Mezzanines Must Be Located Within Rooms

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Letter to the Editor:

For the past couple of years, I’ve been actively following the current construction projects on St. John accompanied by consistent misinterpretation of the term “mezzanine.”  

For the building codes, the US Virgin Islands follows the International Building Code (IBC) 2003 (now 2006) stated by International Code Council headquartered in Washington, DC.  (ref. Title 29, Chapter 5, Building Code, § 292. General purposes, Application and Scope (g).)  

In the IBC, a mezzanine is defined as:
“An intermediate level or levels between the floor and ceiling of any story with an aggregate floor area of not more than one-third of the area of the room or space in which the level or levels are located.”

The key words in the above definition are intermediate and between. Using only part of the mezzanine definition does not constitute a mezzanine i.e. covers only 33 percent of the story below. In other words, it must be located within a room.   
In order to clarify the definition of a mezzanine, I phoned the International Code Council interpretations committee. Among the committee members are lawyers, architects, builders, engineers and surveyors. These are the individuals who write and keep the IBC current and up-to-date.   

The committee gave the definition of a mezzanine this way:  once you take down the mezzanine wall, you must see the floor below of the room in which the mezzanine is located. This makes absolute sense since the word mezzanine is derived from the Italian word mezzo which means in the middle.

Next, Title 29, Chapter 3, Zoning Law supersedes Chapter 5, Building Codes.  (Ref. Chapter 3, Subchapter 1, Zoning Law, § 226 General Provisions (a) When any provision of this subchapter imposes more stringent requirements, regulations, restrictions, or limitations than are imposed or required by the provisions of any other regulations, statute of law, the provisions of this subchapter shall apply and govern.)

Please note — you cannot set precedence in a statute. My favorite example is speeding. I can speed if I want, when I want and how fast I want. Once I get pulled over, I cannot explain to the officer that I have sped before and got away with it, this time I have to pay the fine.

If a particular building code appears in the IBC, this does not mean it’s automatically adopted in the V.I. Zoning Law, Chapter 3. For example, in IBC, Section H110, Roof Signs, provides details on how to construct and erect a roof sign. Yet, Chapter 3, Zoning Law, deems roof signs illegal.  (Ref. Title 29, Chapter 3, Subchapter 1, Zoning Law §231 c. No roof signs shall be permitted anywhere in the Virgin Islands.)

I hope this sheds some light on the definition of a mezzanine and how it should be incorporated into a story.

Liza Trey
St. John Homeowner