A narrow aisle can make it impossible for everyone to evacuate an office in time. For this reason, offices must comply with standard guidelines that dictate the width of corridors and exit placements. While different organizations might say their requirements are based on state occupational safety office requirements or building codes, their numbers usually match those set by the Life Safety Code of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Leaving the Building
An aisle near an exit should have at least 44 inches of clear space if the office holds less than 50 people. An article in the NFPA Journal reveals that a clear aisle can be 36 inches wide if fewer than 50 people will use it. The article also notes that one code exception for existing buildings allows aisles as narrow as 28 inches.
Further inside the office, minimum widths for unblocked aisles vary depending on the age of the building. New construction must have aisles that are at least 36 inches wide, according to the NFPA Journal, but older construction can remain at 28 inches unless remodeled.
NFPA codes don’t apply to spaces within an individual office, and an organization can require bigger spaces if it sees fit. For example, Cornell University requires a 44 inch width except in corridors leading to service elevators or classrooms; those must be 66 inches wide.