior of the structure. This same guy has additional problems because he measured to the center of the logs and not to the exterior of the logs. Of course, he is simply changing his plans to reflect little logs instead of the 10" logs the contractor is really going to build with.

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