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Facilities Planning

Separation of Construction Sites From Occupied Areas


Reference Guide #C.8

When a construction project is in, or on, an existing building that continues in operation, plans and specifications must ensure that the work site(s) are completely isolated from occupied portion(s) of the building and that precautions are taken to assure that any operations or hazards in the work site(s) will not affect the occupants of the building. Further, existing exiting features of the occupied portion(s) of the building must be continuously maintained, or alternative exits provided; and existing fire safety systems such as fire alarms, detection and exit, and emergency lights, must be continuously maintained or provisions made to provide equivalent safety; and the fire department must be notified of any non-operating system(s).

The above caution appears in the "Instruction Guide for Obtaining a Building Permit and Approval of Plans and Specifications by the Commissioner of Education" which is sent to the district in connection with every capital construction project submitted to the Office of Facilities Planning. Even so, a common parent complaint heard by the staff of Facilities Planning can be traced to renovation or additional work being performed in an occupied building. Complaints involve unidentified dust and solvent or paint odors as well as breaches in the integrity of the separation of the work areas and occupied spaces. Open construction areas, unattended construction equipment, and inappropriate or unauthorized use of school facilities, such as student toilets by construction personnel also cause problems. Parent complaints often relate to student illnesses alleged to be related to the construction project. This situation is nearly impossible to refute and when ignored has led to negative television and press coverage.

Construction projects must account for the health and safety of building occupants as well as the contractor and construction crew. Contracts must be clear about the contractor maintaining the separation of construction areas and occupied spaces. The code is specific about corridor enclosure requirements and ventilation of contaminants. Districts must ensure that their Architect or Engineer adequately addresses the above concerns in contract documents and that these concerns are adhered to during construction.