Creating the Safest Classroom and Lab Atmosphere

The Findings of the Legal/Safety Group After being dubbed the legal
group, Chris, John, Jen, Jens, and Spencer began thinking about what this
title meant. After talking about the meaning of our group, both to each
other and to professor Sidebotham, it was concluded that the semantics
behind legal formed the following definition. Le' gal: Pertaining to
safety, i.e. anything that will keep Cooper Union out of legal trouble. We
worked from there, and researched Uniform Building Code literature, OSHA
manuals, and literature regarding the development of labs for chemical and
biological use, as well as literature on the disposal of created waste. The
following is an overview of precautions, safety measures, guidelines, and
precedent which will theoretically create the safest, and most professional
classroom and lab atmospheres. Information is presented on labs from the
most innocuous, to the most potentially threatening.

As simple as a classroom may seem, much thought should go into its
design and construction. Seeing as how it will be the incubator of great
minds, the classroom incorporated into room 643 should meet all safety
regulations, while being a pleasant place to learn. Light, ventilation,
exits, access, and fire safety must all be considered when building a
classroom. The Uniform Building Code states that a classroom is a Group E
occupancy, and follows that statement with a series of legislation. The
legal aspects of a classroom begin with the basics?light and ventilation.
An enclosed area designated as a classroom has to have natural light from
windows which should have an area proportional to at least 1/10 the total
floor area. Ventilation from exterior openings should be proportional to
at least 1/20 the total area. Where this is not possible, artificial light
and mechanical must be implemented to accomplish the same effect, whereby
ventilation would be achieved at 5 ft3/min. of outside air, and 15 ft3/min.
per occupant. Entrances and exits must also follow guidelines dictated by
the Uniform Building Code. The exits of the proposed classroom cannot be
more than 75 feet from an exit corridor, enclosed stairway or the
building's exterior. An exit through an adjoining room is also possible if
the exit to exit distance does not exceed the specified 75 feet., and there
are no obvious obstructions. Passage through a storage facility or haz-mat
lab in the neighboring rooms would be unacceptable. The exit corridor
walls and ceilings must be at least 1-hour-fire resistive construction with
protected openings. The width of exit lanes must also be proportional to at
least the number of occupants divided by 50. Also, since the classroom
requires only two exits, the distance separating them must be at least half
the length of the room's diagonal. As far as access to the room is
concerned, it must acc essible to the physically handicapped. This access
should come in the form of a ramp or elevator. The classroom atmosphere
must also follow fire safety guidelines. Walls floors, and partitions must
all be of a material consistent with construction requirements, and must be
more effective than smoke or draft stops. All of the door openings must be
fitted with fire assemblies, and be at least self or automatic closing,
tight fitting, and smoke/fire protective, with a rating of at least 20
minutes. The storage closets near the classroom must be of at least 1 hour
fire resistive construction. As a new structure within Cooper, the
classroom should also get up to code by having a sprinkler system, which is
necessary in ALL occupancies.

One of the most important pieces of the lab building puzzle is the
installation of an acceptable skeleton. The infrastructure of any lab is a
key to its smooth and safe operation. Ventilation, plumbing, climate
control, accessibility, stor age, electricity, and fire control should all
be integral parts of a lab, not carelessly placed afterthoughts. The
following few paragraphs touch on the basics required for safe operation
considered "up to code." Entrances and exits, as well as everything else in
the lab, must be handicap accessible. Doors must have glass panels, and
push outward in the direction of exit. Each lab must have two exits, each
allowing for a different evacuation path. Air systems must be specifically
designed to properly accommodate lab work. Toxic fumes and contaminated air
must be driven from the lab through a series of ducts, which vent the air
via a powerful fan. Air intake ducts must also be carefully situated by a
distance of at least 30 feet from discharge vents so as not to re-circulate
contaminated air. Discharge vents must extend at least 10 feet from the
roof, and any structures and vents existing on it. All ducts must