Legally Required Windows

by | Last updated May 26, 2020 | NYC DOB


Legally Required Windows are windows that must be provided to satisfy a code requirement for example a bedroom must have a window as per code. This would be considered a Legally Required Window.


Legally Required Window

Certain spaces with buildings have window requirements as per code. These are often referred to as Legally Required Windows.


Habitable Rooms

There is a misconception that only bedrooms require windows. In fact I was at a Board of Standards of Appeals Hearing waiting for my Zoning Variance Hearing last month. As I was listening in on the hearing before me the Chairperson of the BSA said that if you call a room a study it does not require a window. This is a common myth even some high ranking individuals at city agencies repeat these myths. You cannot simply change the name of a room on your plans and magically erase the need for windows within a dwelling unit. The building code clearly states habitable rooms require windows. And the NYC 2014 Building Code does list a study as a habitable room.

These are the rooms specifically listed by the NYC 2014 Building code as habitable rooms:

  • Bedrooms
  • Living Rooms
  •  Studies
  • Recreation Rooms
  • Kitchens
  • Dining Rooms
  • “And other similar spaces”

The code uses the words “and other similar spaces” to point out that just by changing the name of a room you are not exempt of the requirements.

Light And Air

In general habitable rooms require light and air. These requirements vary in certain specific cases. But here are some of the basic rules. Typically windows for a Habitable Room must be 10% of the square footage of the room and they must be able to open at least 5% the square footage of the room. There are many variations to this rule for example in loft buildings within certain special areas these rules can be modified for qualifying buildings.

Bathroom Required Windows

Bathrooms require a window or mechanical exhaust but not both. If a bathroom has an exhaust it will not require a window. If it does not have an exhaust it will require a window. If it has both the window would not be considered a Legally Required Window as long as the exhaust fulfills the code requirement.  The size requirements are different then for habitable spaces.

Kitchens and Kitchenettes

The building code differentiates between a kitchen and a kitchenette. According to the code a kitchen is over 80 square feet and a kitchenette is under 80 square feet. We have another post if you want to read more about the difference between a kitchen and kitchenette. According to the NYC building code a kitchen requires a window but a kitchenette requires a window or mechanical exhaust. If a kitchenette has an exhaust it will not require a window. If it does not have an exhaust it will require a window. If it has both the window would not be considered a Legally Required Window as long as the exhaust fulfills all the code requirements.

Do Hotels Rooms Require Windows

Hotel Room are habitable rooms and therefor legally require windows. There are minimum room size requirements by code and light and air requirements for hotel rooms.


Legally Required Window Codes

As an architect, I study Building Codes and Zoning Codes closely, but these are complicated and quite involved issues. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic concepts with regards to Legally Required Windows. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview of the topic.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Legally Required Windows.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave questions and comments below. If you would like to speak with an architect, you can Contact Fontan Architecture directly.


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Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.