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Secondary Suite Egress Requirements
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Secondary Suite Egress Requirements

Posted by: tyler hinrichsen
Category: Building Codes
Egress Window Dimensions

Secondary Suite Egress Requirements

Egress requirements are viewed as an unnecessary requirement by many people looking to save money during a renovation. Not cutting corners on safety should be common sense. However many people looking to turn a profit on a rental, look to save money wherever possible.  In the event an illegal suite catches fire and the proper egress or smoke alarm requirements are not met the landlord can be subject to large fines.


In 2009, 3 people died ( Tiffany Cox, 19, Colleen Matie, 23 and Jonathan St. Pierre, 19 ) in secondary suite fire resulting due to a lack of acceptable egress windows and a battery operated smoke detector that failed to wake the tenants on this unfortunate January night.

Egress Requirements

Egress requirements in the city of Calgary are based on the Alberta Building Code. This ensures all suites are safe for tenants and anyone that may be staying in them. These requirements apply to all basement windows that serve a bedroom, defining the various dimensions of the window, opening style & Window Well Size to ensure safety in all emergency situations.

In Addition to the window requirements, additional requirements need to be met for the window well. This can vary depending on the type of window installed, however the rule of thumb is 30in. If you would like to know more about the egress window well requirements please see the following article.

City of Calgary Egress Window Well Requirements

Egress Requirements Quoted From City of Calgary Advisory Bulletin ( Egress Window Guidelines )

Division B Egress Windows or Doors for Bedrooms
1. Except where the suite is sprinklered, each bedroom or combination bedroom
shall have at least one outside window or exterior door openable from the
inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge and without the
removal of sashes or hardware (see Article and Appendix A)
2. The window referred to in Sentence (1)
a. shall provide an unobstructed opening of not less than 0.35 m2 in area
with no dimension less than 380 mm, and
b. maintain the required opening during an emergency without the need for
additional support (see Appendix A)
3. Where a window required in Sentence (1) opens into a window well, a
clearance of not less than 760mm shall be provided in front of the window
(see Appendix A).
4. Where the sash of a window referred to in Sentence (3) swings towards the
window well, the operation of the sash shall not reduce the clearance in a
manner that would restrict escape in an emergency
5. Where a protective enclosure is installed over the window well referred to in
Sentence (3), the enclosure shall be openable from the inside without the use
of keys, tools or special knowledge of the opening mechanism.
6. If the window referred to in Sentence (1) is provided with security bars, the
security bars shall be openable from the inside without the use of keys, tools
or special knowledge

City of Calgary Egress Window Guidelines Bulletin ( PDF )

What does this mean?

  • Your window needs to be rated for egress, the simplest way to check this is to ensure when the window is open the unobstructed area ( Length x Width ) is a minimum of 0.35 square meters or ( 3.75 sqft )
  • When Installing a new window, ensure the window is rated for egress from the manufacture.
  • Ensure you window well provides sufficient space, Many older window wells are too small to pass egress. A minimum window well depth of 30in is required to pass egress.

If you are unclear on egress requirements call the City of Calgary Planning Services Center (403) 268 5311 and ask for a safety codes officer, they will be able to answer all of your egress related questions.

Author: tyler hinrichsen

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