Measuring Exit Access Travel Distances

The exit access configuration within a building is impacted by multiple code requirements to ensure that occupants can safely reach an exit and continue to the exit discharge. One of the major limitations that is required to be evaluated when configuring the exit access arrangement is Exit Access Travel Distance. Exit Access Travel Distances are limitations that identify the maximum distance from any point of a story to an exit. These are measured along the exit path from the most remote point of a story along the natural and unobstructed path of horizontal and vertical egress travel to the entrance to an exit (2015 IBC 1017.3). An exit can include exterior exit doors at the level of exit discharge, interior exit stairways and ramps, exit passageways, exterior exit stairs and ramps and horizontal exits.

Although IBC Section 1017.3 and NFPA 101 Section 7.6 outline how this measurement is taken, there are some common questions raised specific to this process given the different components exit access configurations consist of. The following include a few clarifications to address some these misconceptions while measuring Exit Access Travel Distances:

  1. Travel Distances are measured to the nearest exit, not all exits. The most remote point on the floor is required to be within the exit access travel distance limitations to any one exit on the floor.
  2. Often, travel distances change throughout the design of a project. Introducing new furniture or wall partitions for a tenant fitout or alternate furniture layout on a floor may obstruct an existing exit access path. As a result, the new exit access path could exceed the maximum travel distance beyond what is permitted. As design changes take place, it should be confirmed that compliant exit access travel distances are maintained.
  3. If an exit access stairway or ramp is provided along the path of travel, the Exit Access Travel Distance includes the travel down the exit access stairway/ ramp. The measurement along exit access stairways is required to be made on a plane parallel and tangent to the stair tread nosing’s in the center of the stair and landings. The measurement along ramps is required to be made on the walking surface in the center of the ramp and landings.

It is important to understand how to measure exit access travel distances. If you have any questions on or concerns about this information, please contact our office at


Application of any information provided, for any use, is at the reader’s risk and without liability to Code Red Consultants. Code Red Consultants does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in this blog as applicable codes and standards change over time. The application, enforcement and interpretation of codes and standards may vary between Authorities Having Jurisdiction and for this reason, registered design professionals should be consulted to determine the appropriate application of codes and standards to a specific scope of work.