Evaluating Occupant Load Factors For Business Operations

Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Evaluating Occupant Load Factors For Business OperationsPart 1 (PDF)Part 2 (PDF)Part 3 (PDF) Download the executive summary. (PDF) 
Author: Tudor Muha, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Date of issue: April 2012


The current occupant load factor, as specified by NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, for business use areas may be not be adequate for all types of business uses that we see today. Some business uses, such as call centers or high productivity, technology based businesses, may be arranged so as to contain a higher density of occupants within the space than would normally be found in a traditional office layout. This generates the question if the current occupant load factor of 100 square feet/person is appropriate for all business uses, and if not, is there a need for multiple business use occupant load factors to accurately calculate occupant loads for business use areas with alternative densities of occupants. 

There were three separate student efforts on this topic:

  • Part 1 was completed by a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and involved a review of the origins of the 100 ft2/person factor, previous occupant load studies, changes in office space planning and use, availability of office furnishings, and current office occupant load preferences. He also recommends alternate occupant load factors and business use categories.
  • Part 2 is a literature review completed by a student at Illinois Institute of Technology on the technological and cultural influences on office space as well as trends in occupant density with respect to building users and building construction. 
  • Part 3 is a study completed by a student team at the University of Cantabria in Spain. They collected and processed data from several business organizations regarding occupant loads in their facilities and this report summarizes the results.