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Classroom occupancy codes set to change
Marlene Gonzalez / Senior Staff Writer
The occupancy levels in many classrooms on campus will either decrease or increase next summer to comply with new changes to the International Building Codes Occupancy Classification.
Darlene Callahan, director of Space Management and Planning, said the university conducted an annual audit checkup this year and discovered that some classrooms surpassed the limits while others had more space than necessary.
The new code states that general educational classrooms should allow for 20-square-feet a student. This code does not apply to labs or classrooms with bolted chairs and tables.
“We want to make sure all of our students are safe,” Callahan said. “The whole purpose of having those guidelines is in case there is a fire. You want to be able to ensure all your students can get out safely, and if there are too many students that can be a problem.”
She said almost all lecture-style buildings with movable chairs and tables were affected by the code change, including the Art Building, Auditorium Building, Business Leadership Building, General Academic Building, Language Building, Sage Hall and Wooten Hall.
The Coliseum, Gateway Center and Discovery Park were not affected.
Callahan said the number of students allowed to enroll in a course will not change.
“We are changing the seating, not the course itself,” she said.
There will be no cost to the university or students because of the changes, Callahan said. The Office of Space Management is collaborating with the Registrar’s Office, deans and department chairs to make sure everyone is aware of the new occupancy requirements.
Safety Services Manager Tommy Jones said UNT’s Risk Management Services inspects buildings twice a year.
He said the most frequent violation he sees are blocked exits, usually because of chairs or stacked boxes making it difficult for students to escape in case of a fire.
“We kind of ask the instructors to tell people to have a seat, not stand at the back of a classroom or sit on the stairways,” Jones said.
If there are more than 50 people in a classroom, it must have at least two fire exits, Jones said.
Technical communications junior Monique Sheppherd said she is glad these changes are taking place because she has been in overcrowded classes.
“Everyone deserves personal space,” Sheppherd said. “If it’s for safety reasons they should follow it [the new code].”