These types of buildings are normally of one-story design, allowing most or all of the exits to be at or near the exterior grade around the building. This facilitates both the evacuation procedure as well as the fire department response operations.
However, there are some characteristics of the building designs used for many of these big box retail facilities that should be noted and addressed. Most of these focus on means of egress concepts.
It is not unusual for designs to have two-thirds (67%) of the means of egress provided through the main entry wall of the building. Several factors should be considered regarding this design.
Of these main entrances/exits, one is typically used as the store entry and, as such, maintains reasonable clearness for not only the ingress into the store but also egress out of the store. However, other front-of-store exits are typically designed to accommodate customers leaving the store after they go through checkout lanes. One consideration regarding this concept is the checkout lane areas, which are typically designed with dimensions to allow for necessary egress through these areas. However, shopping carts that are used by the customers to accumulate and transport the goods they want to purchase are sometimes not considered. These, if left in the exit path, may result in the available exit width being substantially reduced. For example, if the big box retail store is a home improvement type of facility, the shopping carts may be a variety of sizes, some of which are capable of carrying 1,200 mm x 2,400 mm (4 ft x 8 ft) sheets of plywood, insulation board, or other large types of materials. Therefore, if these carts are in line at the checkout registers and the carts are abandoned in place during an emergency condition requiring evacuation, adequate exit width may not be available to accommodate the number of occupants these exits were designed to serve. The interior design should address the exit width requirement by considering the following factors:
- the location of product displays, (in many projects, the vestibules at the main entries/exits are being used to display merchandise) adequate exit widths must still be provided around these display areas;
- space should be available to store carts out of the required exit paths when customers leave the carts and carry their purchased goods out of the store in bags; and,
- space for the required exit widths must be maintained even if some carts are abandoned at the checkout lanes.
To provide an example of the main entry/exit concept, consider a 9,000 m2 (100,000 sq ft) retail facility.
The code-calculated occupant load would be approximately 3,334 people. If two-thirds of the exits were located in the customer entrance wall, this would result in 2,234 people needing to exit via the front exits. This would represent approximately 8.5 m – 11 m (28 ft to 37 ft) of clear exit width being required, depending on the adopted code.
Having such a high percentage of exiting occurring through the main entry wall means that the number of exits available on the other exterior walls of the facility might only provide one-third (33%) of the total exiting of the building. Some of these other exits are often only accessible through back-of-house areas that could involve shipping/receiving areas, stock areas, or other back-of-house support areas. It is also common for some of the egress path for occupants of select facilities to be through garden centers. These can require occupants to travel through fenced-in areas, some of which are partially roofed areas and areas that are significantly merchandised.
These are again important considerations when designing exits to assure these exit paths will remain available given the operational need of the store to move and stock goods.
Withal, it looks as if the New World Order has arrived and is now engaging full swing operations.
H/T: Aaron Cole, The Cole Report
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Author: Shepard Ambellas