NFPA Members and AHJs can use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on NEC document information webpage.

Author(s): Derek Vigstol. Published on July 1, 2017.

Why the latest NEC includes requirements for receptacles in meeting rooms

BY DEREK VIGSTOL

Working and traveling for NFPA allows me the opportunity to see the inside of way too many hotel and conference center meeting rooms. And no matter where the meeting room happens to be, one thing remains the same: meeting attendees need electricity.

Every once in a while, we might encounter a state-of-the-art meeting room, complete with receptacles in the tables, but too often the song remains the same: daisy-chained plug strip after plug strip, or relocatable power taps to all my fellow code junkies, often finding 10 or more of these devices connected throughout the meeting room. Extension cords taped to the floor are also a common sight in many meeting rooms. All of these are clear violations of the intended uses of these products, and could lead to overloading and overheating.

The 2017 NEC® contains a new section that is aimed at providing points of access to electrical power in meeting rooms. Section 210.71 now requires that meeting rooms of 1,000 square feet or less, in other than dwelling units, have a minimum number of receptacles. The square footage of the room is determined with any movable partitions placed in the position resulting in the smallest size rooms. The 1,000-square-foot threshold allows this new requirement to apply to reasonably sized meeting rooms while not including the typical large convention halls.

Once it is determined that a meeting room is indeed under the size threshold, the second half of the new requirement comes into play. The number of receptacle outlets required and where to put them is determined by 210.71(B). There is also some freedom for the designer or building owner to determine the location of receptacles that would best suit the needs of the intended use of the room. Due to movable partitions being commonplace for meeting rooms, there are two parts to this requirement. One covers receptacle placement in fixed walls, while the other provides guidance for floor receptacles that are intended to provide power along movable partitions and in open floor space where occupants might need electricity.

The number of receptacles in fixed walls is determined in the same manner as the receptacles in our bedrooms at home. The minimum number required would be the same as determined by 210.52(A)(1)–(4), and the designer or building owner is allowed to determine the location of the receptacles in order to best serve the space. Guidance on what constitutes a wall space and how to handle countertops and similar work surfaces can also be found in 210.52(A)(1)–(4).

Providing power where the occupants need it the most presents unique challenges when the room configuration might not be known at the time of installation. For that reason, there is more freedom on placement of required floor receptacle outlets. The NEC now requires floor receptacle outlets, based on open floor space, for meeting rooms that are at least 12 feet wide and have a floor area of at least 215 square feet. Additionally, the code requires at least one receptacle for each 215 square feet of floor space or major portion thereof. For example, a floor space of 300 square feet would require a minimum of one receptacle, while a room with an area of 350 square feet would require two. Required floor receptacle outlets must be a minimum of six feet from any fixed wall but otherwise are allowed to be located as determined by the designer or building owner. Again, this section would only apply to meeting rooms with an area of 1,000 square feet or less.

Previous editions of the NEC had no requirements for placing receptacles in meeting rooms, and a compliant installation could result in a room with no receptacle outlets. The next time you find yourself frantically searching a meeting room for a spot to charge your phone or plug in your laptop, remember that in the meeting room of the future, relief is on the way.

DEREK VIGSTOL is NFPA technical lead of Electrical Tech Services.