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For the purposes of zoning, building and assessment, do towns typically consider conservatories to be living space?

(A conservatory is a glass walled enclosure attached to one side of a house with a patio-like floor. It is used for growing plants.)

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    The main distinction in Florida is egress and air conditioning. – Jason Jun 22 '18 at 13:41
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The Code defines “Habitable Space” as, “A space in a building for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet rooms, closets, halls, storage or utility spaces and similar spaces are not considered habitable spaces.” (See ICC R202)

  • While this gives the definition of Habitable space, it does not indicate which category a conservatory would fall into as per the question. It is ultimately up to the Authority Having Jurisdiction to provide clarity where there is wiggle room in the code for instances such as this. – statueuphemism Jul 7 '18 at 1:15
  • @statueuphemism True, but as they say: “If it looks like a hot dog stand and smells like a hot dog stand, it is a hot dog stand.” I doubt you’ll get the Building Official to say it’s a “bathroom, toilet room, closet, hall, storage or utility space”. – Lee Sam Jul 7 '18 at 2:01
  • A conservatory is a space for growing plants, no? I wouldn't default to saying a building official would consider it space for "living, sleeping, eating, or cooking" either, and so it is very much open to the AHJ's interpretation. How you plan to build it determines what it looks and smells like, so if you want to make an ice cream stand or a hot dog stand, it comes down to how you build it and plan to use it. – statueuphemism Jul 7 '18 at 20:27
  • @statueuphemism Touché. Actually, there is a little known exception to the “habitable space” requirement. If it’s identified as “agricultural” then the Code doesn’t apply...but you’ll need to keep it agricultural. If you use it as a conservatory (put a chair and table in it) then your home insurance is invalid...AND when you go to sell it in the future, you’d better declare it as agricultural. Is it worth it...??? – Lee Sam Jul 7 '18 at 21:01
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I do not know what the "typical" answer is here because it is ultimately a determination made by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (I.e. local government) and conservatories are uncommon in my area.

That said, you should be able to get creative with picking another name for a glass-walled room that would more reliably fit into a habitable living space category (e.g. "living room" with big windows) or non-habitable living space category (e.g. "enclosed patio", "attached greenhouse", "mud room") depending on whether you want it to be habitable living space or not.

The biggest things to consider in naming the space on permit plans are whether you want the room counted as square footage or if you want more relaxed building requirements to meet your intended use of the space. Non-habitable rooms such as hallways and mudrooms often count toward the total square footage of the home, but will also have slightly stricter building requirements on insulation and electrical outlet requirements while outdoor spaces such as enclosed patios typically do not.

  • Or as the old accountant joke goes: Q: "What is 2 + 2"? A: "What do you want it to be?" – manassehkatz Jun 22 '18 at 15:58
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    If it looks like a hot dog stand and it smells like a hot dog stand, it probably is a hot dog stand. – Lee Sam Jun 22 '18 at 18:55

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