What Is a Mechanical Room?

Kirsten C. Tynan

A mechanical room is a room that houses a variety of mechanical equipment, especially equipment used to control the environment in a building. It is sometimes referred to as a boiler room — which refers to a boiler that may be housed in it — or as a mechanical equipment room. Electrical equipment used in conjunction with these items, as well as safety equipment, is also typically located in this room.

A mechanical room is a room that houses equipment used to control the environment in a building, among other things.
A mechanical room is a room that houses equipment used to control the environment in a building, among other things.

The specific equipment found in a mechanical room depends on what is needed for the particular building in which it is located as well as local building codes. For example, boilers heat water supplied to the building either through pipes to heat the air or for direct use such as in a kitchen. Chiller tubes and compressors may be used to circulate chilled water through the building for cooling purposes. Water softeners or purifiers may be present as well to minimize scale deposit and improve the efficiency of the equipment through which the water circulates. Heat transfer coils, pumps, fans, motors, and numerous other items may also be found in mechanical rooms.

Design considerations for a mechanical room include appropriate equipment layout and effective drainage. Equipment must be laid out so that there is sufficient room for regularly scheduled maintenance and repair. Sufficient ventilation of the room helps prevent overheating of mechanical equipment such as boilers, water heaters, hot water pipes, and others. The floor of the room should be properly pitched toward drains and be free of depressions where condensation or hazardous chemicals could collect. A sump pump may be necessary in some circumstances, such as when a mechanical room is located in a basement, to prevent accumulation of water.

Sufficient vibration and acoustic isolation may also be important concerns depending on the location of the room. Noise may be an issue if it is adjacent to spaces that are normally occupied, such as meeting rooms, classrooms, or patients’ rooms in hospitals. Spaces with sensitive equipment such as laboratories may require isolation from vibration produced by the equipment in a mechanical room. Choosing a location that is not adjacent to this room can often mitigate these issues. When it is not possible to select an alternate location, additional equipment may be installed to confine noise and vibration.

There are a number of safety issues to consider in the design and upkeep of a mechanical room. The room should be secured to prevent unauthorized tampering with the equipment inside. Physical isolation of the room can prevent or slow propagation of a fire or an explosion to other areas of the building. A manually operated shutdown switch or other shutoff device may be located outside the mechanical room for emergency situations.

Exhaust outlets carrying toxic fumes must be sufficiently separated from inlet vents to ensure that hazardous exhaust is not circulated into occupied spaces. Breathing equipment, an eye wash station, and a safety shower are typically located inside the room when hazardous chemicals such as refrigerant are present. Professional standards and local building codes may specify other safety features and procedures.

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