Revised Density Guidelines for On-Campus Laboratory Research

Updated Nov. 2, 2020

Process overall

  • PIs may submit a revision anytime, using track changes or highlight to indicate the updates. Revised plans are evaluated with a rolling process for review and approval. Each review takes time, so please consider all of the lab's needs before submitting a revision.
  • There is no obligation to modify current plans: PIs who are happy with the current density of researchers in their lab do not need to do anything.
  • Chairs and department managers do not need to review and approve revisions before they go to the Office of the Dean for Research.
  • Email the revised RLOP to the Office of the Dean for Research at researchplan@princeton.edu with a copy to the department chair and manager, and upload the revised plan to SHIELD. Keep the previously approved RLOP in SHIELD as a reference. Uploading to SHIELD does not trigger an automatic email to researchplan@princeton.edu or EHS@princeton.edu.
  • Research groups that do not have a SHIELD account should work with the academic manager to have a copy of the revised plan uploaded into the department’s section within SHIELD.
  • RLOP plans do not require a list of current lab members, and therefore substituting names of personnel affiliated with the lab does not require revision and approval as long as all personnel adhere to the approved plan, in particular the density and social distancing requirements. Some labs have chosen to include lists of personnel, which is fine but not required. Current personnel should be maintained within SHIELD and within any other lists used to communicate or schedule laboratory activities.
  • PIs should notify the academic manager of all laboratory personnel that require campus access, including any changes to the personnel list, to ensure the accuracy of COVID testing and building access lists.
  • Changes to RLOP plans that involve increasing occupancy, changing space utilization, or substantive modifications to hygiene and safety protocols do require RLOP revision approval.
  • New close contact operations require EHS consultation and RLOP revision approval.
  • Consult with EHS (ehs@princeton.edu) while developing your plan if you have questions about what is suitable.
  • Faculty with approved RLOPs don’t need separate approval to use their offices periodically, or in the course of working with their research teams.

New square footage metric

  • In June, the laboratory square footage per person was established at 160 square feet per researcher at all times, as a maximum possible occupancy metric.
  • Labs may adjust the occupancy to a maximum of 125 square feet per person at all times, to allow flexibility and more effective research operations while maintaining safe practices and all social distancing protocols.
  • In all situations, except approved close contact operations, researchers must continue to maintain 6 feet or greater distance from each other.
  • In considering adjustments to the laboratory occupancy, researchers should consider the nature of the work, whether stationary at a fixed workstation or dynamic in a larger area, in order to establish the appropriate occupancy level for the room.
  • Stationary lab workstations may be juxtaposed with a 6foot distance between stations, whereas dynamic work areas need to be placed at a greater distance so that the closest points of the work areas maintain 6 feet distance.
  • Appendix 1 of the Plan for the Phased Resumption of On Campus Research contains examples of floorplans with work areas marked at 160 square feet and 125 square feet. Typical lab layouts are shown for the following buildings: Guyot, Frick, Carl Icahn, Lewis Thomas, Moffett, and Jadwin.  
  • Not all lab configurations or rooms will accommodate higher occupancy with a change from 160 square feet to 125 square feet per researcher.
  • Environmental rooms, such as cold rooms and other rooms with limited ventilation, should continue to follow the guidance for these spaces as published in the Plan for Phased Resumption of On Campus Research, Appendix I.
  • When evaluating lab workstations that face each other, consider not only those on either side of the bench (laterally), but also those that may be on the opposite side of a research bay/bench. Note that this includes individuals from neighboring research groups in open lab configurations.
  • Revisions that increase the occupancy of people in the lab must include lab layouts with clearly marked lab workstations that illustrate how the space will be used safely in accordance with the density and social distancing requirements. Single occupancy rooms should be included in the layouts, but don’t require workstations to be marked.
  • Contact the academic manager, or facilities manager, to obtain a copy of the layout for your space if you don’t have one.
  • Consider how occupancy limits impact rotations and shift schedules, and whether or not an update would produce more sustainable schedules or provide researchers with additional flexibility.
  • Consider how occupancy impacts the likelihood of a researcher working alone. Consider the hazards associated with tasks being performed and whether it is permitted. For example, the University Work Alone policy prohibits conducting hazardous operations in the absence of another knowledgeable individual.
  • Maximum occupancy signage must be updated to reflect changes in approved plans.

Use of office/desk spaces and departmental common areas

  • The use of office and desk spaces by researchers approved to be on campus is permissible while waiting between experiments, participating in remote meetings, or taking breaks so long as distancing is maintained. The Princeton Playbook provides the following information for controlling density in office settings: When considering a maximum density for offices, use a minimum measure of 100 square feet per person as a guide. For office desk spaces with no partitions (walls extending at least five feet from the ground), a minimum of eight feet must be maintained between chairs.
  • Desk and office space remains a limitation that labs will need to consider in evaluating occupancy plans and rotations or shifts.
  • PIs need to identify eating and break areas, which are compatible with the approved department plan for such spaces, for lab personnel to utilize if there is an increased number of researchers present during a shift or rotation schedule.