Did You Know NFPA 45 is adopted for Lab Projects in the City of Boston?

An often-overlooked code reference on laboratory projects in the City of Boston is to NFPA 45, Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals. Most design professionals that practice in Massachusetts on laboratory projects are aware that 527 CMR, The Massachusetts Comprehensive Fire Code deletes Ch. 26, which references NFPA 45. However, the City of Boston Fire Prevention Order 86-1 requires compliance with NFPA 45 for laboratory projects within its jurisdiction.

CLICK HERE to access the Boston Fire Department Laboratory Regulation Guide

Where Does it Apply?

The City of Boston Fire Department Laboratory Regulation Guide defines a laboratory as the following:

Laboratory Definition- Laboratory shall mean a building, room, or workplace designed and/or used for the development, conduct, or observation of scientific, including but not limited to the medical chemical, physical, or biological disciplines, experimentation or research, including non-routine testing, analysis, experimentation, or other similar activities that involve the use or storage of hazardous materials as defined by Section 20.02 (c) of the City of Boston Fire Department Fire Prevention Code. Specifically excluded from this definition are classroom laboratories, dark rooms, autoclave rooms, pharmacies, drug stores, physician’s offices or the offices of other direct-care health providers, hospital or health care dispensaries, or other facilities providing medication directly to patients.

What is NFPA 45?

NFPA 45 is a standard that covers the protection of laboratory scale operations within buildings. It utilizes a methodology to compartmentalize the building in to separate fire areas with a prescribed amount of chemical hazards located within each area. It’s similar to the control area methodology required under 780 CMR, the Massachusetts State Building Code. There are notable differences including,

  • Area restrictions depending on the class of laboratory unit utilized
  • Requirement for a second means of egress from laboratories exceeding 1,000 SF
  • Quantity regulations on individual sized containers as well as a limitation on the density of chemicals per 100 SF.

How does it relate to Control Areas?

Similar to control areas, the maximum allowable quantities of chemicals per Laboratory Unit decrease depending on its level above grade and hazard classification. Laboratory Units are classified as Class A (high-hazard), Class B (moderate fire hazard), Class C (low fire hazard) and Class D (minimal fire hazard). Table 5.1.1, and 10.1.1 of NFPA 45 outlines the size, separation, height allowance, and quantity limitations requirements for Laboratory Units based on its classification. Further fire protection and life safety requirements are also dependent on the hazards present in the Laboratory Unit.

Since both the control area requirements of 780 CMR and NFPA 45 requirements (via the Boston Fire Prevention Regulations) are applicable to laboratory projects in the City of Boston, the most restrictive requirements of the two codes should govern the design.

Please feel free to contact us if you need help in applying these requirements on your project.