Circulation area is the square footage in a building which provides people with access to the all of the spaces within the building. In many regions of the world, there are specific regulations about circulation area which are designed to make sure that this space meets accessibility and safety requirements for building users. The percentage of total square footage occupied by this area depends on a number of factors including building layout and size of the building.
Some examples of things included in circulation area include: halls, corridors, elevators, stairs, lobbies, escalators, catwalks, and any other parts of a building which are designed to create access to a room or area within the building. Parts of loading docks, for example, may be termed as part of this area because they provide people with access to and from the loading dock and the building. Circulation area can be altered by activities such as moving partitions and creating catwalks.
In order to qualify as part of the circulation area, an area must have ceilings high enough to permit passage. For accessibility reasons, there may also be width requirements which are designed to accommodate people who use mobility devices which as wheelchairs and walkers inside the building. Safety may also mandate width sufficient for people to evacuate quickly, along with multiple modes of ingress and egress so that people can still get out if part of the building is cut off or damaged.
When people make square footage calculations, circulation area is one among many areas which can be considered in the calculation. Distribution of square footage can be important for certain types of projects, and to meet government requirements. Governments may mandate that a set amount of square footage be set aside for specific uses for safety reasons, for example. Circulation area is square footage which also cannot be sold or rented, which means that it may be considered differently in taxes and other types of financial calculations.
Blueprints and CAD drawings of a building can highlight circulation area and provide square footage estimates which allow people to see whether or not a building will meet needs and requirements. These estimates can also be used when packaging a proposed project for review, so that the people conducting the review can have this basic information on hand when evaluating the proposed building or proposed modifications. Enforcers of various building codes may take special interest in this phase to determine whether or not the building meets government requirements.