Density Policy

The following is effective beginning October 5, 2020, and at this time, applies to research laboratory spaces only.

On June 22, 2020, Stanford entered Stage 2 of Research Recovery, with personnel density limited to a maximum of 1 person per 250 square feet (sq ft) of laboratory space. Since then, both Santa Clara County and the State of California have issued updated guidance on personnel density, and COVID-19 cases in the Stanford community have remained low. Based on the current conditions, the following updates and associated requirements are being made to research lab density restrictions, effective no earlier than October 5, 2020.

If the managing academic unit has a compelling academic need to increase density and has logistical capacity to manage the increased density, they can allow an increase up to a maximum of 1 person per 125 square feet of laboratory space in laboratories that have analyzed their floor plan as described below. Labs must continue to maintain 6 feet physical distance between personnel.

In addition to larger main laboratory spaces, there are many smaller research support spaces that are between 125 and 250 square feet and were intended for use by more than one person. An example is tissue culture rooms with more than one biosafety cabinet. By this new guidance, the maximum occupancy of such rooms 125 square feet or smaller is 1 person, and for rooms 126-250 square feet, 2 persons, contingent on approval of the PI’s floor plan proposal that includes these rooms.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • All personnel are responsible for observing current requirements, including Stanford’s social distancing protocol, health, hygiene, and compliance prerequisites.
  • PIs are responsible for evaluating their lab layout and workable space for possible density increases, taking into account usable space and the need to maintain at least 6 feet distance between personnel, as well as enforcing density and compliance requirements.
    • As required by their unit or facility, PIs must supply a floor plan proposal for their updated density prior to any increase in personnel density. PIs and labs cannot increase density until their floor plan is approved by their local unit (or department, where designated).
    • As previously required, PIs must implement a calendar system to track activity such as scheduled shifts and accommodate physical distancing.
  • Units and facilities are responsible for verifying the density limits of each space based on floor plans submitted by a PI (or their designee) and/or the known square footage of the room, and overseeing PI-led enforcement of that limit.
    • The unit or facility is responsible for updating all occupancy limit signage.
    • The maximum allowable number of people in our buildings continues to be restricted by the 250 gross square feet per person requirement, per Santa Clara County, which must also be enforced. Although most buildings are well under this limit, academic units may need to adjust densities in order to remain within the allowed building density overall.
    • If research teams are not observing density limits or are otherwise failing to observe physical distancing or other requirements, academic units have the authority to restrict lab access until the issues are resolved and to revoke access altogether in cases of repeat offenses.


Pending department or local unit approval, exceptions can be made to allow a higher density in specific research support spaces than the general 1 person per 125 sq ft limit. Review of exception requests from PIs must include:

  • Demonstration of a need for the higher density to advance research,
  • Confirmation that ventilation meets the lab requirement of 6 air changes per hour (ACH),
  • Ability of personnel to maintain 6 feet of physical distance at all times (or remain within Level 2 of the Risk Matrix to allow for brief encounters during training, etc.), and
  • A safety plan provided by the PI that addresses maintenance of physical distancing, PPE, health and hygiene habits during the work to be conducted.