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Home office - habitable room

  • 04-05-2021 9:22am
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Is any one able to advise if a home office is a habitable room? I’m thinking of applying for planning to convert attic and add a rear facing dormer as I’ll be working from home long term . But ceiling is only 2200


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Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 10,929 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    In passing, is it an existing 2 storey?

    habitable room" means a room used for living or sleeping purposes but does not include a kitchen having a floor area of less than 6.5 m2 in area

    http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1991/si/306/made/en/print part E

    .


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Thanks. It’s currently a 2 story so would be adding a second floor .
    If the home office is considered habitable I need to think about fire doors extra insulation etc as well as the height issue


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,929 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    Yeah, the fire regs for the whole house for making it a three storey are fairly onerous
    hope link its current
    http://www.housing.gov.ie/search/archived/current/category/housing/type/publications?query=loft%20conversion


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Yes , that’s why I’m curious if I can get away with it being non habitable .


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,929 ✭✭✭✭ Calahonda52


    Yes , that’s why I’m curious if I can get away with it being non habitable .

    Pass:)


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    Well, it all depends on whether you are considering selling the house at some stage.
    If not, well, you can kind of do whatever you want really. However, if it ever comes to selling the house, it'll come up that it is non-compliant and will be a headache to resolve.

    If it were me, I'd keep any modifications modest in extent, not affecting the structure of the buidling and low cost so that if i ever had to sell in time to come, reversal of the modifications would not be a massive deal.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Ideally I'd like to get planning for the dormer as it would make it a much more pleasant place to work as well as giving more usable space for storage. If selling in future it would be sold as non habitable space . Not sure how much of a chance i would have of getting planning for a dormer for storage space and thought home office might be more possible


  • Moderators, Home & Garden Moderators Posts: 10,101 Mod ✭✭✭✭ BryanF


    Well, it all depends on whether you are considering selling the house at some stage.
    If not, well, you can kind of do whatever you want really. However, if it ever comes to selling the house, it'll come up that it is non-compliant and will be a headache to resolve.

    If it were me, I'd keep any modifications modest in extent, not affecting the structure of the buidling and low cost so that if i ever had to sell in time to come, reversal of the modifications would not be a massive deal.

    So would you include fire safety in the above ascertain? Ie don’t make any changes that would negatively affect fire safety (part B)

    What about safe access and egress? Would you include part k in the above ascertain?

    I think the structurally blinkered post above is dangerous.

    OP do not ‘kind of do whatever you want’.. make any alterations to your home as safe and as compliant as possible. It your families safety you should consider at the end of the day.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Thanks . Will 100% do what’s right . It won’t be a habitable space though at 2200. That’s why I was asking if home office would be considered habitable


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    Is any one able to advise if a home office is a habitable room? I’m thinking of applying for planning to convert attic and add a rear facing dormer as I’ll be working from home long term . But ceiling is only 2200

    No. It’s not a habitable room but you should still aim to meet the requirements for loft conversions as outlined in Annex D of TGD Part B plus the other regs.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Gumbo wrote: »
    No. It’s not a habitable room but you should still aim to meet the requirements for loft conversions as outlined in Annex D of TGD Part B plus the other regs.

    Thanks , appreciate the help


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    Thanks . Will 100% do what’s right . It won’t be a habitable space though at 2200. That’s why I was asking if home office would be considered habitable

    Yeah but you're still going to use it as a habitable space. So by right you should comply with the regulations as far as is possible in this conversion. If you cannot get the head height will that is a constraint. If an existing building doesn't have the head hieght, or whatever, to meet a threshold, that doesn't give you carte Blanche to disregard every other regulation applicable. You still have to comply with regs wherever it is reasonable practicable considering the nature and character of the existing building.

    That's by rights now. In practice, people do all sorts of things and it's fine. Fine.....until something happens, a visitor falls down a non-compliant stairs, it gets some other injury, or you want to sell the house. Then you have a problem. And the regulation short cuts come back to haunt you.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,080 ✭✭✭ Staplor


    Most attic conversions are done as storage areas.

    Just so happens they have a window and a bed and/or a desk in them.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    Which is a total dawfake of the supposed propose.

    It's a storage area but not a storage area.
    A non- habitable space, but a habited space.
    Compliant but non compliant.

    All fine and dandy until something happened and then you've a problem. until a visitor is up there and gets injuried and decides to claim against you. Or good forbid, there was a fire.
    You'd have a fine day out in court.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,730 ✭✭✭ Citizenpain


    Just to be clear , this is intended as an office . We have plenty bedrooms.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,080 ✭✭✭ Staplor


    You'll never be able to sell it as X bedroom house + office.

    You'll have an X bedroom house + converted attic storage space. It adds to the value or makes your house easier to sell, but it's only officially a storage area.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    Yeah but you're still going to use it as a habitable space. So by right you should comply with the regulations as far as is possible in this conversion. If you cannot get the head height will that is a constraint. If an existing building doesn't have the head hieght, or whatever, to meet a threshold, that doesn't give you carte Blanche to disregard every other regulation applicable. You still have to comply with regs wherever it is reasonable practicable considering the nature and character of the existing building.

    That's by rights now. In practice, people do all sorts of things and it's fine. Fine.....until something happens, a visitor falls down a non-compliant stairs, it gets some other injury, or you want to sell the house. Then you have a problem. And the regulation short cuts come back to haunt you.

    If classed as non habitable then there are lessor requirements.
    Take inner rooms in dwelling, studies etc
    They don’t require escape or rescue windows.

    The OP has confirmed this is for home office use, it’s ancillary to the main dwelling and in my opinion (while wearing a building regulations hat) it’s non habitable.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    Staplor wrote: »
    You'll never be able to sell it as X bedroom house + office.

    You'll have an X bedroom house + converted attic storage space. It adds to the value or makes your house easier to sell, but it's only officially a storage area.

    Agree. It will be X bedroom plus attic conversion.
    The use of that conversion depends on its compliance status. Home office/study/store. All the same class.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    Gumbo wrote: »
    If classed as non habitable then there are lessor requirements.
    Take inner rooms in dwelling, studies etc
    They don’t require escape or rescue windows.

    The OP has confirmed this is for home office use, it’s ancillary to the main dwelling and in my opinion (while wearing a building regulations hat) it’s non habitable.

    Sure, you can use that workaround for as far as the regs are concerned. Officially as per regs it will be converted storage. The op will not be using it as converted storage - he will be using it for effectively habitable purposes. Knowinly, I might add.
    And again, that is all well and good until a visitor wanders in there and trips over something or is unfortunate enough to be caught in a fire and becomes litigious. Then you have a problem becuase they will get their solicitor to home in on the fact that it was a storage area but was used for a purpose other than that, and lets say had an electric heater or appliance, that caused a fire in a place it was never supposed to be in the first place.

    It might be fine to sign off on regs wise when done, but it is the subsequent use that is inconsistent with what the regulations assume ought to be the case that causes the problem when something unfortunate happens.

    And that is grand, but doing it all KNOWINLY, knowing that this so called "converted storage" will in fact be used for otherwise habitable purposes like an office or bedroom, is a pure and utter dawfake.

    If I was an assigned certifier, and a client was telling me "yeah so can we put this on the drawings as "converted storage area" but can we also put in nice floors, sockets, office lighting, built in shelving and an ethernet socket and radiators etc etc" I'd be like "no. You can fit it out as such but you'll have to spend the money to make it B, M, K compliant etc, or else it'll stay as a basic storage area with minimal fit out." If they subsequently decide to do whatever modifications themselves then that is their business if something happens. But you can't dawfake something knowing full well that whoever you are doing it for is looking to dance around the regulations and then probably go back and blame you for it all when something goes wrong or there is a fire or something years down the line.


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,355 ✭✭✭✭ Penn


    Gumbo wrote: »
    If classed as non habitable then there are lessor requirements.
    Take inner rooms in dwelling, studies etc
    They don’t require escape or rescue windows.

    The OP has confirmed this is for home office use, it’s ancillary to the main dwelling and in my opinion (while wearing a building regulations hat) it’s non habitable.

    I'd class it as habitable.
    Habitable Room - A room used for living or sleeping purposes but does not include a kitchen having a floor area of less than 6.5 m2 in area, a bathroom, toilet or shower room.

    Storage would fall outside that as it wouldn't constitute a room used for living or sleeping purposes, but given that a person would conceivably be in a home office for extended periods of time, it would constitute living purposes.

    It's certainly ill-defined in the regs, but I always would have considered that usage as a habitable room, particularly as they specifically point out that small kitchens, bathrooms toilets and shower rooms aren't habitable rooms, but home office would definitely meet more of the criteria than those.


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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    Just to be clear, I’m taking the OP at face value that this space is home office. Not sleeping or living space.

    There’s no risk of people wandering in. It’s within the single family dwelling, not an open to the public office.

    Appendix D of TGD Part B would still be required as i posted earlier (Pg. 84 here - https://assets.gov.ie/100107/46250a2d-e09c-480a-8290-eb0b8bddcdcd.pdf)

    Then section 1.3.3 only requires an escape window from bedrooms so the protected stair core is enough to satisfy that requirement.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    A home office.
    It's got seating, desk, a table perhaps, appliances of various types, heating and lighting. It's will be occupied for extended periods of the day most days.
    That's not too dissimilar from a living room or similar.

    Non habitable rooms, like small kitchenettes, bathrooms and storage closets are going to have short duration used and not going to be occupied for extended periods.

    An office in a commercial space is a habitable space.
    A home office will have a very similar user pattern and activities but only for one or 2 people.
    Why would one be habitable and the other not, even when both have very similar purpose and uses.

    I'm of the view that an office is very much a habitable space.

    Maybe you can convince a judge that it is not habitable, but it's not a position I would like to have to defend if something I signed off on burned down.

    (As you well know, an incident or for need not necessarily be directly connected to any given non-compliance, but when something happens, they (plaintiffs lawyers, engineers, HSA in some situations) will go through the whole thing top to toe and nail you for every and any little or big non compliance they can find. Even if unconnected with the fire or whatever the accident was.

    How do you know someone won't wander in and fall?
    Kids might be over on a play date. One of them wanders in, or they go in to get a phone charger, or go in to do stuff on the computer or to print something. One of them falls on something, or trips on the non part k stairs, or any other freak accident.
    Next little Johnny's mammy is sending solicitors letters requesting their engineer inspect a stairs or whatever else that is alleged to be improper . And then you've a big problem on your hands.

    As always in the Irish mentality, everything is grand and fine until there is a problem, and then when you have the problem it's a hundred grand fine.


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,355 ✭✭✭✭ Penn


    I agree that as a home office, it's not going to be used by anyone other than the occupant for the most part. But I think it constitutes a room used for living purposes (rather than a living room) as it's likely to be occupied for extended periods of time. Hence why bathrooms, small kitchens and storage rooms aren't habitable as they're not used for extended periods of time. Again though, it's very ill-defined (as are several things in the regs).

    But yes, secondary means of escape in terms of windows not required as it's not sleeping accommodation.


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,071 ✭✭✭ PMBC


    Has anyone ever enquired from a Building Control or Planning Office what there interpretation of habitable is in relation to 'home office'?
    I think habitable is given fuller meaning when contrasted with non-habitable such as a store, small kitchen, utility room etc. Those a places where family members do not spend a lot of time. A home office, with the current work revolution and wfh, is a place where at least one person spends a lot of time and so should be subject to stringent fire safety protection measures.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    I fully agree


  • Registered Users Posts: 542 ✭✭✭ joebre


    I was looking at a house for a client a few years ago. It was a dormer bungalow with a 2.3m ceiling on first floor.
    I queried the ceiling height.
    The vendor's engineer wrote that the ceiling height was "not non-compliant"
    He would not certify that it was compliant.
    I advised the client not to proceed.
    Client went to meet BCO.
    He gave her a letter confirming that ceiling height was a recommendation. Must find his letter to remind me of the detail.
    Client bought the property.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    PMBC wrote: »
    Has anyone ever enquired from a Building Control or Planning Office what there interpretation of habitable is in relation to 'home office'?
    I think habitable is given fuller meaning when contrasted with non-habitable such as a store, small kitchen, utility room etc. Those a places where family members do not spend a lot of time. A home office, with the current work revolution and wfh, is a place where at least one person spends a lot of time and so should be subject to stringent fire safety protection measures.

    Yes but a home office is deemed that a person is awake and aware of their surroundings.

    A bedroom is a sleeping location therefore you could be awoken and be disorientated.

    With regards to building control. Yes I have done it before. I can show you brand new houses with non habitable “family rooms” in the loft space.

    The new development in phibsborough (Smurfit Site) for example.


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 31,305 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Gumbo


    A home office.
    It's got seating, desk, a table perhaps, appliances of various types, heating and lighting. It's will be occupied for extended periods of the day most days.
    That's not too dissimilar from a living room or similar.

    Non habitable rooms, like small kitchenettes, bathrooms and storage closets are going to have short duration used and not going to be occupied for extended periods.

    An office in a commercial space is a habitable space.
    A home office will have a very similar user pattern and activities but only for one or 2 people.
    Why would one be habitable and the other not, even when both have very similar purpose and uses.

    I'm of the view that an office is very much a habitable space.

    Maybe you can convince a judge that it is not habitable, but it's not a position I would like to have to defend if something I signed off on burned down.

    (As you well know, an incident or for need not necessarily be directly connected to any given non-compliance, but when something happens, they (plaintiffs lawyers, engineers, HSA in some situations) will go through the whole thing top to toe and nail you for every and any little or big non compliance they can find. Even if unconnected with the fire or whatever the accident was.

    How do you know someone won't wander in and fall?
    Kids might be over on a play date. One of them wanders in, or they go in to get a phone charger, or go in to do stuff on the computer or to print something. One of them falls on something, or trips on the non part k stairs, or any other freak accident.
    Next little Johnny's mammy is sending solicitors letters requesting their engineer inspect a stairs or whatever else that is alleged to be improper . And then you've a big problem on your hands.

    As always in the Irish mentality, everything is grand and fine until there is a problem, and then when you have the problem it's a hundred grand fine.

    I think your completely misunderstanding the situation. People won’t wander in. You mention a kid falling, in the same breath they could fall in your bedroom or kitchen. This will be your kid. Not a member of the public.

    This is a home office within the family dwelling and I have seen and spoke to insurance assessors, the legal profession in relation to this. In fact it was specifically discussed during the Post Grad Dip in Fire Safety course you do in TCD.


  • Registered Users Posts: 30,355 ✭✭✭✭ Penn


    joebre wrote: »
    I was looking at a house for a client a few years ago. It was a dormer bungalow with a 2.3m ceiling on first floor.
    I queried the ceiling height.
    The vendor's engineer wrote that the ceiling height was "not non-compliant"
    He would not certify that it was compliant.
    I advised the client not to proceed.
    Client went to meet BCO.
    He gave her a letter confirming that ceiling height was a recommendation. Must find his letter to remind me of the detail.
    Client bought the property.

    I think the recommendation from Part F of the building regs is that the floor area at 2.4m should be at least half that of the floor level at 1.5m. However, I think if the head height is less than 2.4m but over a greater area (such as under a dormer roof), that still meets the same criteria in principle. So say the floor area at 2.3m is more than maybe 2/3 the floor area at 1.5m (rough example), that could probably be deemed acceptable.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,293 ✭✭✭ TheBoyConor


    I think it's laughable that an office that could be worked in for 7or 8 hours a day on a regular basis would be non habitable. Ludicrous .

    What's with the term "home office" anyway? Does prefixing something with the word 'home-' somehow give it a get out from what would usually be required.
    I wouldn't consider it any different from a sitting room, dining room, family room or similar. Someone could be spending the better part of a day in this office, depending on their work. If it is not inhabited then, I don't know what is.

    If we took the approach that it is non habitable then you'd get away with a rickety staighre up to it which is clearly lethal for anything other that very occasional use.

    And where is it "deemed" that a person is awake and alert in a home office, since the regs make little or no mention of such? Sure isn't someone alert and awake in a kitchen or a dining room too, but yet they are obviously habitable.

    I see this word "deemed" a lot in my work. It's said with the indtent of sounding like it is the definitive word on something, but often it's just an arbitrary decision that someone comes to in their report or assumptions for no other reason than because it suits them and makes the job handier.

    And another thing, apart from building regulations, if someone is working for an employer or indeed self employed, they need to have a place of work that is safe to access and exit, fire safe, ergonomic and everything else. Most diligent employers will want to check this. If they see you going up into an attic office on a staighre or some tiny stepped spiral stairs mashed into a corner, that won't cut it.


    As for someone getting injured. Again read my other post. All it takes is someone to go in there (visitor, child on a playdate etc) and, through whatever chance mishap, falls on a non compliant stairs or some other thing, and then you have to answer for it. Look, you'd be in fierce bad luck for it to happen, but it is a possibility. And it is reasonably foreseeable that, say, a non part k stairs could result in a person tripping and being injured and claiming against the householder because the stairs was not built according to the regulations.
    What's more, we have a duty under H&S regs to design things that are safe for the user. If you design something that you know will likely be used for regular access rather than sporadic, then you have to design accordingly. If you specified a staighre up to a "converted storage area" while also specifing said storage area with Ethernet ports, nice lighting, oak floors, radiator etc etc and then the owner a few years later breaks their neck on the staighre while coming down for their lunch, they would absolutely 110% be in their rights to come after you for knowingly, and I stress KNOWINGLY, designing something that you knew was going to be a high risk.
    You would be absolutely ridden rock solid in court for that.
    Would you be confident in answering things like that with the clients barrister trying to break you down in the dock and trying to paint you in the worst possible light at every syllable?

    They would probably say well as a professional in the field you ought to have foreseen that a "converted storage area" with a handsome fit out specification was obviously not going to be used as a storage area, and you breached your duty of care by allowing your client to proceed with a plan that could put them or others who used that storage/office in danger.


    I think this whole thing is an attempt to circumvent the spirit of the regulations, stretch the limits of the term non habitable and squeeze different things through the loophole created by the ill-defined grey area on whether an office is habitable or not.

    With much more work from home being a reality into the future, I think the regulations need to be updated to clarify the situation with respect to rooms that are offices, or indeed any other rooms that are not bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens or toilets.
    As it stands, it's all a bit muddy and ill defined.


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