There is an online Lab Safety Design Manual with recommendations for this question and many other issues at:
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Hi DCHAS colleagues,
Does anyone know the best way to estimate occupancies for college teaching labs based on square footage and the exact sources for those estimates? I've seen several sources state 50 ft2 and cite the NFPA but I'm having trouble figuring out how to locate that specific information in the fire code.
Also, does anyone know if that refers to gross or net (i.e. after benches/hoods/etc.) square footage?
If you want some context- I've include all the drama-laden details below.
Instructor, Pasadena City College
Details for context (Warning: drama-ahead!):
We're getting a new science building to replace our old building that was condemned for seismic issues. We just found out a month ago that the plans for the building were somehow finalized at the state chancellor's office without anyone's knowledge and that the submitted plans were designed in-house by someone in facilities rather than an actual architect. Based on our analysis, the new building will drop our lab enrollment capacity to almost 75% of what we can currently manage, which is 70% of what we where historically offering before our old building was condemned. (There are other issues, including that its five stories with one elevator.) We've been told very firmly that we can not make any changes to the building without losing our spot in the funding queue. (We're fine with this, the district board is not.)
When we talked to the architects about the square footage issue, they claimed that egress was the only issue for teaching lab occupancy and that they were unfamiliar with the 50 ft2/student value we were citing. [The architects were also rather mysteriously chosen since they didn't appear as one of the finalists selected by the committee. We've found several news articles about lawsuits involving code violations by this firm.)