While providing commissioning services on a project recently, I took the opportunity to point out a few design issues to a couple of our "younger" engineers relative to equipment room layout.

I was able to identify some good points and some not-so-good points about this particular installation with 20/20 hindsight, and to note some important HVAC design considerations when laying out these rooms.

These observations are the same type of insight you can grasp when reviewing the "HVACR Designer Tips" column, but let me share my observations and pet peeves with you about equipment room layouts.

The Importance of Being Specific

An efficient equipment room begins with accessibility and ease of moving in, around, and out of the room (a.k.a. "traffic flow"). To do this, the equipment within the space needs to be organized so that there is an unobstructed walkway within the room with accessibility for servicing filters, valves, etc., and eventual replacement of the equipment itself. Headroom, adequate lighting, and ventilation are also essential to a good equipment room layout.

All this may sound very basic to many of you, but let's get into some often missed designer details beginning with clearly identifying all housekeeping pads. Often specified as "concrete pads as required, shall be furnished by others." Just who is "by others"? Doesn't the engineer know who will be pouring concrete on the job that he or she is designing? Why keep it a mystery or choose to be vague as to what equipment needs to have a concrete pad and/or concrete inertia pad?

In my designer days, I would be very clear as to what equipment had concrete pads, what equipment had concrete inertia pads, and also what openings required concrete curbing to prevent water leaks from flowing down to the level below.

When I laid out the concrete requirements on the equipment room drawings, I would then send a copy of this concrete requirement on to the structural engineer for input on the structural contract documents. On my contract documents, I would note the concrete requirements, refer them to the structural drawings, and note "to be furnished and installed by the general contractor" and "not as required and/or by others."

It's All About Location

Another equipment room annoyance is the location of floor drains. Frequently, as you tour these spaces, you will find floor drains strategically located so that drain pipes needed to be extended to the drain from equipment requiring drain-off. If you pull out the record drawings, you will find (well, maybe) the floor drains shown on the HVAC contract document but without the drainpipe obstacle course distributed across the floor. Designer engineers should recognize that it isn't a bad thing to have a floor drain in back of a set of floor-mounted pumps. The goal is to avoid tripping hazards across the floor but still have access to the floor drain.

One more often missed detail in an equipment room is the eye wash station. Quite often, the HVAC design engineer will specify chemical treatment for various water and steam systems.

Chemicals will be stored within the equipment room for chemical treatment manual/short feeder(s) and/or automatic chemical treatment system(s).

OSHA requires that an eye wash station be located within the vicinity of chemical use and/or chemical workstations. The eye washer station can be a portable unit or a permanent unit. If a hard-piped eye wash station is designed into the contract documents, it is imperative that it be coordinated with where chemicals are going to be used. To do that, the HVAC design engineer should locate where the chemicals are going to be used and/or workstation. This should not be left up to the HVAC contractor in the field.

This Will be on the Test

Lessons-learned from today's equipment room tour: 1) Don't leave the concrete pad locations and responsibility up to someone else; 2) Lay out the drain piping and avoid tripping hazards; and 3) Locate eye wash stations and, if it is a hard-pipe station, make sure you have a floor drain too.

Knowing the requirements ahead of time and clearly coordinating these requirements on to the contract documents should not be "by others" or "as required." Take charge and responsibility. Equipment room design starts with the engineer. ES