Architecture Committee - Finishing basements - Egress Window Information

Below is information from Scott Piersol, East Brandywine Township Manager and Fire Marshall, about finishing basements:

“The Statewide Building Code will be ready to be adopted in all municipalities in April of 2004. Our revised Building Code will include the provision requiring a direct escape from any below-grade living space, to comply with the International Building Code. I expect to have this done during the spring of 2004, likely in April or soon afterward.

It does not matter who does the work. Our current building code requires a building permit be obtained for any of this type of work, which is considered to be an “alteration, where the alteration does not increase the floor area of the building.” You are creating additional living space, hence the requirement for a permit.

Currently, the permit is based on the cost of construction, with the following formula: $35 for the first $1,000 of cost, $15 per $1,000 of cost to $5,000, then $5 per $1,000 thereafter, with a $75 Use and Occupancy Fee. The fee schedule will also change with the Code change, as these fees have not increased since 1992.

The issue is really one of life safety. I have been involved in emergency services in East Brandywine Township for 27 years, and with the County Department of Emergency Services for 20 years. I try to take a pro-active position with similar questions. Any bedroom requires two means of escape in case of fire. Typically, these are the normal route you take every day as the primary means of egress, and a window as a secondary means of escape. With a below–grade living space, you may only have one means of escape if a fire were to occur. Isn't the life of a family member or friend worth the investment in a secondary means of escape?

Listed in the right column are the websites for manufacturers of egress windows, and some information on their installation. These are larger windows that open into a large window–well designed for the purpose of emergency escape. This would be much less costly than the installation of a “Bilco” door, for example. For a new installation, Rouse Chamberlin Homes was charging $2500-$3000 for an egress window, since they were aware this building code change was forthcoming.

We are planning to put building permit information on our web site. As with anything else, it takes time to plan and execute – with a small staff, some things do not happen as quickly as I would like.

I am scheduled to address the Keat's Glen HOA meeting next week. Perhaps I can provide information to those who attend, and for distribution purposes.

Sorry for the long–winded answer, but I am adamant about making a difference in the fire problem in this country. I have seen the problem first–hand. I truly believe this requirement protects the residents of this and other communities, since they sometimes refuse to protect themselves, believing a tragedy will never occur in their household.”

–Scott Piersol, Manager

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Related Downloads»

Basement Escape Windows

In–swing basement windows & reference information

Exterior photos of basement window–well installations

Egress window fact sheet

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  • Bruce Berry (Chair)
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