The situation starts off as an issue, I think, because of misunderstood terminology. I am code oriented type of guy. I think I know the code better than most of my local peers, but it always frustrates me when I don't know things that I consider simple or things I think I should because I have been in this profession for so long.
I have designed and drawn up a few multifamily housing type of buildings in my day. Some projects have both apartment buildings and townhouse type units. Everyone knows what an apartment building is, but what exactly is a townhouse?
What you find on the internet when you look for a definition is "a tall, narrow, traditional row house, generally having three or more floors." So many people consider a townhouse to be a style or type of building . Townhomes are usually associated with residential buildings, but there are many office buildings around that are done in a townhouse style.
One of my clients has done several apartment complexes that have both the apartment buildings and the townhome units in the development. Many people outside the industry don't understand that just because people live in the building it is still considered a commercial project. The North Carolina Residential code is for one and two family dwellings and multiple single family dwellings (townhouses) not more than three stories with a separate mean of egress. The North Carolina code defines a townhouse as " A single-family dwelling unit constructed in a row of attached units separated by property lines and with open space on at least two sides".
So many of my residential development projects have "Townhome" style residential buildings, but for code purposes they are not true townhouses and do not fall under the residential code, but the commercial code.
Why is this such a big deal? The commercial code is much more restrictive. Which brings me to stairs. The residential code states that the maximum height of a riser and be 8 1/4" high. Commercial risers are typically restricted to 7", but there is an exception for residential (R-2) that will allow you to have 7 3/4" high risers.
On my latest project prefab stair were delivered and most installed in the units. A field inspector measured the height and it was 8 1/4". Oops! Which leads the to statements " We have always built them this way and never been called out" The bottom line is they have to be removed and replaced. Fortunately the sheetrock has not been hung. So they are in the process of replacing them this week. Why they were fabricated incorrectly no one has said nor accepted blame. I am sure the company who supplied them to the site is walking on egg shells hoping for the minimal amount of collateral damage. I will keep a more watchful eye as I am currently working on another "townhouse" style residential (R-2) building .