Norms pertaining to refuge areas in high-rise buildings

[] According to the building bye-laws, refuge areas should be demarcated in all commercial and residential high-rise buildings

To ensure that all buildings follow a uniform safety code, the government has made it mandatory for all developers to follow building bye-laws. As per these bye-laws, every high-rise building must have a demarcated space, where people can take shelter in case of an emergency. This space is known as a ‘refuge area’.

You are reading: Norms pertaining to refuge areas in high-rise buildings

Importance of refuge area

The refuge area is an important space in tall buildings, in which potential risks to life might emerge, in case of any mishap. Building norms were tightened after it came to the notice of the authorities that builders were selling this area to residents for personal use, after getting an on-paper approval for constructing such facility. It is the responsibility of the civic bodies, to check whether the provisions for the refuge area have been kept as shown in the approved map, before they issue completion certificates to high-rise buildings.

[] Fire safety precautions that developers and home buyers can take

Rules for refuge area

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According to the National Building Code, the builder should provide a dedicated refuge area at every seventh floor or after the first 24 metres in a high-rise. After the first refuge area, every seventh floor should have an area of refuge in the building.

Norms pertaining to refuge areas in high-rise buildings


FSI and refuge area

There have been cases where builders have sold the refuge space for lucrative rates. Therefore, to prevent such misuse of the demarcated space, building codes provide clear guidelines about the floor area calculation for refuge areas. According to the law, the refuge area must be limited to a maximum of 4% of the liveable floor area it serves. Also, the calculation of the refuge area is excluded from the Floor Space Index (FSI is the ratio of permissible built up area). However, if the refuge area is more than the 4% limit, the space will be calculated under FSI norms.

Alternate refuge areas

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If the high-rise has a height of more than 70 metres or have more than 24 storeys, there is a provision for alternate refuge area. According to the law, the alternate refuge area can be specified as reinforced concrete cantilever projections at the alternate mid-landing level of staircase. However, the minimum width for such area should be three metres and area should be 10 sq metres for residential buildings and 15 sq metres for commercial high-rises.

Apart from this, the builder should construct a clear passage to the refuge area, with signs mentioned everywhere, painted in luminous paint. No lift or staircase should open in such areas, as it shall be kept reserved for occupants as temporary shelter, in case of an emergency.

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Safety rules regarding refuge area

  • The door to the refuge area should never be locked, as the space must be easily accessible in an emergency.
  • The refuge area cannot be used for any other permanent or temporary purpose, such as community cooking or as storage or recreation area.
  • A ‘fire check’ floor in a building with a height of more than 70 metres is compulsory. It should cover an entire floor at every 70-metre level.


What is refuge area?

Refuge area is a separate space in high-rise buildings, where residents can take shelter in case of fire or other emergencies.

What is the meaning of refuge area?

Refuge area means the space where residents can take refuge in case of accidents and emergencies.

Why do some societies have a refuge area board?

It is mandatory for all high rise buildings to put up signs painted in luminous paint, indicating the direction to the refuge area.

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Category: Lifestyle

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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