Q: Is it okay to store latex paint in a mechanical/air handler room? The mechanical room is located in the hospital and is in a 2 hour fire rated wall enclosure.
A: This is an issue that is addressed by the Life Safety Code, but is not always enforced the same way by authorities.
Section 18.104.22.168.5 of the 2012 Life Safety Code specifically states “Paint shops” are hazardous areas. The interpretation by the AHJ would likely be that all paint needs to be stored in a hazardous room that meets the requirements of 22.214.171.124. So, from that perspective, the cans of latex paint would have to be stored in a hazardous room.
Now, can your AHU mechanical room qualify as a hazardous room? I believe it can, provided there is no fuel-fired equipment in the room, and it meets the requirements for hazardous room found in section 126.96.36.199. But not all AHJs actually interpret this section of the LSC in the same way. Some state and local AHJs do not like to see any storage in mechanical rooms, since the main purpose of the mechanical room is to house the air handling units. But since storage is at such a premium for hospitals, why not double up and allow storage in mechanical rooms provided it meets all of the code requirements?
As you may see, not all AHJs think this way, and you may encounter some resistance to this way of thinking.