PA practice question
Hi all,
I know many people talked about this subject, that when it comes to numbers we need to round up, however in this question from the PA practice question, the answer for the floor numbers are rounded down to 6 instead of round up to 7, which means (if I am not wrong) it doesn't meet the client requirements because we eliminate some of program required area. My concern is for questions of actual exams, when to round up and when to round down for the calculation and to put the correct answer in the box?
Thanks,
Dalia Nori

I think it’s just a poorly worded question. If we take the given scenario completely literally, we would design the maximum allowed number of stories… even if it meant each story would be less than the 5600 sf area allowed by the setback requirements. We’d be limited not so much by the FAR, but by how many stories we could legally fit and still stay under the 85 ft height maximum. We’d need to know a bit about structure here, I’d think, too: if the IBC tells us we need an 8ft ceiling, what’s the most minimal depth we’d need to add to that for structure, then divide 85 ft by that number and round DOWN to make sure we don’t exceed that 85 ft max.
But putting that aside, even if we were to max out each story’s square footage, it’s unclear to me why we couldn’t have six stories of 5600 sf each and a smaller seventh story at 3900 sf for a total 37500 sf, which is the maximum allowable.
I think the question just isn’t worded well. For what it’s worth, I can only recall one or two times on all six exams where I really didn’t think the question was written clearly (to the extent that I had to guess what they were even asking).
All that said: Dalia, your original question was about rounding. It’s more helpful to think of it as rounding in the direction of compliance or safety. I can’t think of a real example off the top of my head (maybe someone else can comment with one) but if some calculation told you the number of exits required was 1.2, you’d round UP to 2, because we can’t have partial exits, and more exits is in the direction of safety. That’s a bad example because we don’t determine exits that way, but I think it illustrates the point about the rounding. As another example: If we were asked to determine the number of stories a building could be and we were told the zoning limited us to a max height of 50 ft, and the program called for 14 ft stories, we’d divide 50 by 14 (=3.57) and round DOWN to 3 stories, because if we rounded up we’d be out of compliance.
Christine Williamson
www.christinewilliamson.com 
The answer is 6.37 so you’d technically have 6 floors and 1/3 of the floor. Having 1/3 of the floor wouldn’t make sense much so it makes sense to round it down. Because of strict zooming and all the area and height calculations I don’t think the City would allow building an additional 2/3 of the story just for the sake of rounding it up.

One more thing! Dalia, I think you’re going about the studying process exactly right in that you’re trying to understand the logic behind the answer and you’re going through the calculations so that you can apply it to similar questions. That said, you actually wouldn’t entirely need to do the full calculation that ncarb shows to select the right answers. It’s multiple choice and they tell you to pick three, so you can tell from the table alone that the three correct choices provide the most flexibility with respect to height. Of course real life isn’t multiple choice! But every now and then, simple process of elimination will serve you well:)

Thank Christine, appreciate it. Your explanations are very helpful. Yes I know this question is a multiple choices not about calculation, but I am concern if we have a question that needs to fill in a box with number of stories (for example), and as you explained before which is very good examples to relate with compliance and with code, but if we rounded up and the answer complies with code or zoning requirement, but NCARB put the correct answer in the computer to round down then my answer will be wrong and I will get 0 point for that question, especially with PA exam, any correct answer is worth it. This is very sad because we know the answer but because of this situation we will loss points which may lead to not pass the test. I hope I explained my concern clearly.
Best,
Dalia

Hello Dalia,
The answer choices do not state how many floors of podium construction are being used. You could have 5 stories over 2 of podium, or 4 stories over 3 of podium as long as the max height is not exceeded for any of the building types or zoning. This then makes A, E, and F the only options regardless if you calculate a 5,100 sf building footprint at 7 stories or a 5,600 sf building footprint at 6 stories with some left over space. The issue is that the rationales provided make some assumptions about the owner wanting to maximize building footprint as well as height. These are not clear in the question and create a bit of misalignment with the responses and calculations the writer provided as backup.
This item was brought up previously in this post Practice Exam Question #1 PA for similar reasons. Based on the comments there and here we've flagged this item for review and clearer wording by our item writing volunteer architects for release in a future version of the practice exam.

Thanks NCARB appreciate it, very helpful. Yes I know this question is not about calculations, but I am concern about questions that need to fill in box, however since you mentioned this question is one of questions that will be revised, so we shouldn't worry about this situation in actual exam, right?
Best,
Dalia

Hello Dalia,
Correct, since this item technically had multiple ways of calculating it to get the same result, the rationale provided was permissible though a bit confusing. Fill in the blank item types require more precise calculations and do not have room for multiple possible interpretations. Because of that, the response rationales and calculations for those item types do not allow for assumptions on rounding or multiple possible calculations with different results. Those item types will also include clear direction on which way to round the response depending on the type of calculation required.

Dalia (and anyone following along)  did you catch the Instagram post on coderelated rounding by Hyperfine? It’s also a blog post:
https://hyperfinearchitecture.com/are50howtoroundcoderequirements/
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