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Sealed staircase between multiple levels with different tenants

Sara Vernia
Jackson Main Architecture
June 14, 2021

For some reason, I'm not able to reply to my previous question/response thread, so I'm trying again here.

Original question:
I'm doing BOMA calculations for an existing building that has a stairwell that runs from the basement to the third floor and has been sealed off. Each level has a different tenant. How should this unused 'void' space be counted?

BOMA Helpdesk response:
The stairwell is treated no differently than any other stairwell under the standard. It's a Major Vertical Penetration and therefore not included in the rentable area of the building.

Ok, sounds good, but I'm still a little confused on the reason. The stairwell that has been blocked off was never an emergency exit (non-essential) and used to connect multiple levels of the same tenant. When different tenants began to populate the levels they closed it off. I do not believe that the stair is structural. Couldn't it be counted as tenant space since it could be demolished and become usable area (per 3.3 special conditions - occupant void)?

...also, if you do confirm that it should be a major vertical penetration, then how should the bottom level be counted? per BOMA standards this is typically counted as Building Service Area right?

David Fingret
Extreme Measures Inc.
June 14, 2021

Hi Sara,

That changes things. You didn't mention that the stairwell was previously built by/for a tenant. Also, you posted in our BOMA 2010 category before and now BOMA 2017.

Yes this would be considered an Occupant Void; however, the standard does not specifically say what happens in the situation you describe. It doesn't seem reasonable that a tenant should pay for this area when they gain no benefit from it. I would recommend caution allocating the Occupant Void to those Occupants it effects if there is no intention on filling the void so the Occupant's can use the area that they are paying for. With that in mind, I would recommend including the area as vacant tenant area for now and therefore not associating the space with an actual tenant.

The Standard does state that "An Occupant Void that is inherited by a tenant is still considered an Occupant
Void and therefore its area remains Tenant Area." however this applies to a single tenant inheriting the Occupant VOID from a former single tenant. Your situation is different and not covered by the standard because you have multiple tenants inheriting the Occupant Void that was built for a single tenant - and presumably the Landlord has installed the barriers, so the new tenants have not been given the opportunity to fill in the space.


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