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A storey (in British spelling) or story (in American spelling) is any level part of a building, that has a permanent roof and could be used by people (for living, work, storage, recreation, etc.). The plural is storeys or stories, respectively.

The terms floor, level, or deck can also be used in this sense; except that one may use "ground floor" and "ground level" for the floor closer to what is considered the ground or street level, whereas "storey" is commonly used only for levels strictly above or below that level The words "storey" and "floor" also generally exclude levels of the building that have no roof, even if they are used by people—such as the terrace on the top roof of many buildings.

Houses commonly have only a few floors, often only one. Buildings are often classified as low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise according to how many levels they contain; but these categories are not well-defined. The tallest skyscrapers in the world have about a hundred floors (as of 2009).

The height of each storey is based on the ceiling height of the room plus the thickness of the floors between each. Generally this is around ten feet or three metres total, however it varies widely from just under this figure to well over it. Storeys within a building need not be all the same height — often the lobby is more spacious, for example. Higher levels may be smaller in area than the ones beneath (a prominent feature of the Willis Towermarker).

In English, the principal floor or main floor of a house is the floor that contains the chief apartments; it is usually the ground floor, or the floor above. In Italymarker the main floor of a home is usually above the ground level, and may be called the piano nobile ("noble floor").

The attic or loft is a storey just below the building's roof; its ceiling is often slanted and/or at a different height than that of other floors. A penthouse is a luxury apartment on the topmost storey of a building. A basement is a storey below the main or ground floor; the first (or only) basement of a home is also called the lower ground floor.

Split-level homes have floors that offset from each other by less than the height of a full storey. A mezzanine, in particular, is typically a floor halfway between the ground floor and the next higher floor. Homes with a split-level entry have the entire main floor raised half a story height above the street entrance level, and a basement that is half a storey below this level.

There are also multi-storey car parks, also known as parking garages.


Floor numbering is the numbering scheme used for a building's floors. There are two major schemes in use across the world. In one system, used for instance in the British Islesmarker, the floor just above the ground floor is assigned the number 1 (or "first"); in the other system, used in the United Statesmarker, that same floor is number 2 (or "second"). In both systems, the numbering of higher floors continues sequentially as one goes up, as shown in the following table:

Displacement from ground level British convention American convention
3 story heights above ground "3rd floor" "4th floor"
2 story heights above ground "2nd floor" "3rd floor"
1 story height above ground "1st floor" "2nd floor"
at ground level "Ground floor" "Ground floor" or "1st floor"

Each scheme has further variations depending on how one refers to the ground floor and the subterranean levels. The existence of two incompatible conventions is a common source of confusion in international communication, sometimes even between communities who speak the same language.

In all English-speaking countries, however, the storeys in a building are counted in the same way. Thus, for example, the phrase a seven-storey building would mean the same thing in Britain and in the US — namely, a building with seven covered floors, including one at ground level and six at higher levels; even though the topmost of those levels would be called "6th floor" in Britain, and "7th floor" in the US.

British/European scheme

In most of Western continental Europe, floors are numbered as in Britain: the "first storey" or "first floor" is the next level above ground level. This system is used in Denmarkmarker but not in the other Scandinavian countries This scheme is also used in many of the Commonwealth nations (except Singaporemarker and parts of Canadamarker), many former British colonies, and in many (but not all) Latin American countries, including Mexicomarker and Brazilmarker.

This convention can be traced back to Medieval European usage. In countries that use this system, the floor at ground level is usually referred to by a special name. For example, it is called ground floor in the British Isles, rez de chaussée in Francemarker, pianterreno (literally "ground plane") in Italymarker, planta baja ("bottom floorplan") in Spainmarker, andar térreo ("ground walking") in Brazilmarker, and pritličje ("ground level") in Sloveniamarker. In some countries that use this scheme, the higher floors may be explicitly qualified as being above the ground level — such as in Slovenian prvo nadstropje (literally "first upper floor").

US/North American scheme

The English-speaking parts of Canada generally follow the US convention, where the "first" floor is the floor at the ground level and the floor above it is the "second" floor. In Quebecmarker, the European scheme was formerly used (as in France), but by now it has been mostly replaced by the US system; so that rez-de-chaussée and premier étage ("first stage") are now generally equivalent in Quebec. Mexicomarker, on the other hand, uses the European system.

The US system is also used in Russiamarker and some countries of the former Soviet Unionmarker, in Scandinavian countries except Denmarkmarker, and in some (but not all) Latin American countries. So, for example, planta baja and primer piso ("first footing"), which are distinct in Spain and Mexicomarker, are equivalent in Chilemarker and Perumarker, and refer both to the ground-level floor (although primer piso is used mainly for indoor areas, while planta baja is also used for areas outside the building).

Most countries in eastern Asia, including Chinamarker, Taiwanmarker, Japanmarker, and Singaporemarker, follow the North American system. In the grammar of the respective languages, the numbers precede the word "floor", and are cardinals rather than ordinals; so they would translate literally as "1 floor, 2 floor" (etc.), rather than"1st floor, 2nd floor", or "floor 1", "floor 2".


Some U.S. high-rise buildings follow the British system, often out of a desire on the part of the building's architect or owners to suggest a posh UK/ European setting .

Occasionally, buildings in the US and Canada will have both a "1st floor" (usually the main floor of the building) and a "ground floor" below it. This typically happens when both floors have street-level entrances, as is often the case for buildings located on hills. In the UK, the lower of these floors would be called the lower ground floor, while the upper would be called either the upper ground floor or simply the ground floor.

Sometimes, floor number 1 may be assigned to the lowest basement level; in that case the ground floor may be numbered 2 or higher. Sometimes two connected buildings (such as a store and its carpark) have incongruent floor numberings, due to sloping terrain or different ceiling heights.

In Swedenmarker the floors are numbered as in the North American scheme ("1st" = "ground", "2nd", etc.); but one can also refer to them by how many flights of stairs one needs to climb to reach them from the ground floor. So, 2:a våningen ("2nd floor") is the same as 1 trappa upp ("1 stair up"); 3:e våningen ("3rd floor") is also 2 trappor upp ("2 stairs up"); and so on.

American and Canadian buildings typically omit the thirteenth floor in their floor numbering because of common superstition surrounding this number. The floor numbering may either go straight from 12 to 14, or the floor may be given an alternative name such as "Skyline". In certain Asian countries, some buildings (especially hospitals) may lack floors numbered 4, 14, 24, etc., due to the similarity in pronunciation between the words "four" and "death" in the respective languages. Some governments frown on the practice of skipping floor numbers.

In Hong Kongmarker, the British numbering system is now generally used, by English and Chinese speakers alike, whether in speech or in writing. In some older residential buildings, however, the floors are identified by signs in Chinese characters, coinciding with the North American system. For those buildings, the Chinese phrase "三樓" or its English equivalent "3rd floor" may refer — as it would in Britain — to the storey three levels above ground, which is actually labeled "四樓"; or to the storey labeled "三樓", which is only two levels above ground. This confusing state of affairs has led, for example, to numerous errors in utility billing. To avoid ambiguity, in many forms to fill in, the user is instructed to use the floor number as accessed from a lift.

Elevator buttons

In most of the world, elevator buttons for storeys above the ground level are usually marked with the corresponding numbers. In many countries, modern elevators also have Braille numbers—often mandated by law.

European scheme

In countries that use the European system, where "floor 1" is distinct from the ground floor, the button for the latter is often marked with a letter. In English-speaking countries, it is often G for "Ground" or M for "Main"; or a functional label, such as L for "Lobby" (see below).

In France, however, the ground floor is often marked 0 (zero); and this convention may be occasionally used in other countries that use the European scheme. In any case, the next button after that will be marked 1.

Even when the ground floor button is marked with a letter, some digital position indicators may show 0 when the elevator is on that floor.

North American scheme

In countries that use the North American system, where "floor 1" is the same as "ground floor", the corresponding button may be marked either with 1, or with a letter, as in the European scheme. In either case, the next button will be labelled 2. In buildings that have both a "1st floor" and a "ground floor", they may be labeled 1 and G; or M (for "Main") and LM (for "Lower Main").

In modern signage, at least in North America, a five-pointed star (★) additionally appears beside the button for the "main entry" floor. In the United Statesmarker, the five-pointed star marking is mandated by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act , as described in Section 4.10.12(2) of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG).

Subterranean floors

The numbering of levels below ground is also quite varied, even within the same country. In English-speaking countries, the first level below ground may be labelled B for "Basement", although L or LL for "Lower Level" is sometimes used. In British department stores, LG for "Lower Ground" is commonly encountered, as the term "basement" is considered inappropriate for their image.

If there is more than one basement, the next level down may be marked SB for "Sub-Basement". The lower levels may also be numbered B1, B2, etc.. Negative numbers are sometimes used −1 for the first level below ground, −2 for the second one, etc..

Other labels

Elevator buttons may also be labeled according to their main function. In English-speaking countries, besides the common L for "Lobby", one may find P for "Pool" or "Parking" (and P1, P2, etc. for multiple parking floors), R for "Restaurant" or Roof, PH for "Penthouse", OD for "Observation Deck", etc.. In some US buildings, the label G on the elevator may stand for the building's "Garage", which need not be located on the "Ground" floor.

One hotel in Torontomarker marks the first six floors as A, M, MM, C, H, and 1 (for "Arcade", "Main", "Main Mezzanine", "Convention", "Health Club", and "1st floor"). The North Carolina Museum of Art, whose entrance is on the third floor up, has the floors lettered C, B, A (the main floor), and O (for "Office"). The Festival Walkmarker mall in Hong Kongmarker has floors labelled LG2 and LG1 ("Lower Ground 2" and "1"), G ("Ground"), and UG ("Upper Ground").

Romania uses Roman numerals for floor numbers in postal addresses, but Arabic numerals in all but the oldest elevators.

Room numbering

In modern buildings, especially large ones, room or apartment numbers are usually tied to the floor numbers, so that one can figure out the latter from the former. Typically one uses the floor number with one or two extra digits appended to identify the room within the floor. For example, room 215 could be the 5th room of floor 21 (or the 15th room of floor 2). Letters may be used, instead of digits, to identify the room within the floor—such as 21E instead of 215. Often odd numbers are used for rooms on one side of a hallway, even numbers for rooms on the other side.

An offset may be used to accommodate unnumbered floors. For example, in a building with floors labeled G, M, 1, 2, ..., 11 and 12, the 4th room in each of those floors could be numbered 104, 114, 124, 134, ..., 224, and 234, respectively — with an offset of 11 in the floor numbers. This trick is sometimes used to make the floor number slightly less obvious, e.g. for security or marketing reasons.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Politikens Nudansk Ordbog 15. edition ISBN 87-567-2107-9, see sal.
  3. [2].
  4. ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), Section 4.10: Elevators

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