One of our current projects is the renovation of the gymnasium at the Denver Montclair International School to add a stage at the end of the gymnasium. The stage area is approximately 1,090 square feet. In the International Building Code a “stage” over 1,000 sf triggers a number of requirements for construction including a standpipe, sprinkler systems, fire separations and stage ventilation.
What we needed to do was have the stage area properly classified as a “platform” rather than a “stage” which makes many of the requirements go away. The difference in the definition is that platforms cannot have “overhead hanging curtains, drops, scenery, or stage effects other than lighting and sound”. By removing the main curtain we were able to get the building department to permit the renovation without the additional cost of the additional requirements.
Now, that being said, the purpose of having the stage area reclassified is to more clearly reflect the actual use of the space. I would not advise a client to reclassify it if they intended to use it for full scale productions with a high occupancy. In this case the school is using it for small audiences and small classes and doesn’t have any plans for drops or anything that requires the additional code protections.
The interesting battle for another day is about any future curtain. The section about the automatic sprinkler system clarifies that sprinklers are not required on stages where curtains, scenery or other combustible hangings are not retractable vertically. The Denver building department was fine with this section allowing a traveler curtain but the Fire department references the International Fire Code which does not have exactly the same provisions.