Hillside/Berm Steps

Hillside Stairs
What are Hillside/Berm Steps?

·        Hillside or berm steps, also commonly referred to as landscape or garden steps, are stair structures built into a hill, slope, or berm to provide safe and efficient access to different elevations of an outdoor space.

Hillside or berm steps, often referred to as landscape steps, are a functional and aesthetically pleasing solution to dealing with slopes or inclines in outdoor spaces. They facilitate safe and comfortable access across different levels of a landscape while enhancing its visual appeal.

Hillside or berm steps are primarily used in landscaping and outdoor architectural designs.

What are the primary uses:

  1. Erosion Control: Hillside steps can prevent soil erosion on steep slopes by minimizing the runoff of water. They act as a barrier, slowing the downhill flow of water and reducing its erosive power.
  2. Accessibility: These steps provide a safe and comfortable way to traverse a sloping landscape. Without steps, a steep hillside can be difficult and potentially dangerous to climb or descend, particularly in wet conditions.
  3. Garden Design: In landscape design, hillside steps can be used to add aesthetic appeal. They can provide structure in a garden, guide visitors through the space, and create opportunities for displaying different plants and garden features.
  4. Outdoor Recreation: In parks or outdoor recreational spaces, hillside steps can be used to lead visitors to different areas, such as viewpoints, picnic areas, or trails.
  5. Terracing: In agriculture, steps or terraces are often created on hillsides to create flat areas for planting. This not only makes planting and harvesting easier but also helps to prevent soil erosion.
  6. Property Access: In residential properties built on hillsides, steps may be used to provide access to different levels of the property, such as a garden, a patio, or a main entrance.

In all of these uses, the key function of hillside or berm steps is to make sloping terrain more usable, safer, and aesthetically pleasing.

Hillside or berm steps in public spaces or those used in commercial or residential buildings where the public has access are subject to regulations set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the International Building Code (IBC). These rules ensure accessibility and safety for all individuals, including those with mobility issues. Here are some ADA and IBC compliance guidelines:


  1. Stair Width: According to the IBC, the minimum width of stairs should be 44 inches if serving an occupant load of more than 50 people and 36 inches if serving an occupant load of 50 or fewer.
  2. Treads and Risers: Stair treads should be at least 11 inches deep, and the riser height should be between 4 and 7 inches. There should be no more than a 3/8 inch variation in the rise and run per flight of stairs. ADA regulations also require stair treads to have a non-slip surface.
  3. Handrails: Both the IBC and the ADA require handrails on both sides of the stairs if there are more than four risers. The handrails should be continuous and extend beyond the top and bottom of the stair flight. The height of the handrails should be between 34 and 38 inches.
  4. Landings: The IBC requires that a landing be provided at the top and bottom of each stairway, and that the landing length be at least equal to the width of the stairs. The ADA also requires landings at changes of direction.
  5. Edge Protection: If a ramp or a set of stairs is elevated, the ADA requires edge protection or railings to prevent wheelchairs from slipping off the edge.
  6. Visual Contrast: For people with visual impairments, the ADA recommends (but does not require) a visually contrasting strip on the top and bottom stairs, so the beginning and end of the staircase are clearly marked.

Remember that while these are standard regulations, local codes may have additional requirements or exceptions based on the specifics of the location and the intended use of the hillside or berm steps. Always consult with a knowledgeable professional to ensure full compliance.

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