Laboratory Suites in Existing Buildings

With the increasing number of laboratory buildings of varying sizes, ages, and conditions, the pending 10th Edition of the Massachusetts State Building Code (780 CMR) continues to generate industry excitement regarding the Laboratory Suite approach. This new chemical compartmentalization approach will allow for more significant quantities of flammable and combustible liquids within R&D laboratories than the Control Area approach recognized by the currently adopted 9th edition of 780 CMR.

In a previous post, we introduced the concept of Lab Suites and the associated implications for new construction (link to the article is provided at the end of this post). What about using lab suites in existing laboratory buildings that currently employ a Control Area approach?

To implement a Laboratory Suite approach in an existing building, several critical protection features are anticipated to be required for prescriptive compliance and may necessitate upgrades to existing building infrastructure. Such features include, but are not limited to:

  • Rated interior partitions
  • Rated floor assemblies with supporting construction
  • Automatic sprinkler protection
  • Laboratory ventilation
  • Standby power

Consideration should also be given to the following items when evaluating the feasibility of using a Laboratory Suite approach within an existing building.

(a) A Lab Suite approach can be partially or wholly implemented on a floor(s) in existing and new buildings. Partial implementation may lessen any infrastructure upgrades necessary within existing structures.

(b) Fitout projects planned to be permitted under the 10th edition can prescriptively utilize the Lab Suite approach within base buildings that have been (or are anticipated to be) permitted under a previous edition of the MA Building Code. Before this occurs, the building infrastructure will need to be evaluated to determine if the features required to support a Laboratory Suite are provided or if the building can support the necessary features.

(c) Implementation of Laboratory Suites before the adoption of the 10th Edition of 780 CMR would necessitate local AHJ approval or a state variance.

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