One of the specialty areas of aquatic facilities is the chemical room. These rooms are areas of the facility that are subjected to aggressive materials and more restrictive building code requirements. The International Building Code (IBC) describes a high-hazard occupancy as one "that involves the manufacturing, processing, generation or storage of materials that constitute a physical or health hazard in quantities in excess of those allowed." High-hazard group occupancy ratings may require sprinkler systems, non-combustible floors, storage containment requirements and fire ratings.
Facilities that include a large body of water or more than one body of water can easily exceed the exempted quantity of chemicals allowed in the code. Designating the pool chemical storage rooms as a high-hazard group (H-2 or H-3) occupancy rating will allow for larger quantities of chemicals to be stored. Chemical storage requirements are a function of the type of chemical stored. Anticipated pool chemical usage should be reviewed against available storage with a minimum storage quantity covering one week of use.
Common pool chemicals include the following:
- Sodium Hypochlorite (liquid chlorine) is classified as an irritant with a sodium hypochlorite concentration of less concentration of less than one-percent. It is non-flammable and low in hazard. Some codes limit storage to 500 gallons or 1000 gallons.
- Calcium Hypochlorite (table chlorine) is classified as a corrosive class three oxidizer. It is flammable and high in hazard. Some codes limit storage from 2 to 200 pounds in a single location. If this maximum quantity is exceeded, this space will need to be classified as a high-hazard group H occupancy.
- Bromine (BCDMH) is classified as a corrosive, either class one or class two oxidizer. It is not flammable in and of itself, but it may ignite combustible materials in which it comes into contact. As such, it is identified as a hazard. Some codes limit storage to as much as 1000 to 4000 pounds in a single location. Typically, occupancy fire ratings of the room in which it is stored and used is two hours. Some jurisdictions may require that the space be provided with a qualified and approved sprinkler system. Additional storage of Bromine can be provided in a high-hazard group H occupancy room if the building has such a room.
- Muriatic Acid (hydrochloric acid) is classified as a corrosive. Muriatic acid is highly reactive liquid acid. It must be stored separate from oxidizers and in a well-ventilated space. The IBC allows for up to 500 gallons of a corrosive to be stored and used before needing to reclassify the storage space as high-hazard group H occupancy.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2 - carbon dioxide liquid) is a liquefied gas which is colorless and odorless. CO2 must be stored in accordance with all current regulations and standards. The stored space should be well-ventilated.
Every pool chemical room requires mechanical ventilation at a minimum rate of one CFM per square foot of floor area over the storage area, as stated per IBC and IFC or 10 air changes per hour, whichever is more restrictive. Confirm with local codes and regulations if more stringent standards are required. Fumes and vapors shall be vented with exhaust taken per IBC and IFC recommendations. Return inlets for chlorine rooms shall be located low in the space as chlorine vapor is 2.5 times heavier than air and sinks to the floor, and return inlets for muriatic acid shall be high as acid vapors rise. In cold weather climates, heat must be provided to keep the room at a minimum temperature of 40°F to prevent freezing.
Understanding the challenges and provisions associated with pool chemical rooms allows for the proper design and construction of these specialty areas. Although these rooms are a small area of the facility, they are subjected to the harshest conditions. Typically, if a facility has great-looking chemical rooms, you can be sure the rest of the facility looks great too.