MAQ’s (Maximum Allowable Quantities) are an important concept when designing and building a distillery. The concept of MAQ’s comes from the International Building & Fire Codes (IBC & IFC). These codes regulate the safety of design and operations within buildings. The MAQ’s sets limits for different materials used or stored within building to determine at what point additional safety features should be required.
Table 307.1 (1) in the IBC and Table 5003.1.1(1) in the IFC is the MAQ chart (same chart in both), which lists over a dozen types of classes of materials that pose hazards. Ethanol, over about 16% ABV is classified as a 1B or 1c Flammable liquid. On the MAQ chart, the amount in storage is 120 gallons, and in use (closed systems) is 120 gallons. You can not add storage and in use together. For instance, you could have 100 gallons in storage, and 20 gallons in use and you’d be at the max. Ultimately, if you exceed this volume of >16% ABV, then the room or building shall be classified as an H-3 (Hazardous) occupancy.
An excerpt of the MAQ chart with class IB & IC flammable liquid ( for ethanol) highlighted is shown below:
A very important footnote is “d”, which essentially allows you to double the MAQ’s in a fully sprinklered building. That footnote is shown below:
You may have noticed that the title of the MAQ chart is “maximum allowable quantity per control area….” The control area is a concept that allows you to compartmentalize your building in order to catch some safety breaks. In this case, you can have up to 4 control areas on the first floor of a building, and each of those areas can have 120 gallons of flammable liquid. So, 120 gallons can become 480 gallons in a non-sprinklered building, or 960 gallons in a sprinkled building. The control areas are achieved by a 1 hour fire barrier separation. At first this sounds great, but it often becomes unrealistic to separate your facility into several rooms. If you’re bringing in a 200 gallon tote of GNS, it might not be too easy to slice that in half ! The control area method is not commonly used to increase MAQ’s.
So, when not utilizing the control area method, you can have up to 120 gallons of flammable liquid in a non-sprinklered building, and NOT be required to be H-3 (Hazardous) occupancy, but would rather be classified as an F-1 (Factory) occupancy, which has less restrictions. In a sprinklered building, the magic MAQ number is 240 gallons.
A summary of the requirements for H-3 are listed below, but please see other blog posts which dive deeper into this subject:
There are many distilleries that will need to exceed that MAQ’s, and that it just fine, it just needs to be anticipated. If you are right on the threshold of the MAQ’s, it may be worth considering to change your process, or store bulk alcohol or barrels in a separate “H-3 room” in order to not need to make your entire facility H-3.
The MAQ’s might seem like a nuisance, but try to remember that it is intended to keep people and property safe. High proof alcohol in bulk storage can be very flammable. Another important note, is that once your alcohol is in bottles, it is no longer applicable to the MAQ’s.