Open Computer Lab


Open Computer Lab has been added to the Standards to aid the Designer in determining the type, size, quality level, and features commonly needed. Computer courses are expanding at different rates on different campuses. Likewise the specific needs of the Open Computer Lab will vary from campus to campus. The intent of the Standards is to give the Designer a starting point from which to begin the programming process and build on the experience of the college.

Room Size

There is no rule of thumb for the optimum size of an Open Computer Lab. Designer needs to consider the entire facility program when sizing the Open Computer Lab, not just computer classes. How many students are projected to use the facility? How many computer classrooms are programmed? How many computers are accessible to students elsewhere in the facility, like in the Library or Student Life? Are there other Open Computer Labs nearby in adjacent buildings? After considering the above, the Designer should plan for one station per 60 to 90 students. Therefore a campus with a projected 4,000 student enrollment (not FTE) would have an open computer lab with 45 to 70 stations.

Room Orientation

The Open Computer Lab may be square, rectangular, or a suitable shape to allow a staff technician to view the entire lab from a central location. There should not be any hidden alcoves, and minimize the number of columns in the space if possible.

Students will enter the Open Lab from a public space and walk through the Open Lab to attend one of the Computer Classrooms. The Computer Classrooms should be arranged around the Open Lab.

The Open Lab will need a power floor system. Several Computer Classrooms will also need power floor and should be arranged contiguous with the Lab.

Sometimes the college has opportunities to teach special computer classes that have specific and larger space requirements. This need will vary over time on each project and the Designer will need to determine the need for some degree of flexibility. Computer Classrooms with power floor should be able to vary in size (from 800 SF to 1,200 SF each) by growing into the Open Lab space. This could be accomplished with a moveable wall panel system (for high flexibility), or constructing a de-mountable partition that could be moved every couple of years as needs changed.

In the past, the popularity of computer classes has surpassed the number of computer classrooms available at popular times (morning and night). Consequently, the open computer labs in some facilities have been used for instruction. This is not recommended and projects should not be planned to accommodate instruction in the open computer labs.

Doors and Windows

Provide some interior glass into the Open Lab from the public corridor and glass between the Open Lab and the Computer Classrooms. Large sidelights next to doors into Computer Classrooms are acceptable. Daylight is preferred but not required.



power floor with carpet, and rubber base




Acoustical Tile, 10 feet high minimum, or combination of AT and gypsum wall board.


  • Generally most of the Open Lab tables will be 30 x 48” arranged in a pinwheel fashion.
  • round the perimeter of the room it is acceptable to have 30 x 48” tables arranged in a row against the wall. It is necessary to plan for a low partition (top about 52” above the floor) between the tables in this configuration to reduce eye contact. Partition could be a 24” high screen that sits on top of the work surface.
  • With the pinwheel arrangement in the center of the Open Lab, and the row arrangement around the perimeter, take care to plan a clear circulation path to the Computer Classrooms. Allow for at least 4’ clearance between a pinwheel and the back of a student occupied chair in a row.
  • Provide an 8’ x 8’ open office cubicle with low partitions for an Open Lab technician. This needs to be located in a central location where the technician can have unobstructed views of the entire Open Lab. Consider providing 36” high work surfaces and a stool, or providing a normal height work station on a raised platform to increase visibility.
  • Provide a 4 X 4’ marker board and a 4 X 4’ bulletin board near the main entrance of the open lab for posting announcements.


  • Each Open Lab table will have a monitor on top and a CPU mounted below the top.
  • There may be several stations with network connections only, to allow students to bring their laptop and connect to the internet.
  • Designate a central area for a laser printer. This could be located near the lab facilitator. About 40 to 50 stations can be served by one high speed printer.
  • Some stations may be equipped with scanners and/or CD-Writers.


Indirect lighting is preferred.