An important message for businesses reopening after COVID-19

COVID-19 Reopening

Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-18

As Texas begins to re-open from the Covid 19 restrictions, Governor Abbott has allowed certain establishments to open their doors, but only at 25% of their occupancy. This will leave many businesses wondering “what is 25% of my occupancy?”

Occupant loads are established by the building code. Galveston, and most of the cities around here use the 2012 edition of International Building Code.

Table 1004.1.2 gives the occupant load based on the area of the space in square feet (scroll down to the table). For example, a business occupancy is calculated at 100 s.f. per person. If your office is 2,000 s.f. the number of occupants would be 20. One quarter of that is 5 occupants. If you are in another city, look on the city’s web page for the correct code. If it is a different year then Google “Table 1004.1.2 IBC and the year of the code”.

Portion of Table 1004.1.2

Restaurant dining rooms are considered Assembly areas. Most restaurants will be unconcentrated, meaning loose tables and chairs. The Occupant load for dining areas is usually 15 s.f. per person. Booths are fixed seating and it is one person per 24″ of the booth seat. Kitchens are 1 person per 200 s.f., storage areas are 1 person per 500 s.f. The waiting area and similar spaces may be included in the area, but not the toilet rooms.

If you look closely at the table you will see that some areas are based on net, and some on gross s.f. Net square feet is inside, and exclusive of the walls. Restaurants are based on net square feet. Most other spaces are gross s.f.; that is the outermost dimensions of the building or space – the outside of the outside walls (or the centerline of demising walls between two occupants or between a space and a common area.

For larger spaces with a variety of spaces, it gets more complicated. For example, a supermarket with retail areas, offices and storage spaces would calculate the occupancy for each type of space, that is 30 s.f. per person for the sales area, 300 s.f. per person for the storage area and 100 s.f. per person for the offices.

Toilet rooms and corridors are not generally included in the calculation because you are either in the office (whatever) or the toilet room, but not both.

If you have the drawings that were submitted to the City for Building Permit, the occupant load will be on the drawings, near the front, in section that says Code Analysis or Building Code. If you do not have your drawings, I do not recommend calling the city. If your building was built before Ike, the records were lost in the storm. After Ike, they will not have access to your drawings because they are stored in a secure location, and it could take the city some time to access them.

If you have a stand-alone building, you can find the size of the building from the Central Appraisal District database. Search by address. If you have a small space inside a larger building, you can look on your lease or measure your space to find out your area.

If you have a more complicated space and you need professional help to figure out the number of people allowed by Gov. Abbott’s proclamation, call or email me.

I will measure your space(s), calculate the occupant load, email you a signed and sealed letter stating the occupant load, email you a sign you can print and post on your doorway, and file the occupant load calculation with the City Marshal’s office. For spaces up to 5,000 s.f. the fee is only $100. For spaces larger than 5,000 s.f. the fee is $200.

Michael Gaertner is an architect practicing in Galveston, Texas since 1980.

Contact us for a free initial consultation.