What to call a room that has no windows?


This is in a single family home in San Francisco.  The SF code amendments require 8% natural light from windows in all "habitable space".  The owners want a large conditioned room in their basement - no hope of getting 8%, though we can probably get 5% (light well is not possible.)  They'll use it as an exercise room, but I think this would count as "habitable space."  It will have a bathroom and laundry room opening off it so calling it storage probably won't fly.  Have y'all been successful using the term "media room" or "home theater" without meeting light requirements.  DH (also an architect) suggests "spa" - ?

Complicating factor is that this is part of a remodel already under construction.  Contractor started excavation and sold owner on him further enlarging the space ("sure, we'll just call it a home theater or whatever") - no one wants to stop and wait for official determinations, etc.  Let's just say their getting ahead of their permit.

Thanks for all suggestions!

Apr 6, 13 12:37 pm

Exercise area?

Apr 6, 13 12:44 pm

Circulation to the bathroom and laundry?

Apr 6, 13 2:03 pm

why isn't exercise room ok?  that has almost the exact same non-habited use as a theater right?  it's just temporarily occupied, noone sleeping there or anything

also, i don't see why you can't circulate through a storage room to get to a laundry room. 

or call it 'basement'

Apr 6, 13 2:35 pm


Apr 6, 13 2:47 pm

Are you sure the building department is going to strictly enforce the light requirement?  Some other cities give you relief since, for example, attached garages and front porches and patios really reduce the linear wall that is available for openings to the exterior.  Not to mention that too many windows in the concrete foundation can present real structural issues.

Apr 6, 13 5:41 pm

If you don't meet ventilation requirements you probably don't meet egress either. And they can't be one and the same. Liability issues abound ... I'd have stopped the work at the first sign of an issue.

Apr 6, 13 5:44 pm
boy in a well

as long as you have a note saying that a young harry potter will be stored there then the planning people wont care because they know that the order of the phoenix will be coming to rescue him eventually.        similarly, you could call it a virtual exercise room and install laurence fishburne to ask people if they think that's air they're breathing...then you don't have to worry about ventilation.

Apr 6, 13 6:05 pm


Apr 6, 13 6:52 pm

Have you looked carefully at the code to see what their determination of "habitable space" is?  "Habitable space" doesn't usually mean "every single space in which a human can fit" or whatever.  Usually the determination of "habitable space" is explicitly stated somewhere - this light & vent requirement might only be for sleeping spaces.  In which case as long as it isn't a Bedroom, you're fine.  On a separate note, do not let your stamp get tied up with ANYTHING where the work is ahead of permit.  Danger danger.

Apr 6, 13 7:39 pm

This being SF, it's on a hill, so exiting isn't an issue - the front part of the level is above grade.  We're talking here about the below grade part that they want to excavate.  My specific question, jokes aside, is what you've successfully claimed as not counting as "habitable" space.  I've had a persnickety plan checker here claim that a Mud room had to be considered habitable space, (and thus meet 8% natural light code) even though it was essentially a glorified hallway.

Apr 6, 13 7:43 pm

The definition will be in the irc, bathrooms and such do not count I would call it a utility room on the plans and leave it at that for submittal.

Apr 7, 13 9:47 am

 a room.  its this type of mental masturbation that cripples the discipline 

Apr 7, 13 9:50 am
boy in a well

hey daveZ, what are you five years old? its your stupidity that cripples the discipline. I don't think you're even smart enough to use the word discipline. go back to your coloring books. you make me regret using humor on the internet.

Apr 7, 13 10:22 am

prison cell .....

Apr 7, 13 5:58 pm

A shitty room.

Apr 8, 13 4:26 am

A room in the basement can never have a window through which sunlight can directly pass through, so it can be called as a dark room. 

Apr 8, 13 7:32 am

i'd vote for beer cave or wine cellar. light wouldn't be desirable, necessarily, in this kind of space so you could argue that the room's very function is argument for it not having windows. 

Apr 8, 13 7:45 am

Closet? Did i win

Apr 8, 13 1:51 pm

 I've had a persnickety plan checker here claim that a Mud room had to be considered habitable space,

This is your first problem and it cannot be avoided.  Second problem is you should probably check the definitions pages of your Local Code and Zoning Regs (if applicable) for the textbook definition of "habitable space".  In NYC, there are plenty of occupancies that are not habitable, storage for example (but partitions may have to be fire rated).  Find one of those occupancies, and call your room whatever is the most appropriate.  If the plan examiner gives you hell, you politely negotiate to get what you want or some plan examiners are cool enough to tell you what they want you to do to make it legal in their eyes.  

Apr 8, 13 3:51 pm

maybe you can label the room "accessory use."  i never tried actually calling a room that, but now that i think of maybe i should more often.

Apr 8, 13 4:21 pm
future hope

The code includes an exception that allows you to use artificial lighting instead of the 8% natural light.

Apr 8, 13 7:23 pm

In Colorado and Washington, can officially be labelled "Grow Room."

Apr 8, 13 7:43 pm


Apr 8, 13 8:29 pm

I had checked the habitable definition, which only exempts halls, storage, toilet, utility and the like - this is an 11' x 20' room with an ensuite bath and closet.  And SF blocks the artifical lighting exception.  However, I made a visit to the building dept. and it turns out they have an unspoken agreement that Media Rooms don't need to have natural light - it's the only habitable space they make an exception for.  Media Room FTW! SF folks take note.  And I did write a big CYA warning to the owner about the contractor getting ahead of the permit.  I think they've asked him to pause.

I'll let you know if they make me take out the closet "so it's not a bedroom."

Apr 9, 13 12:43 am
boy in a well

you should probably install laurence fishburne, just in case. he's very convincing.

Apr 9, 13 4:59 am

Good to know that got resolved sfer.  That Media Room local exemption would be handy to know if I worked in SF.

Apr 9, 13 10:37 am

wouldn't and exercise room not be a media room?

Apr 9, 13 11:08 am

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